05 July 2018

Trade Wars, Immigration and the Invasion of Iraq

I remember feeling so utterly baffled as to why so many of my fellow Americans were eager to invade Iraq. The reasons we were given were so odd. Saddam might have weapons of mass destruction. (Without convincing proof that reason could be used to invade any nation.) This was retaliation for 9-11. (We already knew most of the terrorists of 9-11 were from Saudi Arabia and none were from Iraq and that Osama bin Laden was behind the attack, not Saddam.) We could "liberate" the people of Iraq by dropping bombs on them. Finally, the idea was that at the instant Saddam were taken out, democracy would bloom in its place. (There is no history to suggest that every community is a democracy waiting to bloom with the removal of a despot. The predecessors to democracy are more complicated by far.)

There were no experts who believed any of these weird claims. None of this made sense. And yet Americans were so excited to go do this and Bush and Cheney and Condoleezza Rice assured us that it would work. (Didn't explain how it would work or even what the risks were but instead just adamantly insisted that it would. As it turns out, this is a big sign that the person talking to us doesn't know what they are talking about.)

I never did understand how it was going to make our lives better here in the US but it did turn out to cost us $4 trillion, kill 4,000 American soldiers and somewhere between 100,000 to 2 million Iraqis, triggered a refugee crisis that still rocks Europe, was the catalyst for forming ISIS, which still terrorizes that region, and Iraq is not only now less stable but now so is its neighbor Syria. It turns out that anger isn't really a great guide to good policy.

Now Trump and his supporters are just as excited about immigration and trade as Bush and the country was about invading Iraq. Like then, this will create huge misery for others, some misery for us, and will cost us a lot.

Like the Iraq invasion, trade wars and cracking down on immigration apparently gives a lot of people a cathartic release but it is costly - like shooting up heroin before driving onto the freeway.

Trump has increased spending on border patrol. He was taken the dramatic and hateful steps of seizing children from asylum seekers coming to this country. He has claimed that trade wars are easy to win. Now he's even looking to rescind citizenship from people who have already been granted citizenship.

There are no experts who agree that trade wars are easy to win. Even the Trump administration's cost-benefit analysis of immigration saw it as net positive, and besides the rate of illegal immigration has been seriously lowered in this century. 

Illegal immigration is the weapons of mass destruction of this administration, the weird policy fixation that no expert understands but nonetheless seems to trigger every tribal instinct that drives GOP voters. 

I know that some voters are hopelessly enamored of the power to take lives, whether it be through actual killing in an invasion or in the form of seizing children from their parents as they cross the border. Obviously you people are beyond reaching. But there are some folks who don't get excited about creating misery for others who have nonetheless continued to be Republican. If this is you, if you are excited about the crack down on unfair trade and immigration, ask some important questions.

How much is this anti-trade, anti-immigration effort going to cost? 
How is this going to make your life better? 
Which experts defend this and how do they explain it? 
At least importantly, how does Trump himself explain how this is going to make life better? Is there data to support any of these claims?

As an American voter, you can increase or decrease the level of misery on the planet, including your own. Take that responsibility seriously.

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