The Illusion of Security FCNL June 2015

“You have spent more than half your lives with this country at war,” journalist Martha Raddatz told graduating Kenyon College students this spring. Anyone younger than 13 has never lived in the United States during peacetime…
We are all harmed by this state of perpetual war: when our government spends money on the Pentagon at the expense of health, environmental protection and other priorities; and when the strategies intended to bring security provide only its illusion.
The U.S. military is the face of our country’s foreign policy in many parts of the world. It is visible in the nearly 800 military bases that the U.S. operates outside its borders and in the drone and armed attacks it carries out in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere:
It’s not just that a militarized approach to preventing extremism isn’t working. It’s that it can’t work.
But this militarized approach to problem-solving is evident even when U.S. troops are not deployed. Since 9/11, the U.S. has dramatically expanded its so-called security assistance programs, which provide training, support and weapons to armies and police forces around the world. Our country now provides military and police aid to more than 130 nations in an effort to combat violent extremism.
This approach is not working. In 2013, “terrorist” attacks increased by 43 percent around the world over the previous year, according to the U.S. State Department. This continues a trend of steady growth in violence extremism over the last decade. While no new attacks on the scale of 9/11 have occurred within U.S. borders, the seeds of violence are growing.
Through this militarized aid, the U.S. often allies itself with repressive governments and human rights abusers. U.S. security assistance has gone to support military officers who went on to stage coups and to police that work to undermine, rather than support, peace and security. Although some of this assistance goes to non-military programs that help communities heal and grow, all too often the U.S. is training the very forces that are fueling violence extremism.
But the problem is deeper. It’s not just that a military-based approach to preventing extremism isn’t working. It’s that it can’t work. The fundamental problem of U.S. security assistance – as with other military tactics for carrying out foreign policy – is that violence is not a solution to violence.
This is as much of a practical position as it is a moral one. Violence does not address the reasons why people turn to violence in the first place, reasons such as economic injustice, scarcity of resources, political disenfranchisement, corruption and unemployment. Responding to violence with force may feel effective, but it does not create the conditions under which peace—and true security—can flourish.
U.S. decision-makers are aware that militarized assistance policies have shortcomings, even if they haven’t fully embraced the alternatives. Last year, as the Obama administration considered U.S. airstrikes against ISIS, one congressional staffer told an FCNL lobbyist that he knew air strikes wouldn’t solve the problem. But he didn’t know what else to propose.
We have some suggestions. ..progress on important first steps to rein in the worst aspects of U.S. security assistance, increase its transparency and shift its emphasis from military aid to peacebuilding…
The U.S. can do more than conjure an illusion of security. It can help provide the real thing.
Article from Friends Committee on National legislation, A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest, the June, 2015, issue of Washington Newsletter