Another super U.S. tradition
Like the rest of America, I will be tuning in Sunday to watch Super Bowl XLVII. The Super Bowl has become a great American tradition. But there's another tradition that demonstrates our nation's finest values and doesn't get nearly as much attention — and that's the good we do around the world. You only need to turn on the television briefly or glance at a newspaper to see why our engagement in the world is so critical to our nation's security, economy and standing. Unfortunately, most Americans don't realize what a good value our foreign assistance efforts are. Most would be surprised to learn that foreign aid amounts to only about 1 percent of the federal budget. Americans will eat about 200 million pounds of food on Sunday — more than a year's worth of U.S. famine relief to Kenya. And for the cost of one of those entertaining, 30-second Super Bowl ads, we buy mosquito nets for 800,000 children at risk of malaria. The national security challenges we face today are far more complex and nuanced than they once were. While our military stands ready to respond to threats we face, many of these challenges defy military solutions. We need to utilize our tools of development and diplomacy alongside defense to keep America truly safe.The truth is, working to alleviate poverty, illiteracy and crippling illness is an essential building block for stable families and societies — and the more stable societies are, the less likely they are to succumb to extremism and terrorism. By addressing these very human needs, we address the roots of many of today's security challenges. Preventing conflict before it occurs keeps our brave men and women in uniform out of harm's way and saves the lives of innocent people in these countries. From an economic perspective, 95 percent of consumers live outside the United States. The fastest-growing markets are in the developing world, where half of our exports already go. Giving American businesses greater access to these markets is the key to growing our economy and creating jobs. As our leaders in Washington work to resolve the fiscal questions before us, I encourage them to consider how effective and efficient our diplomatic and development programs are. For a tiny fraction of our budget, our international affairs programs strengthen our security and economy, and demonstrate America's values.
Carolyn Woo is the president and CEO of Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services and a member of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.