Since the successful parliamentary elections in January, there is a lot of conjecture about an Iraq exit strategy. What we really need is a new national security strategy – and a more balanced national security budget – that reflect shifting priorities as we prepare over the next year to disengage militarily from Iraq.
Given the significant toll the Iraq insurgency has exacted on U.S. force readiness and the federal budget, further military preemption is on hold. Barring another attack here in the United States, we’re not invading anyone else anytime soon. This reality is certainly one reason why President Bush is finally constructively engaged in the other front of the “war against terror” he declared the night of September 11 – the battle of ideas.
He correctly sees the “advance of democracy” in the Middle East as a cornerstone of a revised long-term national security strategy. However, the Bush administration and the House of Representatives continue to fund the go-it-alone approach we have had for the past three years, which has stretched the military as far as it can go – not one that flows logically from the president’s rhetoric; addresses the root causes of terrorism; and enables us to take advantage of emerging opportunities for democratic reform in the Middle East.
Last month, the House of Representatives approved $81.4 billion in supplemental funding, primarily for Iraq, Afghanistan and tsunami relief. While the amount is just below what the Bush administration asked for, the House increased the Department of Defense’s share of the supplemental from $75 billion to $76.8 billion and decreased funding for the Department of State by a corresponding amount. On the military front, 25 procurement programs were increased beyond what the military said it needed. On the diplomatic front, however, the House cut and then froze funding for a new and secure embassy in Baghdad. It chopped $200 million from peacekeeping contributions that pay for other countries to intervene in crises so we don’t have to. It chose not to approve $200 million to support countries that remain part of the shrinking coalition of the willing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite Ukraine’s inspiring Orange Revolution, the House cut aid to that country from $60 million to $33.7 million. It also voted to rescind $1 billion in aid for Turkey, short-sighted punishment for the Turkish parliament’s vote against the Iraq invasion. Criticism of and retribution for a popular vote by an elected body in a secular Islamic state is a funny way to promote democracy in the Middle East.
The full Senate considers the supplemental this week and is expected to restore much of the international affairs funding cut by the House, although the broader problem remains. Combining regular and supplemental funding, the United States will spend just under $600 billion on national security during this fiscal year. More than $500 billion, or 88 percent, is committed to defense and strategic intelligence, including ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Only $35 billion, 6 percent of national security spending and 1 percent of all federal funding, will be devoted to international affairs programs, with the remainder dedicated to homeland security and domestic counter-terrorism.
What does such a heavily militarized budget mean in real terms? The Pentagon will spend three times as much today supporting 150,000 troops in Iraq than the National Endowment for Democracy will spend all year cultivating opposition candidates and promoting free and fair elections around the world. Conversely, says Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia, the United States is contributing only one-third of what it should in development aid that can reduce the potential for conflict and give democracy a better chance of succeeding in the very autocratic and failing societies from which global terrorists emerge.
To some extent, we are trapped by the politics of war. There is no domestic political constituency for diplomacy. Weapons systems today are literally designed to include sub-components in almost every state. Politicians get re-elected for creating jobs in constituent districts, not in target countries that create terrorists. The American people support foreign aid in concept, but also have a misperception that we spend far more than we actually do. A 2002 University of Maryland poll found that Americans supported spending $1 in foreign aid for every $3 for defense; this year’s ratio is $1 to $15. This imbalance means that our soldiers will continue to be the first rather than last option for future phases of this campaign against terrorism.
As we execute our Iraq exit strategy over the next year or so, what changes are necessary to win both the war and peace?
First, the Bush administration must recognize that the war against terror can’t be won militarily. It should revise its two-year-old national security strategy with greater emphasis on freedom, democracy and development and reduced reliance on military intervention and preventive war.
Second, the Bush administration and Congress must back the president’s rhetoric with real resources. As Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar said this week, “American prosperity is far more likely to be sustained if we are successful in spreading democracy, stability, and free market principles.” This takes money. This year we will spend $100 billion supporting 150,000 troops in Iraq. As these forces withdraw from Iraq, hopefully within the next year or two, between $25 and $50 billion should be redirected to strengthen democratic institutions, promote development, secure nuclear stockpiles and improve international peacekeeping around the world.
Third, beginning next year, the Bush administration should consolidate funding proposals for defense, intelligence, international affairs, homeland security and domestic counter-terrorism into a single national security budget submission to the Congress. A strategy that employs all elements of our national power should drive the budget process, not the other way around. We won’t reduce the terrorism threat to the United States if we have one strategy on paper, but are buying a different strategy in practice.
Preemption should mean preventing wars economically and diplomatically, as well as confronting threats militarily. Otherwise, we run the risk of winning all the military battles, but not the broader war against terror.
P.J. Crowley is a senior fellow and director of national defense and homeland security at the Center for American Progress. He is a retired Air Force colonel and served in senior positions at the White House and Pentagon during the Clinton administration.
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