Research shows that members of the IRA in Northern Ireland or Hezbollah’s militant ring are more likely to come from economically advantaged families and with a relatively high level of schooling.These are important issues for Washington to consider. Who does it want to give economic aid to? What exactly is the best way to create a climate less conducive to extremism? Those are long-term issues.For now, what I want to say in the short term is: Let’s at least focus on accountability for this aid – for both hard and soft aid. We need to demand results. What is the money achieving?A CNN poll from last week shows that nearly half of all Americans think all aid to Pakistan should be stopped. Another quarter thinks it should be reduced.It seems like 10 years and $20 billion later, the American people understand basic lessons in accounting that Washington has been learning the hard way. Pentagon documents now show that we are rejecting nearly half of Islamabad’s claims for expenses over the last two years.But the more important question is: Will the Pakistani military in return for all this money, finally move against the terror organizations like the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba that they claim to be willing to battle?It’s long delayed, but it is the right message that we should be sending.American purse strings are important and necessary from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, but they don’t have to remain open at all costs.
An article written under the pseudonym Mr. Y. grabbed my attention this week. The article has a bold thesis, even more surprising given who the mysterious Mr. Y turns out to be.It argues that the United States has embraced an entirely wrong set of priorities, particularly with regard to its federal budget. We have overreacted to Islamic extremism. We have pursued military solutions instead of political ones.Y says we are underinvesting in the real sources of national power – our youth, our infrastructure and our economy. The United States sees the world through the lens of threats, while failing to understand that influence, competitiveness and innovation are the key to advancing American interests in the modern world. Y says that above all we must invest in our children. Only by educating them properly will we ensure our ability to compete in the future.Y also argues that we need to move from an emphasis on power and control to an emphasis on strength and influence.
Y goes on to say that we shouldn’t even talk about national security as we have for the past 60 years; we should be talking about national prosperity and security.Now, I think this is very smart stuff for the new world we’re entering in, but it’s important and influential in particular, given the source. This article arguing we need to rely less on our military comes, in fact, from the highest echelons of the Pentagon.Mr. Y is actually two people, both top-ranking members of Admiral Mike Mullen’s team, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They are Captain Wayne Porter of the U.S. Navy and Colonel Mark Mykleby of the Marine Corps. It’s likely that the essay had some official sanction, which means that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or perhaps even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had seen it and did not stop its publication.So why did the authors call themselves Mr. Y? It’s a play on a seminal essay fromForeign Affairs magazine more than five decades ago. The title was ”The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” and it was signed simply X. The author turned out to be the American diplomat George Kennan, and the article turned out to have perhaps the greatest influence on American foreign policy in the second half of the 20th century.