Are Liberal Concerns Extending U.S. Wars Overseas and Boosting Budget Deficits?

 
 

 

Perhaps the saddest part of the tale of deceit by Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Deceit, is not that he stole money from his charity, lied about his charming story of being nursed back to health and didn't buid the schools he claimed to have built.

The saddest part of the story is that he made us believe we could win the cultural war in Afghanistan if only we would do good works like build schools. He played on our sentiments, in particular, by insisting we could change the nation's culture by educating its young girls.

Every U.S. soldier in Afghanistan was expected to read the book, and our mission changed from getting the bad guys to liberalizing Afghanistan.

It was a fool's errand that has cost us many lives and has contributed to many deaths and instability in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. It has also cost us a lot of money and mired us in a war that can't be won.

That is the danger of idealism. On person spins a pretty story about how we can change the world. A whole nation buys it. Now we are in trouble.

Nobody in America would disagree that it would be better if Afghanistan were to have a more tolerant culture. But you don't teach tolerance by occupying a country. You don't change a culture through force of arms. We should know that by now. Our pacification efforts in Vietnam only served to alienate more and more of the population while hardening our enemy. Once we left Vietnam, the government no longer had a reason to support such a militarist approach and the government today continues to move toward being a more open society.

Perhaps it will take much longer for societies like Afghanistan's to become more open, to protect women's rights than we would like. But that is not something we can accelerate through use of force. That change must come from within the culture.

Meanwhile, spending so much on defense weakens our ability to spend on important needs here at home.

We simply have to admit that we cannot be the policeman of the world. We don't have the resources or the authority, and we don't have much of a track record of success.

 

Final Analysis: Flying Higher

Final Analysis: Flying Higher

How a certain local airline could strike a blow for fairer treatment of college athletes.
FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
Here’s a thought: While Alaska Air Group spends $2.6 billion swallowing up Virgin America, it should wield some of its new clout — Alaska will soon be the nation’s fifth-largest air carrier — on becoming the college athlete’s best friend.
 
Alaska already showers upon the University of Washington nearly $5 million a year for naming rights to the football field at Husky Stadium and the basketball court at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. It also has sponsorship arrangements with athletic programs at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. It even paints some of its airplanes in the colors of 11 Western universities, including the UW.
 
On the weekend that news of Alaska’s acquisition of Virgin America broke, the UW women’s basketball team was completing its improbable and exhilarating run to the Final Four of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. It occurred to me that there’s an opportunity here for Alaska CEO Brad Tilden to start lobbying the NCAA on behalf of student-athletes everywhere, but particularly in Alaska Airlines’ own backyard.
 
Alaska’s Husky Stadium agreement — 10 years, $41 million — already earmarks half of the money for scholarships and “student-athlete welfare.” Last year, for the first time, the NCAA started allowing Division I schools to pay athletes a stipend for incidental living expenses — things like late-night snacks, student fees, incidental travel — that aren’t covered by athletic scholarships for tuition, room and board. 
 
The UW’s annual stipend for athletes is $3,085, or roughly $11.40 a day during a nine-month academic year. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough for a couple of cheeseburgers and a chocolate shake when the dining halls are closed.
 
Alaska’s naming-rights money goes into the pot that helps provide those stipends, which the NCAA instituted as a means of closing the gap between what an athletic scholarship provides — tuition, room, board, books and fees — and the “real” cost of attending college.
 
The problem is that this “cost of attendance” stipend has made a  playing field that’s not level even less fair. Some schools pay stipends of more than $5,000, which is totally permissible under the NCAA guidelines. So if you’re a poor kid being recruited by several universities, which school would you choose — the one offering no stipend, the one offering $3,000 or the one offering $5,000?
 
This is where a corporate CEO has the opportunity to say to the NCAA, “We are a major employer who believes in treating its workers equitably. As a huge supporter of our local university’s athletics program, we think it’s time you paid your athletes a little bit more than cheeseburger money — and paid them fairly acros the board.”
 
It doesn’t have to be a quid-pro-quo situation, as in “pay these athletes or we’ll take our sponsorship money elsewhere.” But airlines have become adept at squeezing travelers for every last dime via baggage fees, boarding fees, legroom fees, beverage fees and the like. I imagine an airline executive could be pretty persuasive suggesting the NCAA assess itself a “fairness fee” and pay student-athletes a decent wage from its enormous piggy bank.
 
The NCAA can still call it a stipend if it wants. Regardless, it should finally admit that scholarships are meant to provide an education but don’t begin to acknowledge that an athlete’s contribution to an institution’s bottom line — not to mention its reputation in the media and its perception by the public — deserves considerably more than free tuition. 
 
JOHN LEVESQUE is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine.