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Preventing War – The Devil Is in the Details

October 1, 2010

“…[H]ow do you prevent conflict, how do you create conditions so we don’t have to send soldiers?  We do that through development.” – Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Sept. 28, 2010

Earlier this week the US Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) held its annual conference to rally support for increasing the international affairs budget.  The USGLC is a massive “strange bedfellows” coalition spanning groups from Boeing to Mercy Corps who all share an interest in convincing the Administration and Congress to provide more overall funding for the annual State and Foreign Operations Appropriations, which funds everything from humanitarian assistance and UN peacekeeping to military aid programs run out of the State Department.

FCNL lobbies on the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations as well, but we focus on supporting specific programs geared to help peacefully prevent and mitigate deadly conflict.  While groups like the USGLC and high-ranking officials like Secretary of Defense Gates and Secretary of State Clinton are calling for more funding overall for diplomacy and development, we’re working the halls of Congress to make sure that the programs with the greatest potential for preventing violent conflict – initiatives like the Civilian Response Corps (CRC) and Complex Crises Fund (CCF) – are getting the resources they need to be effective.  The USGLC conference confirmed for me why our work on the details of the international affairs budget is the right approach for FCNL.

The conference opened with the release of a new poll showing widespread support among military officers – retired and serving – for increasing funding for diplomacy and development.  Among the findings that back up FCNL’s PPDC work:

  • 89% of military officers believe that military might alone is not enough to address global problems, and that diplomacy and development are important tools
  • 59% believe that more funding for non-military tools like diplomacy and development will improve national security
  • 83% believe non-military tools are essential or very important for national security.

The conference launched a letter signed by over 11,000 veterans calling for increased funding for diplomacy and development.  And Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, USAID Administrator Shah, Secretary of Treasury Geithner, and Executive Chief Daniel Yohannes of the Millennium Challenge Corporation all appeared on the closing panel to make the pitch for more support for non-military tools.  Secretary Gates once had such good quotes (as usual) about prevention I wondered if we shouldn’t ask him to be an official PPDC spokeseperson when he retires.

“Development contributes to stability. It contributes to better governance. And if you are able to do those things and you’re able to do them in a focused and sustainable way, then it may be unnecessary for us to send soldiers.” – Secretary Gates, Sept. 28, 2010

But there’s another side to the conversation that separates FCNL’s principled and pragmatic approach from the fanfare of lots of big names from across the political spectrum declaring they all agree.  Because while Boeing and Mercy Corps may agree on the need for more money for the international affairs budget, they certainly wouldn’t spend the dollars the same.  A less touted finding of the poll of military officers is that 84% also believe the US should strengthen its military capacities as well.  And Secretary Gates himself reiterated during the final panel that while he wanted Secretary Clinton to have more money in his budget, he was definitely not prepared to take money out of the Pentagon’s pockets to fund diplomacy and development.

The work the USGLC is doing is critically important for building broad bipartisan consensus that Congress needs to provide more overall funding for the international affairs budget.  But while that consensus is growing, appropriators are still slashing some of the most valuable tools within that budget to help prevent violent conflict.  And few are asking the question:  “Doesn’t fighting wars actually undermine diplomacy and development?”  The devil truly is in the details.

FCNL is the only organization that is lobbying actively to save funding for the Civilian Response Corps and Complex Crises Fund – two small programs that could yield big savings in both lives and treasure.  We’re happy to let others capture the spotlight and push the big headlines, so that we can focus on the details of making sure the right tools are being added to the toolbox.

For more on the details, see our letter in support of increased funding for the CRC and CCF, and write your own!

2 Comments
  1. October 5, 2010 8:07 pm

    Nicely honed argument. Juxtaposition of polls revealing, and helpful to me as a journalist.

  2. Dan Osterman permalink
    October 5, 2010 11:56 pm

    I don’t believe a word of it look up some stuff Gates is in on and you’ll see why.

    1.-Stop the recruitment of kids- Military out of High School
    http://credoaction.change.org/petitions/view/stop_military_recruitment_of_children

    2.- Gotta Get Me a Draft- http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/09/gates-delicately-criticizes-the…-all-volunteer-military

    3.- The Recruitment Complex- http://www.alternet.org/story/62945

    4.- Our Secretary of War’s checkered background- http://www.brusselstribunal.org/Gates.htm

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