Alternative #2. Make Use of Our Indigenous Resources
Okay. I admit we can expect some pushback from the US State Department at the idea of installing the Chinese in the Middle East. As long as guys run the world, we’re going to have to deal with governments having this football concept of what constitutes winning, and one of the silly rules is that the expansion of anyone else’s dominance means you are losing. Stupid, yes, but a basic factor in how international relations work. So, here’s another innovative approach.
The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world—we have locked up a bigger percentage of our people than anyone else. As far as I can ascertain, we've managed to lock up a bigger percentage of our citizens than any country in history. In fact, even in absolute terms we have more people behind bars than any nation has managed. The US has only a fraction of runner-up China’s population, yet we have about 2.2 million people behind bars, while China can boast only a meager 1.5 million.
Hey, we're number one! Do we rock, or what?
If you include people “in the system”—locked up, on probation, or on parole—our numbers are even more impressive: 7 million people.
Now, the majority of these people weren’t dangerous when they were sent to prison. The majority of them are petty thieves, drug users, minor dealers, forgers, people 19 years old who had sex with someone who was 17, or men who fell behind on child-support payments. But plenty of these folks come out violent and predatory. And, yes, some of the people in there were really scary when they were first locked up.
Our brilliant system of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes means that murderers and violent gang members are constantly dumped back onto the streets to open up cells for college students caught selling marijuana. Here in California we have more than 200,000 prisoners crammed into prisons designed for 83,000. Thousands of them are sleeping on cots in what were intended to be gymnasiums and auditoriums. According to the law, you can't let out the people convicted of drug offenses until they have served their full terms, so, to free up beds, guess who gets paroled? (There have been proposals to fix this obviously broken system, but the prison-guard's union, now one of the richest and most powerful entities in the state, dumps millions of dollars into campaigns opposing any sort of changes to the law or creation of treatment programs.)
Many states strip your right to vote if you have gone to prison; and, as a former felon, most lines of work are closed to you. What few people are aware of is that US federal law also prohibits felons from ever receiving Medicare or Medicaid—which in effect means that once you’ve served time, you will probably never have health care again. This has created a large segment of the population who has no investment in the future of our country.
Now, producing tens of millions of alientated, hostile people (if you include the people who are no longer "in the system") who have limited rights, limited prospects, and who have no vested interest in whether our government lives on or collapses...well, that might seem like a suicidal policy for a society to adopt. But we have gone at it relentlessly; a basic tenet of American government is that if something doesn't seem to be working, it's because we didn't do it hard enough.
Luckily, we're an innovative people. When a Yankee businessman steps in something unpleasant, you can rely on someone on his staff to figure out a way not to only scrape it off his shoe, but also to sell it to someone.
So, in the spirit of American can-do approaches, here’s my proposal—let all these people out of prison or off parole if they'll move to Iraq. I don’t mean enroll them in the military and send them as soldiers. I mean move the ones who want to go. Give them a cash grant and some weapons.
True, a lot of the folks who would sign on for this are members of different gangs who are sworn enemies, but I’m guessing that in the face of the nuttiness in Baghdad, they’d be able to set aside their conflicts and attend to the business of imposing gangster order. Our best guys are as full-on whacko violent as anybody over there--after all, we invented the drive-by shooting--and they are also smart enough to do these sorts of things without committing suicide in the process.
You can rest assured that once our folks work out the economic analogy that oil in Iraq is the equivalent of crack in the US, there won't be anymore oilfield sabotage. True, a violent, gangster-run state is an unpleasant thing, but that's what Iraq has always been, since the day the British and French invented the 'country' back after World War I. So, it's just a return to the status quo, except that our guys speak English. Mostly. Sorta.
The bottom line: Our gangs can beat up your gangs. Give the Crips and the Bloods and the Aryan Brotherhood a few months on the ground over there, and they be pimpin’ them insurgents' scrawny little asses all over Baghdad.
So, there’s my contribution to solving our major international crisis. I offer these ideas in a non-partisan spirit, and don’t see why they can’t form a critical plank in the platforms of both parties at their respective conventions. Think of it as an export.