Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 2002 / 16 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

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Economy's strength tied to national security


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | With less than three weeks to Election Day, the issues that many from both parties thought would frame the midterm elections have shifted, and campaign strategists are struggling to define their candidates in what is a new reality for our political economy.

President Bush now has a congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq. Although you might think the prospect of war against Saddam Hussein would have sent this battered stock market even lower and oil prices even higher, in point of fact, since the House passed its resolution on Oct. 10, the Dow has risen more than 10 percent. And oil prices have remained stable.

It was only a month ago that Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was suggesting the administration would not have its way on the Iraq resolution and Democratic strategists were telling their candidates that the sputtering economy was an issue that gave them political advantage.

This week, Dick Gephardt, the House Democratic leader, tried to shift the focus back to the weak recovery, charging "this administration has done a lot of planning for how to defend ourselves from Iraq, but they have done no planning to bring economic growth to America."

What Gephardt and others in his party fail to recognize is that disarming Saddam Hussein, waging war against radical Islamists, and establishing peace and stability in the Middle East are vital not only to our national security - but to preserving the strength of our economy and ensuring prosperity.

There are no separate war and economic issues. They are fundamentally interrelated. As we've seen with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, last week's blast in Bali and bombing in the Philippines, the mission of the radical Islamist terrorists is to target those areas where they can cause maximum economic damage.

The economic costs of fighting the war against terror and the radical Islamists will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. In the past year, Congress has approved $80 billion in budget authority. That money is being spent for homeland security, military costs, airline industry aid, victim compensation and disaster assistance. But disaster seems far too weak a word to describe the impact of another successful terrorist attack against even one of our major cities. There would be unthinkable loss of American lives, and the Brookings Institution estimates that a biological attack could cause $750 billion in economic damage.

A terrorist offensive against a critical part of the economy, such as shopping malls, could cause as much as $250 billion in damages. And we are certainly not the only nation at risk. I would hope that the Bush administration would respect Israel's right to defend itself against any attack by Saddam Hussein. We must be clear we will not tolerate states or groups that want to destroy us or our friends and allies.

It is also essential that we realize that the threat of radical Islamist terrorism to our nation, our economy and our way of life will continue to be a tremendous economic burden, but one far lighter than the failure to wage that war successfully.

The same is true of Iraq.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Congress recently, "The issue is not vengeance, retribution or retaliation; it is whether the Iraqi regime poses a growing danger to the safety and security of our people, and of the world."

In these perilous times, there is no rational way to separate national security and economic security. They are the same.

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Lou Dobbs is the anchor and managing editor of CNN's "Lou Dobbs Moneyline." Comment by clicking here.

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