Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reading between the lines

During last summer's campaigning, Barack Obama called for a "civilian national security force" that is "just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded" as our military. There are those who say "nah...he didn't really say that" or things to that effect. Well, here's the clip:

And last week, this audio clip surfaced with Obama's soon-to-be Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel discussing three months of "civil defense" training for all 18- to 25-year-olds:

The usually reliable did their readers a disservice (and revealed their own pro-Obama bias) when they attempted to downplay Obama's statement by addressing this question:
I read a quote from Rep. Paul Broun from Georgia which stated that Obama wants to set up a civilian national security force that was similar to the "Gestapo" or the Nazi Brownshirts.

What is the truth behind Obama's statements that he wants to create a "civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded [as the military]"?
Great...pick the worst alarmist hyperbole and respond to that. They respond by providing the broader context of that portion of Obama's speech:
...I will expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 slots [from 75,000] and make that increased service a vehicle to meet national goals, like providing health care and education, saving our planet and restoring our standing in the world, so that citizens see their effort connected to a common purpose.

People of all ages, stations and skills will be asked to serve. Because when it comes to the challenges we face, the American people are not the problem – they are the answer. So we are going to send more college graduates to teach and mentor our young people. We'll call on Americans to join an energy corps, to conduct renewable energy and environmental clean-up projects in their neighborhoods all across the country.

We will enlist our veterans to find jobs and support for other vets, and to be there for our military families. And we're going to grow our Foreign Service, open consulates that have been shuttered and double the size of the Peace Corps by 2011 to renew our diplomacy.
OK, so that's the context, but how does that constitute a "civilian national security force", unless Obama's definition of "national security" is so broad that it proves he doesn't really know the meaning of the term? Do environmental clean-up projects, mentoring students, and jobs programs for vets really fall under the category of national security?

Clearly when taken together, there's a shared belief between the two in having some form of a domestic quasi-military organization, but what I think Obama's really talking about here is dramatically slashing defense spending in favor of a lot of feel-good bullshit.

On right-wing blogs, the common question is where the hell Obama would get the money for such an organization. Well, that's pretty easy. If you halve the current defense budget and give the other half to this "civilian national security force", they'd be equally funded. And it would probably take that much money to build up the organization and infrastructure to cycle every 18- to 25-year-old through three months of "civil defense" training and to fund all the other things completely unrelated to national security that Obama mentioned in his speech.

Is this really the change we need?

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