This week, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy unveiled “Rethinking the Battlefield”, a plan for rebuilding U.S. power by utilizing foreign policy tools to cope with the changing modern day world. It focuses on investments in smart power such as diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, and economic development to prevent conflicts before a military intervention is needed.
In response to the Trump Administration’s airfield attack against Syria (which cost almost $60 million, or a few more months of Trump golfing) Murphy argued that despite the attack being lethal and efficient it still did little to change the reality of a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. He makes the astute observation that crises in Syria and other areas cannot simply be solved by military action. Many issues that need to be addressed require political, social and economic solutions. However, agencies that deal in these areas (like the State Department) seldom have the resources necessary to rectify these dilemmas.
It is important to understand that security and stability in the world do not just come from throwing around our military might. Diplomacy is of the utmost importance, which is why it is shocking that President Trump’s first budget called for huge cuts to the State Department. An effective military is only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to national security and it is a piece we should only use in extreme circumstances. Diplomats have been essential for maintaining good relations with our allies while finding common ground where we can with our adversaries (such as the SALT treaties).
We also need to realize that modern warfare is more complicated than just blowing up the bad guys. It is imperative to address the root causes of conflicts in order to truly solve them. That means bringing political and economic stability to countries under duress. It is instability and uncertainty that in large part allows groups like ISIS to exist. People with a good job, education and stable government generally aren’t motivated to form a radical terrorist group. But if you have people who are desperate, hungry, afraid and have nowhere to go? That provides the impetus for groups like ISIS to form and thrive.
This is the reason stopping terrorism does not end at the destruction of their military capacity. If the conditions that brought about their uprising are allowed to persist then there is still a danger. For every terrorist killed, the United States might well create two more, unless we take other steps to bring about stability and safety for people in these ravaged areas. To quote Nobel Peace Lauireate Malala Yousafazi, “With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism.”
While forming a reliable government and bringing relative security to people is important, the point is that weapons alone will not solve the problem of terrorism.
Chris Murphy understands that global problems require these actions if we are going to have any chance at solving them. He especially emphasizes concentrating our resources on global crisis prevention. Any problem eventually ends up affecting the national security of the United States, from military conflicts to famines to disease outbreaks. As such, it is both in our security interest and interest in being decent people to give humanitarian aid to regions that need it. It is much more effective (and cheaper) to give aid to countries before a crisis breaks out.
The United States can’t be the police of the world. But it would not only be immoral but detrimental to national security interests to shut ourselves off from the world and leave everyone else to fend for themselves. We need to reaffirm our position as the humanitarian leaders of the world, a country that will help those in need when they don’t have the resources to help themselves. This makes us safer by minimizing dangerous situations and counteracting the propaganda of our adversaries. By investing in diplomacy, disaster assistance, and other humanitarian aid, the United States can take strong steps to save lives by helping to bring stability and safety to troubled regions.
Jacob Kowalski is a weekly columnist to The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.