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Local View: Diplomacy is national security

President Theodore Roosevelt famously said, "Speak softly but carry a big stick." This sound bite became, with emphasis on the "stick," the U.S. foreign policy. This aggressive, militarized style continues today.

President Theodore Roosevelt famously said, "Speak softly but carry a big stick." This sound bite became, with emphasis on the "stick," the U.S. foreign policy. This aggressive, militarized style continues today.

But the more than 15 years of endless war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria strongly suggest that big-stick solutions don't work well.

Nothing shows our emphasis on military solutions over speaking softly than the huge contrast between funding for the Department of Defense and the Department of State. The Pentagon currently gets 54 percent of the federal discretionary budget. The State Department gets only 3 percent. War and preparation for war consume over half our national disposable income. Diplomacy gets some pocket change. As a nation, we spend more on beer, soft drinks, pet care, and lottery tickets than on trying to get along with other countries.

The current administration's proposed budget would add $54 billion to military spending while taking that amount from crucial human and environmental programs; while cutting all federal departments except Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs; and while causing widespread damage to millions of United States citizens.

All this will not make America safer, as 121 former top-ranking military leaders have publicly stated. They wrote an open letter to Congress opposing the cuts to the State Department and to "share our strong conviction that elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe."

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They further said in their letter, "The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm's way. As Secretary James Mattis said while Commander of U.S. Central Command, 'If you don't fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.' The military will lead the fight against terrorism on the battlefield, but it needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism - lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness."

The current budget proposal does not address the real needs of the country. It is not based on any rational assessment of our national security needs. We spend more on the military now than the next eight military powers combined. An internal Pentagon study said $125 billion could be saved over five years by eliminating bureaucratic inefficiencies.

The U.S. global policy of endless war and endless, bloated military spending is not bringing peace, security, or safety. We need more diplomacy, not less.

 

Philip Anderson of Maple, Warren Howe of Duluth, and Bill Anderson of Duluth are members of the executive committee of Veterans for Peace Chapter 80.

 

RALLY SATURDAY

The local Veterans for Peace and Grandmothers for Peace groups are hosting a rally and march at noon Saturday to raise awareness of federal budget decisions. The event, open to anyone, will begin with a rally at the Federal Building at the Duluth Civic Center, 515 W. First St., followed by a march to Lake Avenue and Superior Street. Organizers urge attendees to bring signs advocating for local needs that could be usurped by a proposal to increase defense spending.

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