Friday, September 19, 2014

Greatest Threats Facing the US are Not External Enemies, not ISIS, but Major Internal Dysfunctions

While the Administration and the Congress are gearing up for another lengthy battle in the Middle East, this time against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, they seem completely unaware of the domestic dangers that have been growing slowly during the past 20 years but have now reached such massive proportions that they now greatly outweigh the threat posed by any external terrorist group or enemy.  These domestic threats are numerous, out-of-control, and multiplying, and many of them are inter-connected.  With claims of lack of available funding, denials that any problem exists, or political gridlock in Congress paralyzing any attempts to deal with any of these problems in a significant, meaningful way, the government is basically looking the other way, assuming nothing can be done, virtually ignoring their existence, even as the casualties mount.  Meanwhile, ISIS gets the attention, money that was unavailable to deal with urgent domestic needs is immediately found and made available for the overseas targets, not to remedy dire concerns here.

What are the domestic threats that far over-shadow our foreign enemies?  The list could be
exhaustive, lets identify some of the major ones;
1) the proliferation of violence in our cities, towns, neighborhoods, schools, families. Our society has become more violence-ridden, not just through ready gun availability, but through a breakdown in cultural mores and community standards that warrant against violent outbursts. Its not just a matter of criminal behavior, violent outbursts can become epidemic within a society, and the escalation within our own suggests we are moving in that direction.  Daily casualties occur through domestic violence, daily school shutdowns because of violent threats, and no one is immune from the threat of violence.
2) the growing and rampant income inequity is placing undue financial and emotional threat on a sizeable portion of the population.  Unemployment or underemployment can readily lead to emotional breakdown, rage, homelessness, children raised in poverty, and a collapse of the social and governmental support system which is meant to assist with these needs. We are at that state, the desired support networks either don't exist or have collapsed, leaving the needs unmet, even with many of our veterans of military service.  Inexcusable, but still the reality.
3) the mental health of our young people, those in the prime developmental ages of 15 to 30, are especially at risk, as school dropouts, lack of job and career opportunities, ready drug availability and use all interfere with their successful movement through these essential growth and development years. Their anger and alienation adds to societal violence and disruption, with families unable to deal with the behavior of their loved ones, and ultimate time in jail often the only recourse that society can provide.
4) the environment which we have come to so take for granted, both the nature-given physical beauty and resources that surround us, and the physical infrastructure which our forefathers painstakingly developed and left for us to enjoy, is increasingly being destroyed by overuse or misuse, or not being replaced in a timely fashion.  Mankind is capable of accomplishing great advances, but also doing great harm, and both our natural environment and our infrastructure are in great need of more thoughtful attention.
5) the dysfunction in our political system in Washington DC, the obstructionism and gridlock which have blocked our government's ability to deal cooperatively and effectively with the above domestic problems, is perhaps the most damaging of our national threats. At times it is vital that the two political parties and the three branches of government  have some ability to set aside political biases, at least between election years, to resolve pressing needs. This has been virtually impossible since Obama's election. Given a foreign enemy, some agreement can emerge. With domestic needs, partisan politics takes over, and stalemate rules the day. No government can function effectively this way, and the price is felt in the daily life of its citizens.

These threats are all highly dangerous to all of our well-being, yet they are getting very little focus from our government.  Much easier, apparently, to concentrate on a foreign enemy, drop some bombs, try to rally support from other nations to fight an identifiable target.  Our closest enemies, however, are threats emanating from within our own society, more difficult to target, to mobilize resources, to mount effective programs.  But much, much more important to our nation, to our future and that of our descendants.