The security of our nation must mean more than whether we can deploy a military force unequalled anywhere on the planet and dispatch hundreds and thousands of soldiers to distant countries to fight seemingly shadowy enemies. It must also mean a sober look at exactly what we are trying to secure when we decide to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain that military deployment and sacrifice the lives of thousands of our young men and women.
That, of course, was our response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on our country and it is the course on which we have stayed since then. What we have accomplished is to let the rest of the world know that we have the capability to invade or launch strikes against anyone who harms or plans to do us harm.
But that capability cannot be a means unto itself. When we wage war, such as the seemingly endless “war against terror,” it must be with the clear understanding that there is more to America than military and physical security. It must also be in defense of what else makes America great. That includes the economic possibilities that provide a path for any American to realize his or her dream.
Yet, 10 years into our overwhelming show of might in reaction to the acts of terrorism, the other security interest of our nation is in great jeopardy. In the so-called Great Recession, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, many in the unemployment ranks for two years or more, millions have lost their homes, and millions of lives have been shattered. Our most pressing agenda now must be to restore the economic security of such Americans and restore their hope for a brighter future. This is especially true for African Americans, who have felt the brunt of the economic downturn the hardest.
In the same way that we were able to deploy military assets to battle our enemies abroad, so too must we mobilize our national resources to fight against the conditions that have made life so difficult for so many Americans. In this sense, the flurry of so-called economic plans that are being floated are welcome, late though they are, and the nation is expecting President Barack Obama to present a plan of action that will at least match, in its scope and commitment of resources to this domestic “foe,” the deployment of military assets that was made to take on the foreign enemy.
Let that mission also be one that preserves the safety net that has served our nation so well for half a century – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. In the war for economic security, they are front line institutions which, regardless of what their critics say, also are part of the American fabric that we must secure.