Peace Through Development

New York – American foreign policy has failed in recent years mainly because the United States relied on military force to address problems that demand development assistance and diplomacy. Young men become fighters in places like Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan because they lack gainful employment. Extreme ideologies influence people when they can’t feed their families, and when lack of access to family planning leads to an unwanted population explosion. President Barack Obama has raised hopes for a new strategy, but so far the forces of continuity in US policy are dominating the forces of change.

The first rule in assessing a government’s real strategy is to follow the money. America vastly overspends on the military compared with other areas of government. Obama’s projected budgets do not change that. For the coming 2010 fiscal year, Obama’s budget calls for $755 billion in military spending, an amount that exceeds US budget spending in all other areas except so-called “mandatory” spending on social security, health care, interest payments on the national debt, and a few other items.

Indeed, US military spending exceeds the sum of federal budgetary outlays for education, agriculture, climate change, environmental protection, ocean protection, energy systems, homeland security, low-income housing, national parks and national land management, the judicial system, international development, diplomatic operations, highways, public transport, veterans affairs, space exploration and science, civilian research and development, civil engineering for waterways, dams, bridges, sewerage and waste treatment, community development, and many other areas.

This preponderance of military spending applies to all ten years of Obama’s medium-term scenario. By 2019, total military spending is projected to be $8.2 trillion, exceeding by $2 trillion the budgeted outlays for all non-mandatory budget spending.