washingtonpost.com  > Nation > Special Reports > War on Terror > Opinion

More Ways to Stay Safe

By James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher
Friday, December 17, 2004; Page A33

Congress has implemented an important part of the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations by approving changes President Bush supported in U.S. intelligence operations as a way to combat global terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Now it's the time to address another critical component of the commission's report that can help increase global security and protect us against future attacks. The report calls for an increased investment in the full range of diplomatic, development and humanitarian tools to improve conditions in and relations with regions of the world that might be breeding grounds for terrorism. These are the very tools encompassed within the U.S. international affairs budget.

The commission did not see these international initiatives as superfluous to national security. It saw them as essential elements of a strategy to prevent another attack on American soil: ". . . long-term success [in efforts to topple the Taliban and pursue al Qaeda] demands the use of all elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and homeland defense."

_____What's Your Opinion?_____
Message Boards Share Your Views About Editorials and Opinion Pieces on Our Message Boards
About Message Boards

"Terrorism is not caused by poverty," the commission said. "Yet when people lose hope, when societies break down, when countries fragment, the breeding grounds for terrorism are created. . . . Economic and political liberties tend to be linked."

Most of the strategies on the commission's to-do list fall under the purview of the international affairs budget, which in fiscal 2005 amounts to about $30 billion. That's a little over 1 percent of the total U.S. budget. We've made progress the past several years in providing support to U.S. international affairs efforts, increasing the budget from $26 billion in fiscal 2002, the last budget before the Sept. 11 attacks. Still, this year's budget, just passed by Congress, fell short of President Bush's request by $1.5 billion. We need to do better; the international affairs budget must reflect the new world reality and our increased need for a vigorous national security strategy.

This budget, which includes international assistance and other global programs, has evolved into the most significant non-military tool in the U.S. foreign policy arsenal and has gained widespread support in Congress and among national security specialists, especially in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Like the use of strong military action and effective intelligence gathering, the strategies promoted by the international affairs budget are essential tools in the fight against global terrorism, against the spread of weapons of mass destruction and our efforts to promote global stability.

The Sept. 11 commission warned, "The greatest danger of another catastrophic attack in the United States will materialize if the world's most dangerous terrorists acquire the world's most dangerous weapons." Next year's international affairs budget will include more than $400 million in spending for nonproliferation, de-mining and anti-terrorism programs.

Further, the commission believes that our efforts to promote economic growth in other countries through increased development, humanitarian assistance and expanded trade can enhance our security at home. Next year's international affairs budget includes $300 million for trade promotion and export financing; nearly $8 billion for humanitarian and development assistance and the Millennium Challenge Account, intended to spur economic growth and democracy; and $1.5 billion in contributions to the World Bank and other international financial institutions, also in the business of promoting growth and stability in the world's trouble spots.

The commission noted, "Education that teaches tolerance . . . and respect for different beliefs is a key element in any global strategy to eliminate Islamist terrorism." It urged the United States to support a global effort to educate children in Muslim states as part of the goal of reducing illiteracy in the Middle East. The current budget includes $400 million for international basic education.

Other parts of the international affairs budget enhance global stability and prevent terrorism by fighting drug trafficking, funding international peacekeeping, fostering economic development, fighting the spread of HIV-AIDS and assisting international refugees. Debt restructuring initiatives in the budget could create better economic conditions in countries where poor people are susceptible to terrorist recruitment.

The Sept. 11 commission devoted itself to examining ways America could be made safer, and it determined that initiatives such as those funded by the international affairs budget are essential tools in the U.S. foreign policy arsenal. It recognized that activities such as economic development and democratization abroad are not simply good things to do as members of the international community; they are strategic imperatives that address the link between a failed state and our own country's vulnerability to foreign threats.

We strongly support one of the commission's key recommendations for making our country safe: investing in the non-military tools of national security.

James A. Baker III was secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush. Warren Christopher was secretary of state under President Bill Clinton. They serve on the Advisory Council to the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company