Short-Sighted Cuts to International Affairs Budget Prove Short-Lived

Passing a $3.5 trillion budget in the midst of a recession is no small feat, and so perhaps legislators can be forgiven for trying to make a few cuts here and there to the proposal that President Obama had put in front of them. At least one such proposed cut, though — Senator Kent Conrad’s attempt to strip over $4 billion in funding for international affairs — would have so undermined U.S. interests that the Senate did away with it in a “voice vote,” since it wasn’t even close enough to count.

On Tuesday afternoon, an amendment proposed by Senators Kerry and Lugar passed overwhelmingly, restoring international affairs funding that will pay for causes like diplomacy, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance. As the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Kerry and Lugar know a thing or two about why supporting these initiatives is so important.

Part of the reason is to rehabilitate America’s relationship with the rest of the world. By paying for more foreign service officers, by investing in the world’s collective fight against climate change, and by demonstrating that foreign affairs are not simply an afterthought in American politics, the new U.S. Congress can strongly back President Obama’s renewed commitment to improving relations and reinvigorating U.S. leadership. Senator Kerry’s words bear repetition: “We cannot try to be a world leader on the cheap.”

Another reason for the need to increase foreign affairs funding, though, is purely pragmatic. By enhancing our diplomatic presence, we make it less likely to need to resort to the military. By increasing foreign aid, we make it less likely that the poor will turn to radical actors using aid as bait. And by pooling our anti-terrorism resources with other countries’, we make it less likely that terrorists will be able to go around ad hoc, unilateral defenses. These kinds of arguments comprised the bulk of Senator Kerry’s floor statement on Tuesday:

And it is clear to all that meeting these global challenges will require far more than our military: it will require a strengthened commitment to diplomacy and development.

To put this as simply and bluntly as possible, that’s why passing a robust foreign affairs budget is a matter not just of America’s world leadership, but also of our national security.

And America just got a little bit $4 billion safer.

(image from flickr user cliff1066 under a Creative Commons license)