Everywhere you look this past week, somebody is doing a review of 2003. As I’ve watched some of these exercises in trivia (face it – a year is a pretty artificial period of time for evaluating history), I’ve been thinking back a little farther over all the events we been through in the past couple of years. For some reason during all this musing my warped little brain keeps coming back to an old philosophy: living well is the best revenge*.

Suppose – just suppose – we had taken half of the 150+ billion dollars we will eventually spend on ripping up and rebuilding Iraq, and spent it on ourselves instead. We could have put part of the money into honestly improving our economy, giving us the means to reward our friends and bribe the rest (often the same thing). Some cash could have gone to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, fixing many of the problems that are developing right now due to neglect. We could have developed a real program of homeland security, as opposed to the color-coded paranoia we have now.

Sure Hussein was a nasty dictator with ambitions of great power and Iraq will be better off without him. But the world has lots of guys like that. How many more countries do we plan to invade and rebuild in our image? Where is the priority list for overthrowing despots?

Please don’t get me wrong. Sometimes bombs are the right tool for the job. The invasion of Afghanistan and the hunt for bin Ladin was both necessary and justified. On top of that, a couple of years back we had the support of a large part of the world in that effort. If we had only finished that job instead of heading off to revenge the honor of W’s daddy, the US would have far more credibility and respect than we do now – and we would be much more secure. No matter what the "America first" types will tell you, we need the support of other countries in this world as much as they need us.

Having said all that, I remain, in the words of Molly Ivins, optimistic to the point of ridiculous. Here’s hoping that the next twelve months will be much better, for all of us, than the last twenty-four. Happy New Year everyone!

*Attributed to English clergyman and poet George Herbert but also ironically to The Talmud: "Live Well. It is the greatest revenge."