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University Of Maryland University College
ENGLISH 101 Term I,
Intruduction To Writing
Final Exam Essay
Morally Hazardous
By: Cristian Rodriguez
Thursday, Oct 6, 2005


Just the thought of it makes me wrathful. On a historic "Mission Accomplished" speech, president Bush, addressed the U.S. troops aboard USS Lincoln: "And tonight, I have a special word for secretary Rumsfeld, for General Frank and for all the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States military: America is grateful for a job well done [and for the administration's military-overstretching techniques instead of draft implementation, and for not raising but cutting taxes in this time of war.]" Oh wait! That is the truth; Mr. Bush and the administration would not say such a thing. As Reinhardt said in his paper "supporting the troops", support for troops is limited to those with interest; that is, Americans who have real emotional and/or financial connections to the wars in Iraq and the war on terror in general. Mostly, "support" for the war and the troops may well a form of "moral hazard" in most cases. So, what is moral hazard? How does it apply to the Iraq War? How is it different from WWII's circumstances? And finally, how could Americans "care more" about the Iraq War in particular and the war on terrorism in general?

Moral Hazard is an insurance related term. It refers to the risk an insurance company takes resulting from uncertainty about the honesty of the insured. Moral hazard can also be applied in situations other than insurance related ones. For instance, a person entering a business contract may give misleading information on his or her financial standing, or may have an incentive (unknown to the other party) to take unusual risks. The unsuspecting party is at risk of moral hazard in this case. Another example is that of a car salesperson who is paid a flat salary and no commissions for the sales he or she makes; there is a risk that the salesperson will not try hard to sell the cars since his/her pay will remain the same no matter how more or less the owners profit from his or her work.

In the case of war, the Iraq War in this case, moral hazard applies to all people from the executive and legislative branches of government to most Americans who say they support the troops and the war. According to Reinhardt, about 500,000 American troops may be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan at any given time. Assuming he is right and about 20 family members distress for each American troop every time news come on about so many troops dying in theater; it means that only about 10 million Americans have any real connection to the war, he says. That is less than 5 percent of the entire U.S. population. The majority of the people who claim to support the war have, therefore, nothing to lose; instead, they are presumed to be "pro-America" or "patriots". Moral hazard also applies, of course, to those in the White House and the senate, making those difficult "heart-felt" pro-war decisions. None of them have a brother or sister, a son or daughter, a father or mother out there fighting; a "dilemma" which apparently made it ever so impersonal to assess the consequences involved in going to war in Iraq (a war, not justified in the first place.) I must add that in the case of Afghanistan, the war is justified in the eyes of most and mine; we attacked the head quarters of those terrorists who attacked us-the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The justifications for the Iraq war, however, did not fully meet even one of the principles of jus ad bellum or "Law to War", which is a set of criteria that is consulted before engaging in war: just cause (e.g., self-defense); right intentions (no ulterior motives such as budget funding or oil); proper authority and public declaration (who gave Bush authority over the UN?); last resort (exhaust ALL plausible, peaceful alternatives to resist aggression); probability of success (the aim here is to block mass violence which is going to be futile); proportionality (of weighing universal goods from universal evils expected to result from war. Moreover, it even seems that the Murphy's Law has manifested upon us like a curse. By going to war in Iraq, instead of reducing world terrorism activity, it has increased it (according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.) Instead of getting cheaper fuel at the pump, as some expected, we have more elevated prices. The mighty intelligence on Saddam's WMDs was "wrong," and our troops are spread too thin. Thus, we are reaping perverse incentives and negative perverse effects from this puppeteer of a war (our incentives for war have had opposite effects as well as negative unintended effects on America and the world).

World War II, on the other hand, had some major differences from the Iraq war and/or the war on terrorism in general. The first thing that comes to mind is that we entered the Second World War because we were attacked by another country, Japan. The Japanese deliberately attacked our land, killing our people and destroying much of our national defense assets. There was no doubt then that we, as a nation, were in eminent danger, so we retaliated against the RIGHT people-those who attacked us. Furthermore, once we went to war, our government did not elaborate a plan to temporarily insulate Americans from the unavoidable financial burdens of war, funding it with budget deficits; instead, president Franklin D. Roosevelt and the administration increased taxes to provide 75% of federal funding, lower personal exemptions, and implemented higher corporate taxes, etc. There was no need to misguide and disguise the truth then. Another difference between WWII and the Iraq war is that in the Second World War, Americans poured to the recruiting offices volunteering to fight in defense of America. The ratio of U.S. troops to overall U.S. population was much greater than that of the war on terrorism. It is safe that, at one point or another, most everyone in the country personally knew someone that was fighting in the war (the U.S. employed 10,420,000 people during WWII.) Therefore, the overwhelming majority, if not every American, had real connections to the troops and WWII as a whole. There was no room for moral hazard there. President Bush has compared the Iraq war to WWII in some occasions, but the only way I can see the two being similar is if FDR had launched an attack against say…Thailand, in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

Sure, generally speaking, more Americans would "care more" about the war if they felt a hole deepening in their pockets. But no worry there; it will certainly be felt soon or later-tax payers do pay for debt deficits. There is no doubt that it would help if Americans learned a bit about geography (other than in war time) and learned that the definition of Middle Easterner is not terrorist or Muslim; that the Arab-Israeli conflict over Palestine has been going on for about a century now, and that this conflict has been fueled by Anti-Jewish sentiment, Arab hostility towards the Jews, refugee issues, Jews' exodus, Israeli occupation of the West Bank, treatment of Palestinians, and U.S. bias towards Israel, among other things. Of course, joining the reserves or active duty forces would show great care and support for the war on terrorism and the troops. But how long would that last before we come back to our "morally hazardous" ways? Maybe the following silly, hypothetical series of events would help us "care more" and avoid supporting ill-justified wars: "Tensions between South and North Korea are ever heightening; North Korea secretly creates a strong alliance with the Republic of China and other countries. The Japanese fear a sneak attack from China and formulate a strategic defensive plan along with South Korea (the U.S. is too busy at the time, fighting about four countries on its own war on 'terrorism.') Japan and South Korea have now lost faith in the U.S. and on a premature move, Japan sends a fleet of "Kamikazes" with the mission to hit the Chinese forces' central commands--the plan fails. Subsequently, China, N. Korea and their allies, launch a massive attack on U.S. soil, in which tens of thousands of American civilians perish and towns or cities are virtually leveled." Maybe, after experiencing the pains of such occurrences first hand, we will no longer exercise moral hazard in support of another imbecilic war such as the Iraq war for at least a couple of dozen decades.



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