Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rick Steves is wrong


I'm an absolute "Ricknik". This is a picture of me with Rick at his store in Edmonds, Washington. We even had a conversation about Rick selling audioguides/podcasts of his museum tours. It is because of Rick's guidebooks that I'm living in Europe. I've followed all his recommendations and I've never been steered wrong. Rick's guidebooks are my traveling Bibles.

Therefore with great eagerness, I read Rick's March 2nd op-ed in the Seattle Times entitled, The real threat to U.S. security. It is a perfect example of someone who is an expert in one area being asked to talk about something completely different. Rick's 1990s liberalism is puzzlingly out of place in the new millennium.

Harkening back to FDR, Rick starts with "The greatest risk to our society today is not Islamo-fascist terrorism, but the people who use that term to scare us."

Ok, maybe I can buy that. It is a thinly-veiled attack on the Bush administration and Fox News. However, let's get real. Islamo-fascism may not be the GREATEST risk, but it is a major risk to America and America's ideals.

Rick then asks us to "daydream with [him] for a moment" and think about reducing our Defense spending. I'm unsure if he is still daydreaming, but he makes this statement - "Let's be honest: Is there anyone out there who would actually want to — or, more importantly, be able to — invade the United States? Consider today's biggest perceived threat, al-Qaida. Do Osama bin Laden and his gang want to ride into Washington, D.C., take over our government, and turn us into an Islamo-fascist nation? Or — as his recent offer of a "truce" suggests — do they instead want dignity for the Palestinians, Christian armies out of sacred Muslim territory, and freedom for the Arab world to control its own natural resources?"

Well in simple sense, no, Osama and Al-Qaida don't want to take over Washington, D.C. Osama has only laid claim to all land from Spain to Indonesia. However, if Islamo-facism were to succeed there, why wouldn't they push for further expansion? If the team is winning, why not keep playing? Why not bomb American cities? Why not kill Americans and their overseas allies?

Let's look at Rick's claims. Bin Laden has offered a truce only AFTER we kicked him out of Afghanistan and into a cave. He certainly wasn't offering it after he successfully blew up the Kenyan and Tanzanian embassies. Or after he blew up a US Warship off Yemen. Bin Laden has offered a truce because he is losing. All losers want a truce. Dignity for Palestinians? Under Clinton, Palestinians made more progress toward dignity than any time previous, but Bin Laden started planning 9-11 while Clinton was still in office. How about Christian armies out of Muslim terriortries? We were invited there to protect Saudi Arabia from other Arab/Muslim countries. And freedom for the Arab world to control its own natural resources? How much oil is available in Saudi Arabia is a NATIONAL secret. The Arabian countries contract out oil exploration and exploitation to European and American companies because we do it the fastest and cheapest. However, if we weren't want there by the ruling classes, we'd have to leave.

After some neat turn of phrases and rhetoric, Rick offers a policy suggestion: So let's try something different. Imagine if we required our military to manage with a budget no bigger than all the militaries of our hemisphere combined: That's Canada — $15 billion; Mexico — $6 billion; everyone from there to Tierra del Fuego — about $16 billion. Round the total up to $40 billion. Add to that a healthy sum to support the United Nations and our allies in their peacekeeping work (say $60 billion a year). Grand total: $100 billion.

That would be a fabulous idea, if America only had interests in the western hemisphere and we only had conflicts there. However, because of America's Monroe Doctrine, there are no great challenges to America's supremacy. We live in a flat, globalized world. Our products and our conflicts originate in all corners of the globe.

Rick suggests ways to spend the "savings" and they are all valid and proper ways things the government must focus on, but the savings comes from a fictious assumption.

Rick ends with "It's time for patriots to stand up to fear-mongering and broaden our definition of "sanctity of life" and "homeland security." It's time for some courage and eloquence on the left. And it's time for our electorate to wake up and see the real threats to our for-the-time-being-still-great nation. If we rose to this challenge, I think we could report that "the state of our union is strong" — and it would be true."

Rick is absolutely right. It is time for patriots to stand up to fear mongering, whether that is falsely raised terrorist threat levels or who handles containers at ports. It is important to broaden the reach of "sanctity of life" and "homeland security" but we don't do that by weakening our military. It is time for eloquence from the left, but let's hope it doesn't come from Rick Steves. And it is time for our electorate to wake up and see the real threats to our nation. It is a competing ideology that seeks to subvert women, kill homosexuals, destroy freedom of religion, speech and press. Communism was an evil ideology that kept people enslaved. Islamo-fascism is the 21st century manifestation.

America will survive the Bush administration (thank God for term limits!) and when millions of Muslims are voting, speaking their minds in the public square and worshiping whichever God they deem, then we will truly be able to report that the state of our union is strong.