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Defunding America’s Forces of Death

For too long, the United States has failed to invest in alternative ways of promoting security at home and abroad, and instead emphasized strategies and agents of punishment and death. Policymakers must now take steps to shift resources away from this failed approach.

NEW YORK – The mass protests in response to George Floyd’s death in May at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer have ignited and accelerated demands for radical reform of law-enforcement procedures and funding across America. As pressure grows to shift domestic government spending away from punitive policing, policymakers in Washington, DC should be doing the same with US international aid.

Such a rethink is long overdue. For decades, the US government has spent lavishly to help allies build repressive security regimes in the name of ensuring stability, if not democracy. All too often, however, US assistance has fueled violence and repression, when the security threats would have been better addressed by improved health care, social services, and economic programs.

Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the federal government has spent over $250 billion on police and military forces around the world, with troublingly mixed results. Some of these efforts have even been counterproductive to America’s stated interests, because they exacerbated corruption, human-rights violations, and misconduct by security forces.