By Sam Klein
Most Americans know of Middle Eastern Nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq, primarily due to our large occupation and involvement within these nations. Since our War on Terror, America has constantly been involved in the Middle East, attempting to bring democracy and halt terrorist activities. Yet, many people do not know of the clear threat that Iran poses to our nation. From aiding terrorism to stimulating a massive Middle Eastern arms race, Iran threats our quite severe.
First, Iran propagates terrorism. The Council on Foreign Relations reports that, “Iran provides [funding and weapons to] terrorist groups–most notably in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon–posing a security concern to the international community.” Specifically, the Department of Defense estimates that Iran provides “roughly $100 million to $200 million annually” to Hezbollah, a terrorist group that is determined to obliterate Israel. In addition, the Department of State concludes that Iran provides “small arms and associated ammunition, rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, 107mm rockets, and plastic explosives” to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, a country where thousands of US soldiers are currently stationed fighting the Taliban. Perhaps most concerning, the Wall Street Journal reports that recent Wikileaks documents reveal “new evidence of direct contacts between Iranian officials and the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s senior leadership.” To further issues, Iran trains the Taliban. The New York Sun states, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are training hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters to carry out attacks against coalition forces throughout the Middle East.” After being trained, al-Qaeda operatives “then travel to countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where they use their new skills to carry out attacks on coalition troops.” The Council on Foreign Relations reports that, as of 2010, Iran “began releasing detained al-Qaeda operatives, a move that…U.S. intelligence officials [speculated] was [meant] to replenish al-Qaeda’s ranks.” In addition, there is evidence of a past informal agreement by which Iran would support al-Qaeda training with the understanding that such training would be used “for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States”, showing Iran’s willingness to help terrorists attack the United States. All in all, Iran is one of our world’s greatest sponsors of terrorism. How can we fully halt terrorism with nations that openly support it?
Another major threat is that Iran’s nuclear program leads to regional instability. The Guardian reports that “Iran now has the “technical ability” to make highly enriched uranium, an essential step towards building a nuclear bomb”, while the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee reports that “Iran is converting its stockpile of low enriched uranium…[to] a level that represents 85 percent of the work necessary to produce fuel for a nuclear weapon” as the International Institute for Strategic Studies released a report in February stating that, Iran will most likely have their nuclear weapons in about two years, despite U.S. efforts to stop their programs. Iran having nuclear weapons has two major impacts:
1. Leverage: The Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that “even the future prospect of an Iranian weapon, gives Iran added leverage in the ‘wars of intimidation that shape much of the real-world behavior of nations in the region.” Thus, even though Iran does not have their nuclear weapons now, they can still place pressure on states to go against our foreign policy agenda. This would severely hurt our foreign relations, which is especially crucial in an area so abundant with oil. Lastly, The Anti-Defamation League further states that Iran, with nuclear weapons, would engage in a more aggressive foreign policy, which would lead to “greater confrontations with the international community and support for extremists.”
2. Iran, with nuclear weapons, which result in a regional arms race. The Wall Street Journal reported that even in 2009, ten nations in the Middle East were seeking nuclear programs, creating an arms race initiated as a sign that countries fear that Iran will grow too strong. The Anti-Defamation League furthers that an arms race in the Middle East would destabilize the volatile and vital region, with a disruption in the supply of oil causing significant damage to Western economies, including the United States. And according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “the possession of nuclear weapons may be perceived as making it “ safe” to engage in” low-intensity conflict and terrorism, with each incident having the potential to be escalated to the nuclear level. The Harvard International Review agrees, summating that if the Middle East were to have even a few nations with nuclear weapons, that it would be a recipe for nuclear war.
So, Iran is a threat to our national security. From funding terrorism to a potential nuclear arms race, the nation’s detriments to our country are clear. So what do we do about it? A continued war in the Middle East seems futile, as even right wing politicians are beginning to call for a return of our troops. What does seem most realistic at this time however is more nuclear proliferation, which would have to start from the major nations, so that smaller nations such as Iran would feel more comfortable. In regards to terrorism, the primary reason why terrorist activity is so prevalent is because of our presence. Once the U.S. backs out of the Middle East, terrorist activity should die down. Without nuclear innovation, a thriving terrorist market, and increased national security, our nation should perceive a lesser threat from Iran.
By Sam Klein
Simply put, the time has come for financial incentives for organ donation. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, over 110,000 people are currently waiting to receive an organ. Yet last year, there were less then 15,000 donors. In fact, 19 people die every day in the U.S, waiting for an organ, about 7,000 people every year. Right now, 33,000 people currently on the waiting list will die on the waiting list, due to the lack of organs. These facts alone are enough to conclude that there is a significant need to attain organs. Yet, the real issue lies in the fact that, in the United States, the number of patients on waiting lists has risen 313 per cent since 1988, while the number of donors has only risen 42 percent. Thus, the rate at which the demand exceeds the supply is drastically increasing. Therefore, there is an obvious need for more organs in America, which financial incentives can solve.
William Potts explains in the Monash University Law Review that, “Given that there are enough organs in existence to significantly reduce, if not entirely eliminate, the organ deficit, the time is now to consider more creative methods for increasing the supply organs. The main problem with present systems of organ donation is that people have very little incentive to donate their organs.” Therefore, we currently have the resources available to solve the problem, yet the issue is obtaining them. Michael H. Shapiro in the Capital University Law Review explains that, “The option to sell will become ‘more plausible and sometimes compelling’ once the legal barriers to sales are removed, [leading] to an overall increase in the number of transplant organs.” Thus it can be seen that once the federal government permits the use of financial incentives, the barriers will be broken and the solvency will occur. Gary S. Becker from the University of Chicago even found that with the implementation of financial incentives, kidney donations would increase 44 percent, and liver donations, 67 percent. Furthermore, a study done by the National Legal Center for the Medically Dependent and Disabled found that when Pennsylvania announced its program, Organ Donation Trust Fund, which provided financial incentives for organ donors, over 3 million people signed up to donate organs (thus proving that this system is appealing). In fact, since Georgia offered a reduced cost for driver’s licenses, the amount of organ donors increased by 33%. In the end, we simply cannot rely on our current methods of obtaining organs, as they are vastly inefficient. People will continue dying until stronger incentives to encourage organ donation are provided.
Furthermore, by providing financial incentives for organ donation, our nation will save money and increase the quality of life of its citizens. Transplant surgeon Arthur Matas and health policy professor Mark Schnitzler estimate that since dialysis is expensive, paying organ donors would end up saving the government $275,000 per transplant. USA Today also notes that over 350,000 patients are on dialysis each year, which allows the opportunity for our government to drastically save money, on top of the lives. Greg Becker of the University of Chicago estimates the total net savings at roughly $1.3 billion each year. With the amount of money saved, our nation will be highly better off. Jake Lindon, Professor at Florida State University notes that decreased quality of life from dialysis impose a social cost upon patients. He states that, “many (or most) of those [dialysis] patients experience energy loss, nausea, weakness, hypertension, bone disease, infections…and other problems that emanate from the treatment itself. Those numbers do not take into account the physical and emotional toll on patients, many of whom cannot work, and who as a group are 100 percent more likely than non-dialysis patients to commit suicide.” Therefore, financial incentives will not only provide the benefit of saving lives, but improving the quality of life as well. In the end, our nation needs to find more innovative methods to acquire more organs. Providing financial incentives for organ donation would saves lives, money, and increase the quality of life of many, clearly proving that this method is a must in today’s society.
By Sam Klein
President Barack Obama will try his luck with his new deficit reduction proposal to Congress, which is projected to cut roughly $3 trillion dollars over ten years. Half of the expected reduction will be derived from increased taxes.
Obama’s fourth try at a deficit reduction package does not look promising though, as analysts project a strong Republican disapproval. Republicans in general are most opposed to increasing taxes, especially now. “It’s a bad thing to do in the middle of an economic downturn,” Mitch McConnell says, Senate Minority Leader says.
Yet, Obama is trying to compromise; over $300 billion dollars will be cut from Democrat-supported programs over ten years, which will include major cuts to Medicaid and Medicare. Obama did comment, however, saying that he will veto any bill that reduces Medicare and Medicaid, without increasing taxes on the wealthy.
Most of Obama’s proposed tax cuts will be derived from the expiration of the Bush-era-tax cuts ($800 billion) which will increase the taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year. The total saving will roughly come out to be $1.5 trillion dollars, yet Republican House Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan, states that, “If you tax job creators more, you get less job creation.”
Thus, Congress will have a lot on its plate in the next few weeks, as they determine the best possible route to take for our nation’s economy. Obama certainly proposes drastic cuts and savings, which seem to suggest he is ready for bi-partisan compromise, but will these savings be enough? Yet, the bigger question may be: Can any bill be passed in a Congress so divided?
By Sam Klein
Just ten years ago, our nation was devastated by a group of Islamic extremists who chose to fly planes into the World Trade Center in New York City. This catastrophic event catalyzed severe reforms in our nation, and consequently was the initial event that stimulated the push for the war on terror. Since that time, our nation has relentlessly improved its security significantly.
One of the major security benefits has been in border security. In September 2011 ABC News reported that after 9/11, in order to prevent potential terrorists from entering the country illegally, security along the United States’ southern border increased dramatically. The increased security measures include doubling the number of Border Patrol agents, creating a secondary fence along the border, and adding towers equipped with cameras to the border. The increased border security used to stop terrorists has resulted in decreased illegal immigration. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “Apprehensions of illegal migrants crossing the nation’s borders, a key indicator of illegal immigration, have plummeted, down 47 percent in the past four years. The number of illegal immigrants arrested and deported from the U.S. has reached record highs, with a growing emphasis on capturing those engaged in criminal activities. The U.S. removed more than 392,000 immigrants last year and is on pace to eclipse that number next year.” The impact of fewer illegal immigrants lies in reduced crime and reduced drug trade. In July 2010 CBS News reported that although illegal immigrants make up only 7% of the states’ population, they make up 40% of those in jail for kidnapping and 13% of those in jail for murder. Notably, from 2008 to 2009 FBI statistics indicate that crime has dropped in Arizona- in some places as much as 20%. Lloyd Easterling, a US Customs and Borders Patrol spokesperson, says the main reason the border has become a safer place is due to post 9/11 security enhancements regarding illegal immigration. Additionally, US Customs and Border Protection notes that “Past successes in border enforcement operations have demonstrated that a border under operational control directly correlates to reduced crime.” Therefore, increased border security has safeguarded the United States from violent crimes and narcotics.
Another great improvement can be seen in aviation security. Garrick Blalock of Cornell University notes that the number of bags checked on airplanes after 9/11 increased by 95% compared to pre 9/11. Additionally, the Government Accountability Office adds that in one-year alone 4.8 million firearms, knives and other prohibited items were confiscated. Additionally, Bryan Keogh of the Chicago Tribune states that just two years after 9/11, more than 10,000 airplanes were equipped with hardened cockpit doors, while Gary Stoller of USA Today notes that today, virtually every plane has this hardened door. An empirical study by Mark Stewart of Ohio State University reveals that this resulted in a risk reduction of 16.67% on flights across America. Lastly, Stewart explains that increased public awareness and better investigating methods “by themselves reduce the risk of a replication of 9/11 by at least 50%”. In fact, without these precautions, he predicts that 300 additional lives would be lost every year. Therefore, aviation security measures have greatly decreased the chance of a lethal terrorist attack.
Lastly, the FBI has greatly increased their security measures taken to fight terrorism. NPR points out that after 9/11 the FBI declared counterterrorism to be its “chief focus”. The Heritage Foundation states that over 40 terrorist plots have been thwarted since 9/11, 18 of them by the FBI. In fact, the article notes that “While all categories of terrorist attacks against U.S. targets at home and overseas have been declining steadily since 2005, thwarted plots have more than doubled during the same period.” Therefore, the FBI’s new focus on counterterrorism prevents terrorist attacks. Another way law enforcement has stepped up security measures has been through increased intelligence sharing. The 9/11 Commission Report has identified as the main cause of 9/11 the lack of a National Intelligence Estimate on the terrorist threat, and the Center for National Policy assessed that “9/11 could have been avoided through 12 instances of increased intelligence sharing, such as if FBI analysis regarding flight school enrollment was shared with the CIA”. Thomas Anderson notes, “The Patriot Act brought down [the] wall [between national security officials and criminal investigators. It] expressly permits the full coordination between intelligence and law enforcement.” James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation asserts that as of May 2011 the number of terrorist plots foiled by the US was “overwhelmingly due to the…policies of enhanced information sharing and intelligence gathering.” Therefore, increased information sharing between government agencies catalyzes law enforcement and leads to more terrorist plots foiled.
In the end, our nation was overwhelmed with horror on that fateful day over ten years ago. Yet, since then, our nation has thrived to work together and combat terrorism. Now, our nation has outstanding security accomplishments to show for it. These concepts of constant improvement and learning form our mistakes are just some of the amazing pillars that our nation strives to uphold.