Conservatives are often accused of being anti-government. It’s an unfair rap -- coming, ironically, from liberals whose blind faith in government causes plenty of social ills -- but the myth persists. In fact, conservatives favor a limited government that carries out its express duties (and no more) as efficiently and effectively as possible. And yes, you can find examples of government performing well -- and contributing to the general welfare.
Consider the case of John Taylor. His work as the head of the Treasury Department’s international finance division might not sound like it would make interesting reading. Yet his new book, Global Financial Warriors -- which details his strenuous efforts to help fight the War on Terrorism on the financial front -- proves otherwise. And with the major media serving almost nothing but round-the-clock pessimism, it’s refreshing to read a success story for a change.
It’s easy to overlook the financial aspect of the war -- after all, it doesn’t offer anything as snappy as battlefield footage and frontline reporting. But as President Bush pointed out shortly after 9/11: “The War on Terrorism will be fought on a variety of fronts … The front lines will look different from the wars of the past … It is a war that will require the United States to use our influence in a variety of areas in order to win it. And one area is financial.”The reason is obvious: Terrorists can’t operate without funds. Taylor’s task in the days that followed 9/11 was to freeze terrorist assets and to track them. In short, while our troops hit the terrorists hard in the front, Taylor’s team of “financial warriors” would hit them in the rear -- specifically, in the wallet, hampering their ability to fight back.
That sounds relatively simple on paper, but in practice, it’s another story. Take “hawalas.” A hawala, Taylor notes, is a place (say, a storefront) that provides what are essentially paperless transactions -- which are practically impossible to trace. “Suppose a Pakistani cab driver in San Francisco wants to send $1,000 to his mother, who lives in Karachi,” he writes. “The cab driver gives the money to the person working at the hawala. The hawala calls or e-mails a contact in Karachi, tells the contact to deliver the $1,000 to the cab driver’s mother, and the money is delivered within hours.”
Taylor’s solution: Compel all hawalas to register with the United States. The resulting spotlight did much to scare away terrorist transactions.