Cuts to Aid Are Cuts to Security

  Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was fond of saying that the Department of Defense has “more people in military bands than (the State Department has) in the Foreign Service.” His observation reveals a discomfiting inequality in national priorities which has been thrown into sharp relief by battles over the upcoming budget. Far from improving the situation, proposals from both chambers of Congress include substantial cuts to foreign aid. These cuts, totaling $12 billion in the House version, come on the heels of $8 billion in cuts to the State Department budget in April as part of a deal to keep the government financed. If adopted, the cuts would severely undermine national security while making only minor changes to the deficit. If any should doubt the importance of foreign aid to national security, they need look no farther than Afghanistan for their proof. Much has been said of the covert military assistance given to the mujahedeen who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, later forming the core of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Less has been said about what was not given: foreign aid and development assistance to rebuild the war-torn country. The fighters, newly armed and trained but unaware of US involvement, returned home to lives and villages largely without prospects. Through aid projects the United States could have brought stability to Afghanistan. Instead we turned our backs, and 20 years later we are...

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