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Toward a New Foreign Policy.

Key Recommendations

* A cooperative security policy would be less expensive and provide the U.S. with more genuine security than the Bush administration's "get tough" policy.

* A cooperative security policy would free up money to significantly address domestic security needs, especially to improve the health and well-being of U.S. children.

* Legislation would be necessary to guarantee that cuts in Pentagon spending end up effectively addressing U.S. children's needs.

For every dollar the U.S. federal government spends on the Pentagon, it spends

* 9 cents for child health insurance

* 7 cents for elementary and secondary education

* 1.7 cents for Head Start

* 10 cents for child food and nutrition

* 2.2 cents for environmental protection

* 5 cents for family-assisted housing

A policy is needed that recognizes America's real security threats and sizes a military to address those threats. The dangers of weapons of mass destruction require Washington to lead in promoting and enforcing arms control treaties, honoring those treaties, and reducing the obscene U.S. levels of nuclear weapons. The threats posed by failed states require the U.S. to take leadership in helping the international community stabilize these states, carry out peacekeeping missions, and, when necessary, launch small-to-medium-scale interventions. The United States cannot do all this alone. Washington must cooperate with other nations and international institutions, so that burdens and risks are shared and every crisis does not become primarily an American responsibility. Finally, if the U.S. helps at-risk nations address their economic and environmental crises, these gestures will undermine the motivation for terrorism.

This cooperative, developmental approach to security could save the Pentagon tens of billions of dollars a year--money that could be better spent addressing many critical social and economic security threats at home. In his Realistic Defense Budget for the New Millennium, Lawrence Korb heads us in this direction. He proposes a budget that would "maintain sufficient military forces and technology to deter any conventional and nuclear attack against the U.S., its allies and U.S. interests," and "... allow the U.S. to simultaneously wage a major war thousands of miles away, keep peace in a place like Bosnia, and maintain a presence in Europe, the Gulf and Asia." Korb's budget, though, would cost $62 billion a year less than the Pentagon's.

In cutting the Pentagon budget, Korb proposes four changes. First, he would shift from a two-war to a 1fi-war scenario, thus reducing U.S. armed forces from 2.4 million to 2 million people. Second, he would curb the pace of investment in the next generation of weapons by buying more of the current weapons while still maintaining a robust research program. Third, he would reduce nuclear weapons to 1,000 warheads, and fourth, he'd close unnecessary military bases, especially in Europe.

As the chart illustrates, committing the $62 billion a year in savings toward targeted programs for America's children could insure the next generation of U.S. citizens decent health care, an equal start in education, modern schools, and adequate food and shelter. This would spell real security for millions of U.S. children currently in need.

Polls show that when U.S. citizens understand just how much more money is spent on cold war weapons than on their children, by a ratio of two to one they want to cut the Pentagon budget and invest in their children. But the public is doubtful that just cutting weapons will guarantee a commitment to address domestic concerns. Legislation is needed to ensure that when Pentagon programs are cut, the money saved will fund effective programs that will address U.S. children's needs.

In the late 1970s, Congressman Ron Dellums and the Congressional Black Caucus sponsored a transfer amendment that called for cutting funds for specific weapons and putting that money instead into specific social programs. If House rules were changed to allow cut and transfer amendments, legislators could apply the same principles today, by developing a Children's National Security Budget that would eliminate specific cold war weapons funding and transfer the money into successful children's programs.

National security is more than just another generation of jets, submarines, and bombs. It encompasses people's needs and quality of life. Most of all, it concerns the next generation of U.S. children. Today the United States ranks number one (by far) militarily, spending more than the next 11 military powers combined, yet it ranks 22nd in preventing infant mortality. U.S. citizens can redirect priorities to better meet the needs of the nation, but only if they convince Washington to redefine national security.

Greg Speeter <greg@natprior.org> is founder and executive director of the National Priorities Project, which provides community groups and policymakers with information on how federal spending and tax policies impact local communities.
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Article Details
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Author:Speeter, Greg
Publication:Foreign Policy in Focus
Date:Apr 1, 2001
Words:792
Previous Article:Problems with Current U.S. Policy.
Next Article:A Children's National Security Budget.


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