Lawrence Sellin | Retired Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve
The Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act of 2018 (H.R.5273), sponsored by New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, who is a vociferous opponent of President Trump, seeks “to reduce global fragility and violence by improving the capacity of the United States to reduce and address the causes of violence, violent conflict and fragility in pilot countries, and for other purposes.”
That is: continue to dump ever more taxpayer dollars into Third-World sinkholes but in a more coordinated fashion.
Armed with the new buzzword “fragility,” such a vaunted representative of Washington D.C.’s bipartisan permanent political establishment as the United States Institute of Peace, supports the passage of H.R. 5273 and hails the discovery of a “new” strategy (BEYOND THE HOMELAND: Protecting America from Extremism in Fragile States).
Formerly known as foreign aid, the Institute of Peace elaborates on its new strategy, which sounds eerily similar to a number of old strategies:
The time has come for a new U.S. strategy. We need not only to defeat individual terrorists but also to mitigate the conditions that enable extremist ideologies to take root, spread, and thrive. Going forward, the priority for U.S. policy should be to strengthen fragile states—to help them build resilience against the alarming growth of violent extremism within their own societies.
In order to do so, the Institute for Peace says:
The United States needs to build productive national and local partnerships in fragile states for strengthening the resilience of their societies, including through humanitarian assistance; secure the political cooperation and financial support of international partners; dissuade countries from abetting extremism, corruption, and repression in fragile states; and unite disparate American and international efforts behind a common goal.
It is the foreign aid equivalent of the “War on Poverty” — chronically throwing money at the wrong root causes.
Reading both H.R. 5273 and the Institute of Peace’s report, one word comes to mind: Afghanistan. And the seventeen years of trying to do just what they propose. It also applies to the thousands of illegal migrants, who, at this very moment, are streaming toward our southern border, after the United States has spent billions of dollars to stabilize and develop Central America.
If you do not believe in philanthropy, supporters of H.R. 5273 will cite unverifiable financial rewards of trillions of dollars or the need to win the global contest for Third World friends by outspending China.
Can the problem be solved by spending more tax dollars on foreign aid, even doing so more efficiently, or are there other geopolitical reasons for global “fragility” and violence?
How about the Islamic extremism being funded or promoted by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan or the debt-trap diplomacy of China, efforts which far exceed even an enhanced U.S. foreign aid budget? Perhaps hard-headed diplomacy and the option of military force might be more persuasive.
The war in Afghanistan, for example, was over in months. Afterward, the United States and the international community including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) tried to do exactly what is being proposed in H.R. 5273 and by the Institute of Peace.
Hundreds of billions have been spent. That effort would have succeeded even without better coordination and greater efficiency. It failed because Pakistan chose to continue its proxy war against Afghanistan by supporting the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other Islamic extremists in order to maintain Afghanistan as a client state and exclude the influence of India.
The “caravan” of so-called refugees now making its way to the U.S. southern border is neither spontaneous nor the product of fragile states. It is not immigration but an invasion. None of the prescriptions offered by H.R. 5273 or the Institute of Peace report would have prevented it. So much for practical solutions to real problems.
Afghanistan is not a foreign aid issue, but a strategic one, which can be addressed by applying geopolitical leverage rather than throwing more efficiently-used money at Afghanistan. Pakistan’s pain points are financial instability and ethnic separatism, the latter being largely untapped. Such strategic disruption of Pakistan would ultimately affect China, given Beijing’s huge investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The formula remains the same: you get to the Taliban through Pakistan and you get to Pakistan through China.
Similarly, rather than constructing legislation for more foreign aid, Congress should eliminate the legal and financial incentives for mass illegal migration, in future offering only results-based aid to Mexico and Central America. And build a wall.
Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa. He receives email at .
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.