A little while back CNN hosted an interesting discussion called “dreaming of a climate bailout.” It ran through a few ideas for what $700 billion could do if spent on green initiatives. (3,700 90MW offshore wind farms! Etc.)

It’s worth reading. Also dear to my heart is this elegant op-ed from James Carroll. It points out another place to find $700 billion:

By a nice coincidence, though, the U.S. financial rescue package of $700 billion duplicates a number that was also in the news last week — the Pentagon budget. In the fiscal year just beginning, the U.S. Defense Department will spend $607 billion on normal military costs, and an additional $100 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (As of June 30, 2008, Congress had appropriated $859 billion for the wars; Congressional Budget Office projections assume further costs of $400 billion to $500 billion as the wars wind down). But for the coming year, $700 billion is the Pentagon’s nice round number (this includes neither Homeland Security nor intelligence costs).

Step back. All of last week’s hand-wringing hoopla over the emergency bailout stands in stark contrast to the utter indifference with which politicians approved an equivalent layout for the military — an approval so routine that it was ignored in the press and by the public.

And just to drive it home:

The genius of America’s most brilliant minds has been yoked for more than half a century to the invention of ways to kill and destroy. … What if those minds had been put to work imagining alternative futures — the rescue of the environment, the ending of disease and poverty, the artistic fulfillment of new media, the teaching of children?

What if, indeed? Perhaps in this time of extraordinary crisis and opportunity, American minds might be open to the heretical notion that there are better things to export than weapons and wars.