The lesson here is about more than the good manners of reciprocating a favor. It takes much more to make America safe than winning on the battlefield. Had we remained engaged in Afghanistan, investing in education, health and economic development, the world would be a very different place today. The aftermath of a congressional committee's decision so long ago has turned out to be a warning that America is not immune to the problems of the very poorest countries. In today's world, any person's well-being -- whether he or she is in Kandahar, Kigali or Kansas -- is connected to the well-being of others.
Yet, as we commit troops to the "war on terror," America's civilian institutions of diplomacy and development continue to be chronically undermanned and underfunded. We spend 1 percent of the federal budget on these critical elements of our foreign policy, compared with 22 percent on the military and weapons.
While I have always believed in and fought for a strong defense, I know that we cannot rely on the military alone to keep us secure. As the situations in Afghanistan and Georgia suggest, our future threats are likely to come from states that cannot meet the basic needs of their people. We can avoid the need to spend so much on our military -- and put so many of our soldiers in harm's way -- simply by investing more in saving lives, creating stable societies and building economic opportunity. This strategy won't resolve the conflict in Georgia today, but it could help America prevent similar crises in the future.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates was spot-on when he said last month, "The Foreign Service is not the Foreign Legion, and the U.S. military should never be mistaken for a Peace Corps with guns." We've got to get this right.
This is not a partisan issue. From the Marshall Plan to the Peace Corps to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Americans of all political stripes have always joined together to build a better, safer world.
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Thursday, August 28, 2008
The core of the wonderful piece written by former Rep. Charles Wilson (D - Texas) is reproduced below: