In 1995, Martha McSally flew as a fighter pilot in Iraq and Kuwait. In 1999, she flew in the former Yugoslavia. In 2000, she was stationed in Saudi Arabia. In 2004, she was deployed to Afghanistan. As a Representative for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, she fought to continue funding the production of A-10 Thunder planes in her district. Currently, she sits on the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
For at least 24 years, McSally’s public service and, in extension, the onus of Arizona’s politics, have been dominated by the threat of global instability. Furthermore, several of the areas McSally fought in, specifically Iraq and Afghanistan, have remained in chaos albeit with different destabilizing forces. 3.3 billion people have been caught in regions with ceaseless conflict. Violence and conflict have displaced 70.8 million people, with millions more predicted to flee due to climate change intensifying.
Amongst this, the United States has scaled back its foreign aid, pushed back on international alliances, and refused to make meaningful policies to address the climate crisis and accommodate refugees. The United States’ central dogma of intervention, collusion with opposition forces, and regime change has failed to remedy the deeply entrenched issues that made the Middle East unstable and has proven to be unconducive to long-term stability. Using 2018 numbers, military spending is 3.2% of GDP, and about 15% of the federal budget. Foreign aid is a mere 0.2% of GDP. Even though politicians and activists alike openly deride military interventionism, our budget shows that international development and lasting institutional change are not yet seen as viable responses to global conflicts. For the first time in the 21st century, the United States is able to redefine its foreign policy strategy and its role in international politics. The Global Fragility Act of 2019 gives the United States an opportunity to stabilize conflicts rather than instigate them, and move into an era of peaceful, beneficial cooperation.
The Global Fragility Act aims to design a framework for managing and mitigating conflict hotspots by galvanizing several government agencies and NGOs. The Act will establish and appropriate funds to a Global Fragility Initiative, a cross department initiative to identify and evaluate areas prone to destabilization and conflict. Exceptionally unstable countries that also pose a risk to Americans will be chosen for peacebuilding efforts and economic aid. In order to execute the Initiative, the United States will create novel ways to study, detect, and eventually prevent conflicts. Progress on the Initiative will be reported to the public and Congress every other year, pushing many underreported crises into the political mainstream.
How can we justify this massive and expensive sea change in our foreign policy? Violence and war have robbed much of the world of economic opportunity and human capital. The Brookings Institute claims that half of the world’s poor will be in the crosshairs of violent conflict by 2030. This directly impacts Americans by disrupting supply chains (which makes products more expensive) and hampering innovation in much of the developing world. Countries with conflict experience three times slower economic growth, increasing global inequality and further diminishing these countries’ contributions to the global economy. This lost efficiency, innovation, labor, and trade resulting from global instability cost the global economy $14.1 trillion (or $1,853 per person) in 2018.
Furthermore, tax revenue going towards internal security and defense could go towards social programs, subsidies, or directly back into citizens’ pockets if the United States makes strategic investments in peacebuilding efforts. Preventing conflicts rather than responding to them is 16 times cheaper and the economic benefits from growing emerging economies would only compound savings for individual citizens. Peacebuilding would be a silver bullet for the country’s budgetary issues by increasing the tax base and reducing military expenditures. The tragic effect military intervention has had on veterans both economically and emotionally could be largely avoided; young veterans (18-34 years old) have the highest poverty rate of any demographic in the United States.
Arizona Senator Martha McSally supported the bill as a Representative, voting yes on the Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act of 2018. As a former veteran and a fiscal conservative, McSally has firsthand experience of the human cost of global instability and an understanding of its disastrous impact on the national debt and the global economy. It would be a shame if Senator McSally does not play a role in creating a more humane and peaceful global environment, along with a secure and prosperous America.
Soham Mehta is a student in Chandler.