“Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”
– Robert Gates, Former Secretary of Defense
The U.S. Military Wants Global Poverty Addressed
The Secretary of Defense: Former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates emerged as one of the strongest advocates for increased development funding. The former head of the Pentagon repeatedly said that the U.S. can’t win today’s national security challenges with force and military might alone. Gates warned of the “creeping militarization” of U.S. Foreign Policy and has stated: “For all of those brave men and women struggling for a better life, there is and must be no stronger ally or advocate than the United States of America. Let us never forget that our nation remains a beacon of light for those in dark places. And that our responsibilities to the world to freedom, to liberty, to the oppressed everywhere are not a burden on the people or the soul of this nation. They are, rather, a blessing.”
The Joint Chiefs of Staff: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said he would hand part of his budget to the State Department, “in a heartbeat.” Admiral Mullen also said, “U.S. foreign policy is still too dominated by the military, too dependent on the generals and admirals who lead our major overseas commands, and not enough on the State Department.”
The Generals: In March of 2010, fifty retired three and four star generals called on Congress to increase funding for the International Affairs Budget. The Generals noted that investments, non-military tools of development, and diplomacy foster economic and political stability on a global scale. It also strengthens our allies and fights the spread of poverty, disease, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
The Soldiers: Countless former and current U.S. soldiers have expressed concern that the United States is not doing enough to address global poverty. Others have been fortunate enough to be part of the increasing number of humanitarian missions aimed at weakening the influence of terrorist groups in poor regions. Army Sgt. C.J. Rueda described his role in the Philippines, “The goal is to increase support for the government in areas known to be heavy in terrorist recruitment and in drug trafficking. Poor countries are a breeding ground for terrorists, and that’s why we’re here — to enlighten the population, support security forces and educate the children to make their country better.
KEY POVERTY & NATIONAL SECURITY FACTS
- Improving conditions for the world’s poor is a cornerstone of the United States National Security Strategy. The Pentagon’s “3Ds” for protecting the United States are: Defense, Development and Diplomacy.
- Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Gen. Colin Powell, and over 50 retired three and four star Generals have all asked Congress to increase the International Affairs budget and improve funding for development programs as a critical method of protecting the United States.
- Despite the military calling on Congress to better fund aid and development programs, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a 40% cut to international aid funding in 2011.
- As a sign of the Pentagon’s shifting strategy towards averting threats, while outlining how to protect the United States, the 2010 U.S. National Security Strategy mentions the word “development” 76 times. In contrast, the word “military” appears only 44 times.
84% of military officers said that strengthening non-military tools, such as diplomacy and development efforts, should be at least equal to strengthening military efforts.
CHARLIE WILSON’S OTHER WAR
After the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in the late 1980s, Congressman Charlie Wilson unsuccessfully pleaded with Congress to build schools and improve conditions for people in Afghanistan. In a scene depicted in the Tom Hanks movie Charlie Wilson’s War, the Congressman foreshadows that no good can come from allowing a population of millions of young, hopeless people to live in squalor. In the following years, extremism engulfed Afghanistan and the Taliban took control of the country providing Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda with a safe haven to operate and plan the 9/11 attacks.
The National Security Strategy of the United States:
- “Our diplomacy and development capabilities must help prevent conflict, spur economic growth, strengthen weak and failing states, lift people out of poverty, combat climate change and epidemic disease, and strengthen institutions of democratic governance.”
- “Our Armed Forces will always be the cornerstone of our security, but they must be complemented. Our security also depends on diplomats who can act in every corner of the world, from grand capitals to dangerous outposts; development experts who can strengthen governance and support human dignity.”
- “Proactively investing in stronger societies and human welfare is far more effective and efficient than responding after state collapse.”
- “We will also help states avoid becoming terrorist safe havens by helping them build their capacity for responsible governance and security through development.”
- “The United States has an interest in working with our allies to help the world’s poorest countries grow into productive and prosperous economies governed by capable, democratic, and accountable state institutions. We will ensure a greater and more deliberate focus on a global development agenda across the United States Government, from policy analysis through policy implementation.”
- “Basic human rights cannot thrive in places where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive.”
- “An epidemic that begins in a single community can quickly evolve into a multinational health crisis that causes millions to suffer, as well as spark major disruptions to travel and trade… The United States has a moral and strategic interest in promoting global health. When a child dies of a preventable disease, it offends our conscience; when a disease goes unchecked, it can endanger our own health; when children are sick, development is stalled.”
The World’s Most Dangerous Countries… Also Among the Poorest.
7. Democratic Republic of Congo
9. Russian Caucasus
“If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”
– General “Mad Dog” Mattis, Commander of CENTCOM
“The worst nightmare for al Qaeda is to come into a community that feels supported and has hope.“
– Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC)
“The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.“
– National Security Strategy of the Bush Administration
“In many respects, USAID’s efforts can do as much- over the long term- to prevent conflict as the deterrent effect of a carrier strike group or a marine expeditionary force.”
– Lieutenant General John Allen, Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan
“It’s a moral imperative, it’s an economic imperative, and it is a security imperative. For we’ve seen how spikes in food prices can plunge millions into poverty, which, in turn, can spark riots that cost lives, and can lead to instability. And this danger will only grow if a surging global population isn’t matched by surging food production. So reducing malnutrition and hunger around the world advances international peace and security — and that includes the national security of the United States.”
– President Barack Obama
“I believe that the world will be a safer place if there is enough food to go around, that it will be a more stable place if children grow up with opportunities instead of frustrations. Furthermore, I can only assume that if the United States plays a role in helping to create prosperous societies, we will have friends to call on in times of need.”
– Bill Gates
“We are not saying that poverty causes terrorism, or disenfranchisement causes terrorism, but we can’t mistake there are certain phenomena that contribute to it. Terrorism needs to be fought against and certainly attacked, but some of the underlying grievances that might in fact lead individuals astray to terrorism cannot be ignored.”
– John O. Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
Where Books Weigh more than Bombs
“Millions of families, especially those with little money, send their children to religious schools, or madrassas. Many of these schools are the only opportunity available for an education, but some have been used as incubators for violent extremism. According to Karachi’s police commander, there are 859 madrassas teaching more than 200,000 youngsters in his city alone.” — 9/11 Commission Report.
“With a curriculum that glorifies violence in the name of Islam and ignores basic history, science and math, the public education system [in Pakistan] has become a major barrier to U.S. efforts to defeat extremist groups.” —Washington Post, January 17, 2010