Shades of Somalia

Two news-making events on opposite sides of the globe last week provide a cautionary tale for America. The first was Somalia. American marines evacuated the last United Nations troops stationed there for two years. During that time, millions of dollars in humanitarian aid have been poured into Somalia, and thousands of Somalians have been saved from starvation. But no sooner had U.N. and American troops departed than political anarchy swept the country back into chaos. In Somalia, you see, there is no tradition of civil society, no foundations of political order, no will to be governed, nothing to bind the people together. The second news-making event was here in America. On Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on the very same day that Somalia was being submerged in anarchy again, the United States Senate was haggling about a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Haggling, equivocating, and caving in, to be precise. As you know, the Senate defeated the proposal, which fell one vote shy of the necessary two-thirds majority. And the Senate defeated the amendment even though polls show that 80 percent of the American people want the Constitution to require the federal government to balance its books. And why do most Americans want the amendment? Because our national debt is rising toward five trillion dollars—almost double the amount just ten years ago. Every man, woman, and child in America owes $16,000 just to cover the federal debt today. Interest payments on this debt consume one out of every seven dollars in the federal budget. And yet the Senate has refused to send a Balanced Budget Amendment to the states. The meaning? Our federal spending remains as out of control as the political situation in Somalia. What makes this comparison appropriate is that what happened in the U.S. Senate was a political farce laden with hypocrisy. Our elected leaders are unwilling to rein in our voracious appetite to spend more than we have. As a result, we'll all continue to saddle future generations with trillions of dollars of debt. And what all this has to do with Somalia is just this: The U.S. Senate, despite every principle of economics—despite handwriting all over the walls—again acted as though America is somehow immune from the realities of history. But the truth is, we're not immune. Oh, we may have a great and proud heritage, and Somalia may be ruled by tyrants and warlords. But the fact is, no nation, not even America, can survive the uncertainties of history when it loses the ability to control its appetites, when it loses the will to be governed. In Somalia uncontrollable men terrorize the masses. In America duly elected men and women in the Senate refuse to restrain themselves. Simply put, the point comes down to this: The people of Somalia have to establish a stable political order themselves. And the people of America themselves must regain the ability to be governed responsibly. The Senate's shameful vote last week shows how perilous our situation is—how easily the political order could be washed out to sea in a boatload of debt that could sink our nation's future.


Chuck Colson


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