"In May 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt called for the production of 185,000 aeroplanes, 120,000 tanks, 55,000 anti-aircraft guns and 18 million tons of merchant shipping in two years. Adolf Hitler was told by his advisors that this was American propaganda; in 1939, annual aircraft production for the US military was less than 3,000 planes. By the end of the war US factories had produced 300,000 planes, and by 1944 had produced two-thirds of the Allied military equipment used in the war."
Never before and not since then had any country mobilized itself, and so dramatically reshaped its economic focus, around a singular focus. The ability of the US economy to churn out the mechanisms of war at such a scale in such short order changed the tide of history.
Today, we face different kinds of threats--and while we hear of stories about bombs and guns--the real wars are being fought with ideology, the environment and technology. Our everyday lives are being threatened by lone wolves influenced by words, hackers who need nothing more than an internet connection and never have to touch a gun, and our own fragile planets inability to recover from what we've done to it over the years..
If someone has an explosive backpack, you can't stop them with a tank.
No bullet in the world can stop a hacker from breaking into our most vulnerable of systems.
And floods? Good luck with your missiles.
These threats are only stopped with raw human intelligence, ingenuity, and yes, the ability to reach across cultures and connect with people as fellow humans not separated by borders.
Smart people are our last line of defense. Kids learning to code or learning Arabic are going to do more good than kids learning how to shoot--and yet, intelligence is under attack in our society. The same politicians who champion strength and defense are making the most destructive cuts to our best weapon against our enemies: education.
At a time when we should be undergoing the most massive mobilization of human intelligence we've ever seen--we've got a government trying to build more bombs and guns at the expense of every other social program to improve ourselves as a nation.
Could you imagine if, at the onset of World War II, Roosevelt called for more shovels and barbed wire to dig trenches? Or bows and arrows?
That's what we're doing if we're not making sure that we win the race to produce the most computer scientists, the most impossible cryptography to break, or the best solutions to combat our changing environment.
Exponentially spending on education should be seen as patriotic in the way that increasing industrial output was in the 1940's. Rosie the Riveter should be Rosie the Programmer. The GI Bill shouldn't just be paying for you to go to college if you sign up to shoot a gun--it should pay for your education if you sign up to protect our cyber infrastructure or learn the language of our enemies so we can gather intelligence.
We need a serious public commitment to getting smart as a country in the same way we committed to being strong over three quarters of a century ago. Instead, we're rehashing Hillary's e-mails, fighting on Twitter, and trying to win meaningless political points instead of solving our biggest issues.
How in the world did we get to the point where being intelligent was partisan?
We're not the smartest country on earth--and we're not the country with the most PhDs, coders, scientists, language experts, etc., and that should put the fear of God into us the same as when we weren't the country with the most nuclear weapons. Whether you're a Republican or Democrat, if you can't see the writing on the wall that this country isn't well prepared at all for the threats of the next 50 years--and that those threats aren't threats of military takeover, then I don't know how to even begin to have this conversation with you.