Thanks to a “heads up” from Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962-64)
Colin Powell: American Leadership — We Can’t Do It for Free
By COLIN POWELL
May 24, 2017
New York Times Op-Ed
At our best, being a great nation has always meant a commitment to building a better, safer world — not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren. This has meant leading the world in advancing the cause of peace, responding when disease and disaster strike, lifting millions out of poverty and inspiring those yearning for freedom.
The administration’s proposal, announced Tuesday, to slash approximately 30 percent from the State Department and foreign assistance budget signals an American retreat, leaving a vacuum that would make us far less safe and prosperous. While it may sound penny-wise, it is pound-foolish.
This proposal would bring resources for our civilian forces to a third of what we spent at the height of Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength” years, as a percentage of the gross domestic product. It would be internationally irresponsible, distressing our friends, encouraging our enemies and undermining our own economic and national security interests.
The idea that putting Americans “first” requires a withdrawal from the world is simply wrongheaded, because a retreat would achieve exactly the opposite for our citizens. I learned that lesson the hard way when I became secretary of state after a decade of budget cuts that hollowed out our civilian foreign policy tools.
Many had assumed the Cold War’s end would allow us to retreat from the world, but cuts that may have looked logical at the time came back to haunt us as tensions rose in the Middle East, Africa, the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere. Confronting such challenges requires not just a military that is second to none, but also well-resourced, effective and empowered diplomats and aid workers.
Indeed, we’re strongest when the face of America isn’t only a soldier carrying a gun but also a diplomat negotiating peace, a Peace Corps volunteer bringing clean water to a village or a relief worker stepping off a cargo plane as floodwaters rise. While I am all for reviewing, reforming and strengthening the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, proposals to zero out economic and development assistance in more than 35 countries would effectively lower our flag at our outposts around the world and make us far less safe.
(read the whole Op-Ed in the NYTIMES)