Bellum Interruptum

If 9/11 was a good excuse to wage war in foreign lands, Hurricane Sandy is an equally good excuse to quit. Obama and Congress don’t need any other justification to repudiate their lethal and expensive foreign policy, and they’ll never have a better one. Urgent business with Mother Nature must take precedence. The world will understand.

We have known for at least 30 years that this day was coming. Computer models were predicting with some confidence that warming would begin to change the coastlines beginning about now and starting with low-lying areas like the tip of Manhattan Island, the Mississippi Delta, and the New Jersey shore. A combination of violent weather and rising sea levels was predicted to cause more and more frequent flooding until these land masses were finally submerged permanently, sometime after most of us are dead and gone.

New Yorkers didn’t have to wait quite so long for the future to arrive. Coastal residents are asking whether there is any effective flood control strategy for low-lying areas of Greater New York City or whether it may be time to start thinking about relocation to higher ground. Either way, the costs will be staggering. And it’s not just New York that needs attention, but cities from Bar Harbor to Galveston, from San Diego to Port Angeles. It’s ironic that candidates for office should be concerned about jobs when damaged and endangered roads, buildings, and utilities need immediate attention and could keep every idle person busy for decades.

The big question is who will finance the effort. The rich people who usually advance the funds for this sort of thing have been squirreling away their gold for the past six years, concerned about what they used to call the full faith and credit of the USA. There’s no reason to think a hurricane will shake anything loose. More likely, a disaster this big–because it competes for money with debt service–could make it more difficult for us to borrow. Forget about taxation. Rich people won’t allow themselves to be taxed, and the rest of us simply can’t pay enough to finance projects of this magnitude.

If we can’t borrow the money or raise taxes for necessary removals, repairs and precautions, we’ll have to get it elsewhere, and so we’re forced to reconsider the wasteful military adventures we’ve been conducting thousands of miles from home. Without exception, the campaigns have been lost causes, and they cost us billions. What if we declared a world-wide truce and used the money saved to finance this effort? Armed forces of the USA could cease all hostile action everywhere, in preparation for deployment home, where the soldiers could put on civilian clothes and take government jobs preparing for the next storm or cleaning up the debris from the last one. If people weren’t ready for this before Sandy, they’re as ready now as they’ll ever be.

Call it disaster socialism. A critical mass of people–people of all political persuasions and all but the highest income levels–abruptly finds itself in desperate need of assistance. Suddenly and without warning, socialism sets in. Masses in trouble find out nobody’s there to help but the rest of us, acting in concert, with public services, public employees and public resources. Mobilized for rescue and relief and, maybe, with sufficient resources, to accomplish climate adaptation and infrastructure transformation projects, the sort of thing that can’t be left to private enterprise. Public projects carried out with public money we all stopped spending on war, not because we don’t care what happens in foreign lands, but because our resources are better applied to urgent matters here.

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