Issue: In 2013, then Commander of United States Central Command James Mattis remarked that when the State Department isn’t fully funded, “I need to buy more ammunition.” The less we engage in diplomacy, the more we resort to engaging in conflict. Unfortunately, his future boss didn’t seem to get the message. Trump’s proposed budget would cut over 30% to the State Department’s budget, slashing food assistance programs by $1.7 billion, humanitarian assistance by $2.4 billion, and global health programs by $2.2 billion. This is an exceptionally inhumane effort to pull back crucial funding to programs that provide crucial services around the world, and a shameful abdication of our responsibility to be a global force for good.
Meanwhile, Secretary Tillerson has begun systematically abolishing almost all special envoys in the State Department, including those dedicated to climate change, disability rights, the Iran deal, and closing Guantanamo Bay. Even some Republicans in Congress see how destructive this is, with Senator Bob Corker going as far as to suggest that Trump could cause World War III. By withdrawing us from our leadership on international efforts to mitigate the two greatest existential threats to humanity, climate change and nuclear proliferation, Trump has single-handedly inhibited the ability of the global community to work for the greater good.
Proposal: If we want to leverage our power to create a more just world, we must reinvest in diplomacy and prioritize humanitarian investments. Unless Congress allocates at least as much money to foreign aid and diplomacy as they give the military, we will continue to wage costly, unnecessary wars instead of working to eliminate the underlying causes of conflict. We need substantial new investments in food, health, and other humanitarian assistance programs to improve human rights around the world.
First, we must recommit to the Iran nuclear deal and the goal of global disarmament. We must also recommit to the Paris climate accord and take meaningful, immediate action to prove our commitment to reducing carbon emissions. We must push for multilateral trade deals that guarantee global fair labor standards and treaties that increase global cooperation on pressing international issues.
When the Soviet Union challenged a young President Kennedy by engaging in relentless nuclear testing while he pursued an international ban on the detonations, he responded by challenging them “not to an arms race, but to a peace race.” On August 5, 1963, the limited Nuclear Test Ban treaty, the first international agreement ever to regulate the use of nuclear weapons, was signed in Moscow - just a day before the 18th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear attack on Hiroshima.
Building on new channels of cooperation created when Democrats take back the White House, the United States should lead the way for a new international nuclear disarmament treaty. Three months ago, 122 UN member nations voted to ban all nuclear weapons under international law. Of course, the historic vote was not attended by a single one of the world’s nine nuclear armed nations and was overshadowed in the media by North Korea’s missile test and Trump’s Tweets. If we are going to create a meaningful vision for international peace, we must be willing to join the international community, and live up to President Kennedy’s legacy by conceding some of our own power as part of a global agreement to act for the good of all humanity.