So Statham officials feel the need to hire a full-time city administrator. Some council members believe that the city would save money if it spends around $80,000 for an administrator.
“That would more than pay for the position,” said councilman Perry Barton. “The way you break out of the recessions is to have more firepower for the city.”
Uh, not really.
Government leaders often justify creating new positions by claiming it will save money. I’ve covered a lot of governments over the past 30 years and I’ve never seen one save money by spending more money. It never, ever works out that way.
But I agree that Statham may need a more professional administrative system than it has now. For the past five years, Barton and his colleagues have spent more money each year in the town that they have taken in. Only by raising taxes two years ago and raiding its utility fund has the city been able to stay afloat. Statham’s financial management is a textbook on how not to run a town.
The real problem in Statham isn’t the lack of an administrator, it’s the lack of courage by the city council in getting its spending under control.
The main cause of the town’s financial problems is that it spends way too much on its police department — the projected FY2015 city budget calls for the town to spend 45 percent of its general fund on the police department, an amount topping $530,000. No small town can be financially strong when it spends so much of its limited resources on one department.
Maybe instead of spending $80,000+ for an administrator to have more “firepower,” the citizens of Statham should instead start electing councilmembers who know how to balance a checkbook.
After 11 years of spending American money and blood for its liberation, Iraq is descending into militant chaos.
It is the predictable outcome of a poorly conceived American adventure undertaken by those who had little understanding about the dynamics that fuel Middle Eastern conflicts.
Only history will be able to say for sure, but it seems today as if the last decade’s interventions by American forces have been for naught. We have not appreciably changed the dynamics in the Middle East for the better — and one could argue that our adventurism actually upset what little balance of power had existed in that part of the world.
We have certainly not created an Iraq that is going to be a model democracy for the Middle East, as president George W. Bush argued in defense of his ill-fated invasion.
Just because the U.S. calls for democracy does not make it magically happen. That’s especially true in the Middle East, a region beset by centuries of tribal feuding and sectarian strife where the idea of individual freedom is a foreign concept.
Religious conflicts between various Islamic sects make up a major part of the dysfunctional culture that defines the Middle East and leaves its people poor, ignorant and in perpetual fear for their lives. Even if the U.S. colonized the entire Middle East for 100 years, it would not be enough to rid the area of its poisonous ideology, or to plant the seeds of democracy amid a culture lost in medieval thinking.
There is no doubt that Saddam Hussian was a brutal tyrant in Iraq. But he was not an Islamist extremist whose actions were a threat to the U.S. In fact, his secular rule in Iraq acted as a counterbalance to an extremist Iran whose actions do pose a serious threat to U.S. interests.
In removing Saddam during the 2003 invasion, the U.S. killed a tyrant, but that action created a vacuum of leadership in Iraq that will soon be replaced by an extremist of some other flavor. You can be sure that whatever group eventually takes control of Iraq, it will seek to undermine U.S. strategic interests in the region and perhaps even become an exporter of terrorism to our own shores.
We Americans are naive about the image we have of ourselves and in the power of “doing good” to change the world. We believe that if we get rid of the “bad guys” in a country and do good deeds, such as building schools and other infrastructure in a nation, the people of that country will want to be just like us and will emulate our values.
But they won’t. They will accept our military help to oust one ruler, but only because they have other wannabe dictators waiting in the wings to snatch power for themselves. They will accept our money and investments, but only for the short-term help it brings. And even while accepting our riches, they will resent us and our occupation of their homeland.
Of course, the U.S. cannot become an isolationist nation and pretend that we don’t have an interest in what’s happening around the world. We do have to be diplomatically and sometimes militarily engaged in different regions where there is a clear American interest at stake.
But that projection of power has to be limited and strategic. We should never plant our military in a region in an effort to win the “hearts and minds” of people that has no cultural tradition of individual freedom. Instead of seeking to change a culture, our military should only be used as a last resort to kill bad guys and to limit the destructive designs of our enemies.
President Bush clearly overreached when he invaded both Iraq and Afghanistan. But just as we often overreact with U.S. military power, we also underreact. President Obama has been the worst president in recent memory in his reluctance to use military muscle even when it is clearly in the U.S.’s interest to do so. If President Bush was reckless with the U.S. military, President Obama has been feckless.
And so it goes on the merry-go-round of U.S. military policy. From the moment we invaded Iraq, the seeds of internal strife were planted and the eventual outcome drawn.
And the sad thing is, over 4,400 of our young soldiers died in vain in Iraq and another 30,000+ were wounded, their lives wasted for a cause that was destined to fail from the start.
Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers, Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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