So far, more Americans have been killed this year as victims of homicide on the streets of Baltimore than have died in action in the Persian Gulf. Statistically at least, the life expectancy of U.S. troops on the front lines in Saudi Arabia significantly exceeds that of their counterparts in Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods.
Such comparisons are shocking, of course. But they also point to one of the most uncomfortable realities of this war: the dichotomy between the nation's ambitious foreign policy and its appalling neglect of pressing domestic needs. Poverty, homelessness, poor schools, the slow strangulation of our cities -- in fact, the numbers tell a tale of two wars, one that is thousands of miles away on the Arabian peninsula, the other right here at home. While we appear to have a reasonable chance of emerging victorious in the former, we've yet even to see the light at the end of the tunnel in the latter.
When the war is over and the troops come home, will the Bush administration forge a plan to heal this nation's wounds that is as bold and as farsighted as the one now being contemplated to rebuild the nations of the gulf? Will the administration act to rebuild this nation's infrastructure of roads, bridges and waterways as vigorously as it moves to relieve the suffering visited upon our erstwhile enemies? Will there be a Marshall Plan and development banks for U.S. inner-cities comparable to those now being planned for the Persian Gulf region?
How the nation proposes to win the war at home ultimately will determine America's future to a far greater extent than than all the victories of our generals and their troops on the battlefield.