Opinion Extra

Courson: Graham fighting for national defense, economic growth

As a conservative senator, a Marine and former chairman of President Ronald Reagan's campaigns in South Carolina, I have always regarded national defense and economic development as top priorities. No special interest should ever come before America's security and economic vitality.

Protecting our nation is about more than fighting today's battles. It's also about preventing threats to our brave servicemen and women now and in the future. That is why so many South Carolinians are disappointed to see oil company front groups attacking Sen. Lindsey Graham for his courageous fight to free our nation from its dependence on foreign oil.

Finding clean, alternate sources of energy has a direct impact on our national security and our economy. Fortunately, Sen. Graham has the foresight to understand that the two are connected. America's dependence on foreign oil makes us militarily and economically vulnerable. The clean energy economy of the future means a stronger national defense and more jobs for us and our children.

Our security as a nation is dependent on fossil fuels bought from unstable countries and regimes that do not have our best interests in mind. Every day, we spend $1 billion overseas in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela. There is no doubt we need energy to fight wars, protect the homeland and fuel our economy. However, it is irresponsible for political leaders to continue energy policies that force America to depend on other nations to provide our energy supply.

Militarily, the landscape in the 21st century does not look like it did in the past. The threats we face today are multifaceted, complex and more about small regional conflicts than the large front wars faced by earlier generations. In today's environment, resources and weather play a significant role in security. Unstable states quickly become failed states in the face of drought, famine and the resultant civil unrest.

One need look no further than Afghanistan or Somalia to see the dramatic impact that climate issues such as water shortages, famines and crop failures have on security. Failed states have historically been, and will continue to be, safe havens for those who seek to harm America. People who live in failed states, without hope for the future, food for their families or shelter over their heads, are prime targets for terrorist recruitment. In our current conflicts, we have seen how poor farmers, unable to feed their families, are sometimes willing to be paid to plant roadside bombs.

America's continued addiction to energy from overseas puts our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in harm's way. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, yet Taliban fighters remain well-equipped and well-trained in their fight against our brave men and women.

A significant portion of the funding for the Taliban in Afghanistan comes from wealthy individuals living in Saudi Arabia - wealthy people who made their money on oil. It is no exaggeration to say that our addiction to foreign energy is funding the enemy in our war with al-Qaida and the Taliban. Some portion of that daily billion dollars worth of foreign energy we purchase is being fired back at our troops in the form of AK-47 and RPG rounds.

Yet our concern for energy reform legislation, which Sen. Graham is so bravely supporting in the face of massive special-interest money, is not limited to traditional security concerns. We also know that America's economy needs a jump-start, a reinvigorating infusion of investment that will drive the next decade of growth and innovation. Clean-energy technology can be that new lifeblood.

From nuclear energy to solar power, from building wind turbines to developing new technologies to weatherizing homes against our sweltering summers, there are jobs to be had in a clean-energy economy. Special interests may be running TV ads against clean-energy legislation, but we are all paying for those ads, with $4-per-gallon gasoline.

America's dependence on foreign oil hurts our economy, helps our enemies and puts our security at risk. Together, we can protect our national security, keep our brave men and women out of harm's way, strengthen our economy and take control of our energy future.

In the meantime, when you see all the ads attacking Lindsey Graham for supporting energy reform, just remember this: The special interest groups are protecting their own profits. Lindsey Graham is fighting for South Carolina.