What if the money spent in Iraq were used to secure the US border?

If the US had focused on literal “homeland” security, would my family be safer? Would the economy be helped with loads of new jobs (inspectors, screeners, patrol officers, etc.)?

Perhaps this should be another thread but so much would change -
What would the price of oil be without the war?

American is a rich, powerful and happy nation because of trade. I do understand that you are not proposing cutting off all trade, but you are proposing making trade more difficult, expensive and slow.

All of our foreign policy for more than two centuries has been to open the world to trade.

Under your plan, imported goods would be more expensive. American exports would also go up in price. Fewer foreigners would study in America, reducing our impact on the world’s stage would be reduced.

So all the jobs you propose would be simply doing work that would increase expense. It would be better if we paid all those people to just stay at home, the expense would be the same, but they would not hurt the economy.

I doubt your family would be safer. The threat of terrorism in the US is pretty low now. What are the actual odds of you or your family being killed or injured in a terrorist attack? Pretty damn low (read: Got me but you are in more danger of falling off your roof or getting killed driving to work).

I doubt there would be much effect on the economy one way or the other if we spent all that money we poured into Iraq anyway. Now, if we had saved that money (or simply not spent it) then I think you’d see more of a rise in the economy than is currently happening. Even with the war the economy seems to be picking up steam…without it I can see it going even stronger.

You’ll have to wait for one of the economy guru’s on the board to answer this one. IMO the price of oil would be slightly lower without the war…but still high and rising. I don’t think the war has had THAT much impact on the price of oil…not when looked at with a view towards production and demand, especially rising demand from countries like China and India. The day of cheap oil is passed, war or no war. But thats just MHO.


Maybe with the vast sums of money we’ve spent, we could devise a way to allow free and easy passage for people and goods while stopping the undesirables (terrorist and their wares). How many billions have we spent? We can put a man on the moon but we can’t…

I didn’t mean to close our borders or isolate ourselves, merely to filter out the harmful.

Or perhaps not. Is there a historical example of a nation ‘filtering out the harmful’ stuff? Free trade is just that, free and unhindered. An isolated American would be weaker and poorer and with fewer friends in the world.

All in all, a really bad idea.

Ah, I missed what you were getting at in your OP. YOu are talking about imposing some severe trade restrictions if you want to inspect everything coming in and out of the US…and for nothing really. We already have inspections and spending hundreds of billions more isn’t going to necessarily make it better. How many billions are spent by the DEA on drug enforcement and inspections to find drugs? IIRC the DEA admits to getting maybe 5-10% (to be generous) of the drugs coming in.

And by making the transfer of goods into the US even harder than it currently is you are going to increase the cost of goods coming into the US…and probably be slapped with reciprical inspections in nations where our goods are being sold too, thus causing our goods to cost more in those countries. So, I take back what I said earlier…this would certainly have a double negative effect on the economy. You’d be increasing governement spending AND you’d be restricting trade by having more inspections.

And all this would be pretty much worthless anyway. Oh, you might increase the number of illegal items being smuggled in by a few percentage points…maybe even more than a few. But the cost wouldn’t be worth the benifit.


The money wasted in Iraq could be better used in a lot of ways but I don’t think trying to “filter out” undesirables is one of them. Such a plan would require the used of thousands of highly skilled people at borders to do the filtering. People like those we are willing to pay for now who hold up an 11 month old infant at the airport because of a name similar to one on the watch list just aren’t going to do at all.

The Iraq war is a waste and our reaction to the WTC attacks was irrational. The WTC attacks were terrible but I don’t believe they in any way threatened national existence. However, some of the changes in law and security measures put in place since then could very well, and probably will, change the character of the US for the worse.

No, I don’t think so. Jobs generated by government are nothing more than wealth distribution. I would go the opposite route. Eliminate the borders entirely, and use government to enforce whatever the landowners want to do on their properties — be it to allow people to cross or to forbid same.

Probably about what it is now.

There’s a very real argument to be made that OPEC is waging economic warfare against the USA. Some price fluctuations occur due to supply/demand, but when OPEC decides to raise the price, it’s my opinion (among others) that they are doing it to hurt the US economy and to influence US politics.

Hmmm. I imagine that OPEC countries try to raise the price of oil…well, call me crazy…but since they sell oil, don’t they make more money if they can sell oil at high prices? Everybody needs money, that’s why they call it money.

So if the US government doesn’t take steps to wean the nation off dependence on foreign oil, would that qualify as “aiding and abetting the enemy”?

In a related vein, The New York Times reports that the Bush Administration is planning to keep huge trucks and SUVs exempt from tighter fuel econoy regulations…

Statistically speaking, it probably wouldn’t make a significant difference, attacks on the scale of 9/11 would tend to become exceedingly difficult after that wakeup call, at least for several years, one would think.

One interesting theory that someone I was talking to about this is that by fighting wars against Terrorism (yeah, I realize how vague and nonspecific a goal that seems to be) we’re forcing Al Queda and other organizations like that to expend effort fighting us over there. Even if Iraq didn’t support Al Queda before, any support Al Queda gives the insurgents now is support they can’t give to anyone on this side of the world. As cold as it sounds, it is better for them to be trying to kill our soldiers on foreign soil than for them to be trying to kill our civilians on home soil.

Defense is allways easier to manage at a distance than up-close, because it ties up the enemy’s resources fighting YOU on THEIR home turf rather than YOU having to fight THEM on yours.

Okay, so we’d be no safer.

Do you think we are safer now than we would have been if the money had been used here; if for nothing else than hire police and train a legion of bomb sniffing dogs? Or to make it harder for an Al Qaeda agent to enter the country from Mexico?

How would this even remotely be workable in the real world?

Well, these things are not really quantifiable; certainly not without access to classified information.

But the assumption behind the question seems to be that it is somehow possible to build a bulletproof wall of security that cannot be penetrated and that can keep out all threats. That is never, ever possible, certainly not in a free society. If they can’t go through the Maginot line, they will always find a way around it.

Whether the Iraq war per se was wise (i.e., out of all possible choices) is a separate question; but given the choice between either trying to reduce or eliminate threats at the source or trying to build ever-higher and ever-more-restrictive defenses around yourself, the former is clearly superior.

Government jobs are not necessarily make-work. The post office creates value by moving goods from Point A to Point B. Whether private enterprise could do it more efficiently (and hence create even more value) is another question, but clearly, the post office is creating value.

Your suggestion amounts to the United States allowing its own territorial integrity to be a free market commodity, sold to the highest bidder. It sounds like the things Khruschev used to say after too much vodka, except that he was being facetious.

Well, as Furt said I doubt you could really quantify the realitive, er, safeness, of our present situation verse speculations on what we MIGHT have spent the money on…not having access to either a time machine or an alternative history gizmo. Myself, I think we are in relatively the same boat safety wise as if we had spent the money here at home on the kinds of security measures you seem to be getting at. That is to say that I don’t think that the US would have been attacked again a la 9/11 reguardless of whether we attacked Iraq, spent the money on vastly increased security, or blown it all on cheap booze and women. We’d probably be in worse financial shape than we are however if we’d have implimented your security ideas (by the same token we’d have been a lot happier if we’d have blown the money on cheap booze and women…or men, whatever floats ones boat)…not that this matters from a security standpoint.

The thing is, even with 9/11, the incidents of terrorism in the US is pretty low…and has been so historically. Yet we have an open society that makes things realitively easy to come in and out of the country (and to move goods and services in and out of the country as well…including the illegal types). Even so, we have never had a major problem with terrorism here. Oh, we have occational flair ups to be sure. But you don’t see groups planting car bombs or see the kinds of attacks that hit, say, London, last month. The question you have to ask yourself is…why is that?

Supposing you’ve answered that question, the next question you’d need to ask is…is terrorism in the US on the increase? Is the probability of an attack on US soil greater or lower statistically than in the past? What exactly is the probability of a major attack…and whats being done presently to prevent such attacks? What is the cost to benifit of increasing security greatly over what we already have…and is it worth it after that analysis?


Nonsense. We’d be hungover. Nobody’s happy with a hangover. :slight_smile:

This is referred to, among other ways, as the “flypaper theory” or “honeypot theory” – create a magnet somewhere, heck (foreign policy can be Machiavellian), anywhere, throw down a gauntlet that the “terrorists” will find irresistable, and hey presto, all the terrorist boots on the ground are kept busy on foreign soil, whereupon we kill them all, or at least contain them, and everyone’s safer at home.

There are several moral and logistical problems with the flypaper theory. First, it assumes that there is some static and known population of terrorists (as there was a known and fairly static population of Huns and Japs in 1944) – plow through all of them, and the war’s won, all the more easily if you can localize them in the Middle Eastern equivalent of Berlin or the Home Islands.

Problem is . . . “terrorism” is dynamic. If we set out on a dubious campaign to attack non-terrorist, but Arab and nominally Muslim, Iraqis, in order to wipe out the X hardcore terrorists lurking elsewhere, there is no guarantee that X won’t become 2X or 5X or 10X – and there’s reason to think it can, will, and may have. There’s a reason Blair and the neocons so loudly deny that the London bombers and others were motivated by Iraq (even though the guys themselves said they were) – the neocon “vision” is implicitly dependent on portraying the War On Terror in quasi-WWII black and white terms, an important aspect of which is making it seem winnable by defining “terrorists” as a finite class and denying that “anti-terrorism” can breed more “terrorists.” I don’t take what radical Islamists say too seriously, but nor do I automatically believe neocons when they expect us to accept on faith that Muslims who say they’ve been radicalized to suicidal Islamist fury by U.S. foreign policy are telling some clever lie, and that actually they hate our constitutional form of government or apple pie. Occam would suggest that they’ve been radicalized by what they say they were radicalized by. When the number of “terrorists” can always go up in response to “anti-terror,” even a Machiavellian calculus changes dramatically.

Second, all wars that are not wars of total anihillation end. The Iraq war will, in some form that will certainly leave some terrorists and insurgents (I suspect, a larger number than ever, but you needn’t buy into my math) alive, radical, and skilled. Because we don’t have immigration control in the West anymore than we did on Sept. 10, these veteran terrorists will go somewhere, and history indicates that many will float to Hamburg or Hampstead or Helena, whereupon a certain number will apply their intensified hatred of the West, and heightened skills, against us. Don’t believe it? Why did the 1980s Afghan wars, far from being the perfect flypaper to neutralize the thousands of mujahideen nuts who flocked there, turn out to be the training ground for the ca. 2000 terrorist All Star League? Is it just because Russia “lost?” I suspect not, and I suspect anyone advocating the “flypaper” theory consider Afghanistan closely as a model.

Finally . . . what are the moral limits to our Machiavellianism in the aid (however ineffective) of “killing all the terrorists?” If it really doesn’t matter whether the (pretextual) honeypot location is, in fact, a terror hotbed ab initio (as Iraq was not), why not invade Andorra? It’d be a pushover! Or Vieques – we’ve already got the bombing ranges, and wasn’t that dirty bomb suspect in N.Y. a Puerto Rican? Or, Bahrain (to take a country actually full of Muslims, but much smaller and easier to subdue than Iraq)? Or some partly-Muslim resort isle off the coast of Africa? Or (to take a country that I strongly suspect has harbored far more international terror suspects than Iraq, due to its notoriously generous welfare system and lax immigration controls), the Netherlands – the Low Countries are easy to invade! Or . . . Jersey City, home (once again) to a far greater of proven radicals and anti-American terrorists than pre-war Baghdad.

Avoid hangovers, stay drunk.