A Global Marshall Plan to Fight Terrorism
[Editor's note: Written shortly after the September 11 terrorist attack, this piece by two members of the Worldwatch Institute staff stands the test of time. It rings just as true today as it did then, and one suspects that it will seem ever more clearly true as more time passes.]
dvice 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 judgment."
The speaker was General George C. Marshall, outlining the Marshall Plan for the very first time in an address at Harvard 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."
.... Regardless of how successful we may be in the short run in tracking down the perpetrators of September 11. 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 in 1947 under the Marshall Plan.
We don't really need to spend another dime on "intelligence" to know what the conditions are 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. At least 150 million people are unemployedand 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.
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" or "take too long." But let's look at the numbers. The cost of moving towards "war" has soared into the tens of billions
For the sake of comparison, let's assume that the United States will spend $100 billion on the "war" 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 report in 1998 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
These sums are substantial, but they are still only a fraction of the tens of billions of dollars we're likely to spend on the "war." 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.
Social investments can also produce quick results. Development does not happen overnight, of course, but the World Health Organization and UNICEF have shown that some critical health issues can be turned around rapidly. In the 1990s, the WHO assembled a coalition of 47 countries in a program to iodize salt, cutting in half the share of people at risk of iodine deficiency-in just three years. Concerted government action recently reduced cases of malaria in Viet Nam by 60 percent in just five years, and by more than 50 percent in Azerbaijan in three years.
There is a bitter irony in watching the Bush administration's feverish efforts to build a "war" coalition. There was no such effort, not in the United States nor 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
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 are no 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.
Michael Renner is a Senior Researcher
at the Worldwatch Institute, specializing in security issues. He is
the author of Fighting For Survival: Environmental Decline, Social Conflict,
And The New Age Of Insecurity
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