The problems we face as a nation are frightening. But right now, in many ways, we are like the person in the horror movie who is hiding under a bed. The thing is though, these problems are stalking us and will, sooner or later, they are going to drag us out from cover. It’s far better to face them now, head on, then to wait until we have almost no options.
Some of these problems actually look kind of like a horror movie, like ISIL and Ebola. Some of them are horrifically large numbers, like our current and future debt.
Muslim extremists have long wished for a state that they could call their own. A place where they could operate freely, imposing a sadistic interpretation of their faith. For a while, Afghanistan was the site of their dystopia and the leaders went by the name of Taliban.
Now ISIL is trying the same grim project in war-torn Syria and Iraq with the hope that they can spread the borders of their new state across all Muslim lands. Stonings and beheadings are routine punishments. When it come to terrorism, the stated ambitions of ISIL are the same as the Taliban.
There was a time when oceans and distance would have kept us safe from such horrors. Now however, the same planes that let us enjoy a vacation in a distant part of the world, bring us problems from distant lands.
Despite whatever rhetoric President Obama may want to use, we are at war with ISIL. I was an Air Force officer in another war that had limited aims and limited means—Vietnam. If we intend to keep ISIL from establishing a terror state, we must not hold back. That does not mean sending substantial ground forces, but we should have a force that meets the needs of military commanders, not politicians. Our allies in the region must hold the ground we help them take.
Ebola, in many ways, is the disease of our nightmares. It kills the majority of people who contract it and takes their lives in a particularly painful and gruesome process. For months, we hoped that the west African nations from which Ebola sprung would be able to get things under control. Those hopes were sorely misplaced.
We’re playing catch-up now. There are some who hope that just placing travel restrictions will keep us safe. We do need smart travel restrictions that keep people out of the U.S. until we know they don’t have the disease, but we also need to get help into these nations.
Diseases don’t recognize lines on a map, and the borders in Africa are particularly porous. While the Ivory Coast has closed its border crossings, thousands of miles of fields and forests are open for infected persons to walk across. If Ebola becomes out of control in neighboring Liberia, it would trigger a refugee problem that could quickly spiral out of control, infecting another nation.
We have U.S. troops working to construct some facilities and coordinate supplies. We may need to do more. We certainly need to do much more to prepare U.S. medical facilities, including clinics and doctors offices, to diagnose Ebola and quickly isolate patients.
Our federal government is plagued with persistent deficits. That does not have the visceral terror of violence or disease. However, without a properly functioning government, those horrors and others would come to our shores.
We have more than $200 trillion in government obligations that we don’t have a plan to pay for. Funding programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will take over all other priorities unless we strengthen and save these programs. We all want government to do more than just provide for these programs. We want to be safe from foreign threats and from pandemics.
We can’t hide from our budget problems. Just a few years from now, we will be forced to either raise taxes incredibly high or cuts programs deeply. Neither of those are good options. Incremental changes now, done on a bipartisan basis, can prevent a great deal of pain decades from now.