A New Marshall Plan? Advancing Human Security and Controlling Terrorism
A New Marshall Plan?
Advancing Human Security and Controlling Terrorism
"...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 judgment."
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,
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.
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.
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 developing countries: $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.
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.
Michael Renner is a Senior Researcher at the Worldwatch Institute
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