Friday, March 28, 2008

Urban America needs this war to end

I care about the cities of our nation.

Millions and millions of us call the city home.

Cities concentrate both amazing opportunity and staggering difficulty.

The inner cities of our nation need renewal.

Renewal costs.

At present, funds are drying up for housing, public and higher education, health care, nutrition, infrastructure maintenance and development, employment training and many other necessities of life and growth.

Our inner city communities need help, leadership and new life--the kind of investment that could lift an entire generation of youth out of poverty and onto a new path.

What I have in mind is a "Marshall Plan-type" approach that could break the cycles of generational poverty that continue to devastate our children.

As a nation, we were actually making progress in this direction.

Then came the war.

The cost of the Iraq War staggers the imagination. You can watch a running tabulation of the soaring costs at: You'll also be able to see the comparative costs as to what these expenditures could purchase in other, much needed services and capital improvements.

Last night we watched the destruction continue, the loss of life, the crippling injuries. . .now inside the "Green Zone" of security.

I find the costs, the rationale and our approach in this conflict bizarre and bewildering from start to finish.

It is time for this war to end, for the incredible spending to stop for the sake of our children, our cities and our national future.

More than 4,000 American dead. Tens of thousands wounded. And this, before we count the Iraqis--and yes, they count too.

The Iraq war should end. Our safety and security as a people would be better served for the next generation if we would turn our attention toward improving life in our urban centers.

The costs are far too high to justify taking even one more step in the current direction.

Our cities need the war to end.

Our children and our grandchildren deserve better.

The cost to our urban centers in terms of the loss of American lives will forever remain inestimable.

It is time that people of faith and moral courage speak up.

Urban America needs this war to end.



Justin said...

We all need this war to end. War, unlike what most people think, doesn't help economies. Sure, someone pockets some cash, but on a worldwide scale, we're wasting money on technologies whose sole purpose is to destroy wealth. The money we're spending on this war would be much better spent shoring up our entitlement programs which are quickly running out of money (see resignation of the comptroller general david walker) biding us some time to try and fix social systems which will eventually lead to bankruptcy, as well as bringing home many young men and women who grew up in the urban areas of america who are losing their lives, destroying some of the best and brightest in communities where they need them most.

Larry, have you seen the article in the Atlantic Monthly talking about how many of the affluent in our country are moving back to the inner cities, and that eventually, the suburbs will be the new "ghettos"? What is your take on this, and will this affect how organizations like CDM operate?

Larry James said...

Justin, thanks for the post. I haven't seen the article, but I will look for it. Is it in the latest edition of AM?

As to your question, yes, we have seen this happening. The implications for CDM would be two-fold: 1) this doesn't change much about how we work in the neighborhoods where we are invested today, because the influx and renewal is occurring in the Downtown area and in parts of the city that are not as marginalized as our target communities and 2) we may need to engage suburban/exurban communities as the problems associated with poverty grow outside the heart of our city.

Daniel Gray said...

War is definitely not a good thing. In the short run it can increase economic production, but it also tends to get a lot of people pretty mad around the world and in the long run, creates a lot of debt.

Inner-city revitalization has been going on in some places for 5-15 years, while in others, it's barely begun. Some cities are catching on late, but downtown St. Louis has seen significant revitalization in the last 4-5 years. Everything I've heard -- 5 years ago, downtown St. Louis was dead at night. Now in the immediate downtown, there's a ton of night life, office buildings, and mid to upscale residential lofts that have been developed in the last 3-4 years. And this development is slowly spreading out to other central city areas.

The problem with this is that most low-income residents are pushed out of their neighborhoods because property values are skyrocketing and they can no longer afford to live there.

I'm in a class this semester that discusses this whole issue. My professor seems to paint a picture that this scenarios (suburban ghettos) is going to happen sooner or later, but I'm not sure how much I believe him.

St. Louis city has 350,000 people in it, but the metro area has over 2.8 million. There's no way that the city and inner-ring suburbs can house all of these people, but I think that to some extent, metro areas are going to contract as people move inward (and spiraling energy costs are simply going to speed up the process).

I'm not sure what the gloom and doom scenario is going to entail for low-income families, but I think it definitely shows the need for programs like LIHTC and Hope VI to encourage real estate development geared towards providing families an affordable place to live.

Justin said...

I can't find the link to atlantic, but someone posted what appears to be the entirety of the story on a blog in the Orlando Sentinel.

"In the short run it can increase economic production,"

I know this is a little off topic, but that's just straight untrue. It creates maybe a fake increase in economic production, but since its not creating wealth, but destroying it, it is actually economic destruction,deficit spending on things that destroy wealth in another area of the world slows down economic growth because money that would ordinarily gone to producing more wealth is spent on rebuilding stuff. I think this is called the broken window fallacy.

And back to my question, I just had a thought (who knows whether its valid at all) but would it be something that CDM is capable of doing to help impoverished people who own their homes, especially in historic areas, renovate them for possible resale with a substantial profit? Granted, this might have been a better idea when the housing market was still booming, but it seems you could kill several birds with one stone. Maybe CDM could start a construction business in charge of renovating these homes, train and employ people from the neighborhoods to do as much of the construction as is possible for them, help out homeowners by taking an asset that they all ready have and make it worth much more, as well as possibly turn around a neighborhood like south Dallas.

All this just came to me, so who knows how it would work, but it seems with macro trends going in the direction of urban renewal, if ya'll got something like that started down there, I imagine more private dollars would flow in and it would be beneficial to the community as a whole.

Daniel Gray said...

Justin, I didn't say it produced a healthy economy (or was even was a valid solution), I simply said it increases economic production, which is true:

But anyway, it was really an aside comment.

Anonymous said...


I certainly agree it would be great to get out of Iraq. The numbers about its cost -all of them - are staggering. But what about the "you break it, you fix it" principle? If we just left now, the country threatens to disintegrate into a choas that could cost 100's of thousands (more) lives a la the Balkans after Yugoslavia. Who knows how many more genocidal massacres we could unleash, and they would be laid at our door.

Larry James said...

There are lots of ways to "fix" things. Doing the same thing again and again expecting a different result qualifies as insanity, but not progress. Pursuing a more humane and just national life, while really devoting ourselves to international accord, justice and coalition building comes to mind just here as we consider viable alternatives. The reason things seem so hopeless is that we continue to operate inside the old framework. It is time to break out and go a different way. I learned today that the State of California is "going in the hole" to the tune of $1.2 billion a month. That state's share of the cost of this war is $1.4 billion. The math is clear.

Justin said...

Those that say Iraq would disintegrate into chaos are the same people who said that it would be a cakewalk. Why do we still believe them?

The same things were said of Vietnam, and to some extent, there was violence after we left.

But now we trade with Vietnam and they are moving towards a more free society.

Larry James said...

Boy, Justin, you don't know how good it feels to agree with you! I mean it, no kidding intended! I couldn't agree with you more!

Justin said...

Most people tend to assume that because my views are to the right (to a degree) that I am pro war. My Christian worldview, plus my libertarian views, both are as anti war as they can possibly be.

Charles said...

Now that Larry and Justin have agreed, I expect to see dogs and cats playing together, Sunnis and Shiites focusing on their commonalities rather than their differences, and maybe even Republicans and Democrats doing something positive for the country together. All things are possible!

c hand said...

Everyone needs it to end, but at what destination?
And what war ?
Afganistan? Iraq? Intellegence operations here and abroad? Or do you support relief for Darfur, which would then be the Darfur war?

If only one side quits fighting is the war still over?

Daniel Gray said...

I would hardly call the relief work in Darfur a war. The difference with Darfur is that there is an international consensus on the issue and many countries have committed resources to the region.

It's one thing to topple an existing, stable (albeit unfair) structure unilaterally. It's an entirely different scenario to intervene in a human rights violation that has debilitated a whole region into anarchy when other leaders around the world are committing to solving the problem.

Anonymous said...

Larry, Justin:

I have to disagree. It is not the same people who got us into the war suggesting Iraq will likely disintegrate into chaos. That's just easy rhetoric. I don't think many DISagree this is the likely outcome. And I haven't heard any suggestions about how to balance this issue with an understandable desire to get out. Tens of thousands died or were imprisoned for decades when we pulled out of Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands met the same fate when Yugoslavia collapsed and disintegrated into several ethnic states. Let's just be honest: if we just leave Iraq, we are almost certainly condemning tens, if not hundreds, of thousands to death, torture or prison. Maybe it's inevitable (as it may have been in Vietnam), but surely we must at least take it into account, and not just dismiss it. Dismissing this likelihood now is about as realistic as thinking they were going to shower us with flowers five years ago.

Larry James said...

Anon 12:09 PM, I really do appreciate your post.

I'm not sure anyone is suggesting that we abandon Iraq and its people completely. I am saying that the decisions and grievous miscalculations made to enter combat in Iraq in the first place leave us in the untenable position that we occupy today. Because of past mistakes in regard to the overall strategy, we may indeed see more suffering as we leave, pull back or change our strategy. What is very clear is the fact that the costs are totally unsustainable and the impact on both our nation and the world is far too high to continue down our current path. And, in my view, our continuing presence there makes us more vulnerable to attack here at home.

Granted, it is difficult, but it must be brought to an end. If the various factions of Islam cannot come to terms with one another, no amount of military might or presence will solve the problem and the suffering and expense will continue with little or no chance of success. We should remind the Iraqis that we freed them from a cruel dictator. It is now their time to reconcile across the battle lines of their faith system and build the peace. And we should all pray that as a nation we would learn something from the entire terrible situation.

Andrew johnson said...
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