It’s now official: We’re getting another state; America East is coming. Booyakasha!

Zac Peskowitz

Who said that Manifest Destiny was dead? Who heralded the demise of our expansionist spirit? Who wrongly surmised that there no longer were frontiers available for exploration? In the most American of moves, we’ve found a new land to conquer, extending our nation’s proud history of ingenuity. We don’t know the word “can’t.” (What’s that, you say? We’re not the first state to colonize, to use a military action to dispose of a deplorable dictator? Well, America has done its fair share of stealing in the past, so calling someone else’s idea our own is fairly American, too.)

The United States is expanding to 51, and as Puerto Rico continues to eschew statehood, our government is looking across the Atlantic, where Iraq has become the likely site of annexation. Iraq won’t officially become a state because 50 is a workable number, but do not be fooled by semantics: Iraq will be an American outpost, at least for a while.

Those who have made my acquaintance or have read this column in the past know that I will not be inviting President G-dub over to watch NBA League Pass in the near future, however, I need to give the man some dap because he picked a great place. Iraq is warm (Spring Break in Baghdad!) and resource-rich (everyone into their SUVs!). The only drawbacks are that it may be hard to separate church from state there (although, this administration may find that characteristic wholly positive) and it’s kind of far, but that just means more frequent flyer miles.

Two other attractive elements working in Iraq’s favor are the country’s dysfunctional social and economic conditions, plights that the State Department has already conceded may preclude stable democracy. But who cares? Nothing is more American than those two familiar issues, and while the Iraqi people are far less advantaged and far more desperate than most Americans, only those who assess the United States through the rosy lens of romanticism could say that we’ve achieved a utopian democratic state, a nation where our political system exists alongside social and economic prosperity.

The latest evidence of our continuing problems emerged last week. First, the U.S. Senate banned, save only for cases of imminent death, the intact dilation and extraction procedure now only rarely used to end pregnancy. Effectively, the Congress has unconstitutionally declared that the health of people like, oh, I don’t know, women, is not of utmost importance and that more than half the population does not have absolute freedom over their bodies and their choices. That’s great.

Second, the economic figures released were quite discouraging, because February saw joblessness increase and the dollar’s value decrease. Fear over the impending war in the Middle East has limited our economy’s recovery, making employers and investors wary. Not only is unemployment rampant, but also confidence in the U.S. markets is slipping, and investment may soon decline – a negative that outweighs a potential gain in exports – the way that the job market has. Super.

On a larger scale, America remains afflicted by terrible gaps – gaps in power, income, education, quality of life – between the haves and the have-nots, and those schisms have created social stratifications that reward the privileged and the condemn the disadvantaged. As for democracy, one need only think back to the 2000 presidential election for proof that we haven’t even perfected the system that we superciliously champion.

However, it is a lot easier to export our imperfect American elsewhere than repair our deficiencies at home, and given the situation in Iraq, that country seems like a promising fixer-upper, a place where we can lessen the severity of the problems, bringing them up to suitable, American standards.

Enough with the serious talk, though, because no one likes that. Instead, the focus should be placed on the great potential of nation building in the Middle East. Yes, we’re likely going to infuriate and galvanize U.S. opponents, but how great will it be once our soldiers, stationed in Iraq for at least a year without the proper skills needed to construct a nation, can walk past a former weapons plant and sit down in a pristine, air-conditioned McDonald’s? Don’t you think that the Iraqi people will enjoy driving to the mall so that they can cop the newest Nikes and watch the latest Chris Rock movie? If the price that we pay is a continued neglect of the issues in this country, so be it. As G-dub will readily tell you, he can only get reelected once. And it’s not everyday that you can mismanage a country spanning two continents.

Litman can be reached at litmanj@umich.edu.

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