Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What Are You Prepared to Do?

In the motion picture "The Untouchables", Kevin Costner plays legendary FBI man Elliot Ness. He is trying to break the grip of organized crime on the city of Chicago, and is running into obstacles at every turn when his partner puts things into clear resolve.

Sean Connery's grizzled veteran police character turns to Ness and asks the key question: "What are you prepared to do?"

It is this very response that is the key question that needs to be asked when talking about the big problems in our world today.

There are many well meaning people in America who are concerned about Third World hunger. There are many well meaning people who are concerned about AIDS in Africa.

There are many well meaning people who are concerned about illicit human and drug-trafficking. There are many well meaning people who are concerned about illegal aliens flooding into the United States.

There are many well meaning people who are concerned about ethnic cleansing in various nations. There are many well meaning people who fully understand the danger from and are concerned about the spread of radical Islam.

But most of these people don't have a clue as to what they should do next. Many simply resort to the easiest thing for them individually: they write a check. "Hey, if I mail off $20 to some organization each month, I can feed one child. If everyone did that, we could feed all the children."

Nice sentiment, but is it true? The organization doesn't take your $20 and go shopping for the child whose photo and alleged 'bio' they sent to you. They pool all the money sent by people like you, and put it together in trying to improve conditions in some particular village or country. There are many good people, Christian missionaries and others, out there trying to do this good, necessary work.

Unfortunately as often as the food and medical shipments get through to the village, they are even more frequently intercepted by military regimes in those nations, and sometimes by the governments themselves, and dispersed to a privileged few. That is the reality of what happens to the supplies bought by the check that you write.


It is exactly what happened to the massive amounts of food and supplies purchased by the huge 'USA for Africa' effort that culminated in the storied 'Live Aid' concerts of the mid-1980's. In the end, a lot of people heard some good music, donated some money, and went home feeling good about themselves. But they never bothered to look into what all this happiness actually accomplished.

That is the nature of much of liberal idealism: everyone be nice and take care of one another. All we are saying is give peace a chance. Feed the world. It takes a village. Why can't we all just get along? But that is not in any way effective in the reality of trying to actually accomplish something.

The unfortunate fact of real life is that there are bad people in the world who simply will not allow that to happen. These people are motivated only by power and their own greed. The check that you write, the rock concert that you attend, the time that you donated in packing and shipping goods, none of it matters to them. When the boat arrives with the rice and medicine and equipment, they will steal it for themselves.

There is only one way to deal with the situation. Think about it. Unfortunately, liberal idealists never want to 'go there'. Words like 'security', 'force', and 'war' are dirty words to them.

You cannot simply buy stuff here in America, send it over on boats, and dump it on some dock in Africa. You need to then secure the supplies as they are unloaded and shipped to villages, and then need to ensure that the supplies are actually dispersed to the people for whom they were intended.

This all takes security forces on the ground. And when the inevitable local warlords and militants try to steal the supplies, it will take more than waving a flag and saying 'sorry, this is not for you' to make them stop.

And you won't solve the problems by one ship load of food and supplies. If you really want to stop hunger in Africa, then you will need to continue such shipments repeatedly. You will need to help the people learn to build and grow on their own, using their own natural resources.

All of this will require continued security. But the evil people don't want your help. They just want you to go away so that they can return to dominating the region and controlling the people, abusing them for whatever purposes they desire.

This is what you have to be willing to overcome. But you don't want to commit our American troops to Africa to fight these evil people, because that will take a near permanent commitment, at least will take decades.

It will cost thousands of young Americans their lives fighting in the jungles of Africa to help build a civilization that can sustain itself. It will take decades and cost thousands of young American lives fighting in the fields of South America and the streets of America to truly win the War on Drugs. It will take decades and cost thousands of young American lives to fight off those who use ethnic cleansing as a tactic in Africa or Eastern Europe.

But liberal idealists have already proven that they are not willing to continue similar efforts in the Middle East to help free people and protect nations from the grip of Islamofascism, right?

The question for all those good meaning people in America who have legitimately big hearts and really want to help make the world a better place remains the same as it ever was: "What are you prepated to do?"

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