Opinion: Passing the ‘global test’

Matt Yukanin

Matt Yukanin

By Alan Xiang

The first presidential debate brought out two conflicting philosophies between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry on fighting the war against terrorism.

Kerry argued that while he supported the president’s right to order a pre-emptive strike in defense of the United States, any such order must pass a “global test” so “you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.”

Two days after the debate, Bush offered a rebuttal to the Kerry statement. “The president’s job is not to take an international poll. The president’s job is to defend America.”

The idea that Kerry would favor being popular with foreigners over U.S. citizens is a complete misrepresentation. It feeds the perception that Bush is better for security, because he won’t hesitate to attack before threats “fully materialize.” On the surface, “shoot first and ask questions later” appears to be the most cautious strategy. Unfortunately, it ignores the finite amount of resources in the war against terrorism. If we put troops, funding and attention into invading and rebuilding countries that pose no threat to us, we make ourselves more vulnerable to real threats.

Take for instance homeland security, which is now dangerously underfunded. According to the Government Accounting Office, we currently need $3 billion to provide all U.S. airports with machines that screen baggage for explosives. The 2005 White House budget allocates only $400 million to that end. We spend the needed $3 billion every 10 days fighting in Iraq.

The American Association of Port Authorities says it needs $1.1 billion for security upgrades at 361 U.S. ports. The 2005 White House budget only allocates $210 million to port security. We spend $1.1 billion every four days in Iraq.

Medical crews and firefighters also are “drastically underfunded, dangerously underprepared” to respond to a terrorist attack, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank.

The cost of all these security upgrades is equal to the cost of 157 days of fighting in Iraq.

Was invading Iraq the best way to allocate our limited resources in keeping the United States safe? Considering how Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, no links to al-Qaida and no links to 9-11, the answer is decidedly no. We pre-emptively attacked when such a drastic action wasn’t necessary, and now that more troops are dying each month, we face record deficits with no end in sight.

When Kerry states that a pre-emptive strike must pass a “global test,” he means we first must have concrete evidence that such a strike is absolutely necessary to keep the United States safe. This criterion assures we have a sound case to sell the war to our allies. We wouldn’t lose as many troops or accumulate as much debt. We’d also free up funds for much needed homeland-security upgrades. Of the two strategies in fighting the war on terrorism, John Kerry’s is smarter and will keep the United States safer.

Zachary Schuster will appear Friday. Alan Xiang is a sophomore in engineering. His column runs alternate Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected]