A N E W M A R S H A L L
P L A N ? A D V A N C I N G
H U M A N S E C U R I T Y A
N D C O N T R O L L I N G T E R R O R I S M
By Michael Renner,
Worldwatch Institute & TFF associate
Dick Bell, Worldwatch Institute
What do you think of this advice from a senior U.S. military officer and
statesman about how the people of the United States should deal with a part of
the world torn by war, poverty, disease, and hunger:
"...it is of vast importance that our people
reach some general understanding of what the complications really are,rather
than react from a passion or a prejudice or an emotion of the moment....It is
virtually impossible at this distance merely by reading, or listening, or even
seeing photographs or motion pictures, to grasp at all the real significance
of the situation. And yet the whole world of the future hangs on a proper
The speaker was General George C. Marshall, outlining
the Marshall Plan in an address at Harvard University on June 5, 1947.
Surveying the wrecked economies of Europe, Marshall noted the
"possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of
the people concerned." He said that there could be "no political
stability and no assured peace" without economic security, and that U.S.
policy was "directed not against any country or doctrine but against
hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos."
The moral and political challenge America faces
As President Bush and his advisors review the results of the initial bombing
campaign, they might also consider the relevance of Marshall's strategy to the
moral and political problems America now confronts. Of course we should find
the people responsible for the deaths of September 11 and bring them to
justice, and work with other nations to root out other terrorist networks. But
we must do so in a way that does not result in the deaths of even more
innocent people, deaths that would only deepen the cycle of anger and rage
that led to September 11.
What is largely missing from the administration's rhetoric is recognition of
the scale of the underlying problems that have to be addressed, regardless of
how successful we may be in the short run in tracking down the perpetrators of
the September 11th terrorist assaults.
As Marshall's words so plainly suggest, finding the terrorists should be part
of a much more ambitious campaign, one in which the rich countries approach
the appalling inequities of the world with the same boldness and determination
that the United States brought to bear in Europe under the Marshall Plan.
The global problems we must address
We don't really need to spend another dime on "intelligence" to
recognize the conditions that leave whole countries in a state of despair and
misery. Some 1.2 billion people worldwide struggle to survive on $1 day or less.
1.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.9 billion have
inadequate access to sanitation.
About 150 million children are malnourished, and more than 10 million children
under 5 will die in 2001 alone. At least 150 million people are unemployed and
900 million are "underemployed" - contending with inadequate incomes
despite long hours of backbreaking work.
Globalization has raised expectations, even as modern communications make the
rising inequality between a rich, powerful, and imposing West and the rest of
the world visible to all. Poverty and deprivation do not automatically
translate into hatred. But people whose hopes have worn thin, whose
aspirations have been thwarted, and whose discontent is rising, are far more
likely to succumb to the siren song of extremism.
This is particularly true for the swelling ranks of young people whose
prospects for the future are bleak. Some 34 percent of the developing world's
population is under 15 years of age.
Instead of an additional $100 billion on military action, we could do this....
The United States and the other industrial nations should launch a global
"Marshall Plan" to provide everyone on earth with a decent standard
of living. We can already hear the cries of people claiming that such a global
plan would "cost too much." But let's look at the numbers.
The cost of our initial response has soared into the tens of billions of
dollars, on top of an already large proposed defense budget of $342.7 billion.
For the sake of comparison, let's assume that the United States will spend an
additional $100 billion on military actions in the next 12 months. What could
we buy if we matched this $100 billion military expenditure dollar-for-dollar
with spending on programs to alleviate human suffering?
A 1998 report by the United Nations Development Programme estimated the annual
cost to achieve universal access to a number of basic social services in all
- $9 billion would provide water and sanitation for all;
- $12 billion would cover reproductive health for all women;
- $13 billion would give every person on Earth basic health and nutrition; and
- $6 billion would provide basic education for all.
These sums are substantial, but they are still only a fraction of the tens of
billions of dollars we are already spending. And these social and health
expenditures pale in comparison with what is being spent on the military by
all nations - some $780 billion each year.
The sad irony about the rich
There is a sad irony in watching the Bush Administration's strenuous efforts
to build an international coalition. There is no such muscular effort
underway, in the United States, or in any of the other rich nations, to build
a coalition to eradicate hunger, to immunize all children, to provide clean
water, to eradicate infectious disease, to provide adequate jobs, to combat
illiteracy, or to build decent housing.
The cost of failing to advance human security and to eliminate the fertile
ground upon which terrorism thrives is already escalating. Since September 11,
we know that sophisticated weapons offer little protection against those who
are out to seek vengeance, at any cost, for real and perceived wrongs.
Unless our priorities change, the threat is certain to
keep rising in coming years.
By choosing to mobilize adequate resources to address human suffering around
the world, President Bush has a unique opportunity to seize the terrible
moment of September 11 and earn a truly exalted place in human history.
But first, we must all understand that in the end,
weapons alone cannot buy us a lasting peace in a world of extreme inequality,
injustice, and deprivation for billions of our fellow human beings.
This article also available at the Worldwatch website
Dick Bell is Vice President for Communications at the Worldwatch
Institute and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Renner is a Senior Researcher at the
Worldwatch Institute and TFF associate. He can be reached at email@example.com
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