How a Real National Security Budget Can Help Keep the Peace by Karl W. Eikenberry, USA Today
As America prioritizes its spending in a dangerous world, the White House has proposed a hard-power budget that emphasizes military investments to deter war. Yet what it first would deter is any cost-effective work to reduce the wars abroad — civil upheaval in weak or failing states — that greatly threaten U.S. interests and global stability. This “national security budget” would dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the State Department, USAID and United Nations peacekeeping operations, and end funding for the small, specialized U.S. Institute of Peace — all vital tools for keeping America safe. We would be left with one massively expensive and blunt instrument — the United States military — to deal with any and all foreign policy challenges.
Viewed from home, the impulse to abandon most stabilization work abroad can seem understandable, if only because the violent collapse of a South Sudan or Somalia may feel too distant to matter. Even where mediation and peacekeeping can resolve wars, the results can be difficult to measure and can take years. For many Americans, it seems better to deal only with the most urgent crises, sending our forces to surgically clean things up and return home. But a budget that cripples low-cost stabilization of weak states is foolish — the national security equivalent of, say, prohibiting maintenance on dams and bridges until they visibly begin to collapse.
New analyses of the world’s roughly 30 civil wars find that they are lengthening, now averaging more than 20 years’ duration. As Syria illustrates, they also are becoming more contagious. With global influence diffusing from its earlier concentration in the hands of superpowers, contending powers in any given region are backing proxy forces and fueling wars in weak states…