Nearly a third of the questions asked during the 22 presidential primary debates so far have been about foreign policy or national security, but moderators have not raised a single question about international development. Will debate no. 23 on Thursday night be the first to draw out candidates on this crucial element of U.S. influence abroad?
Our organization, ONE, reviewed the transcripts from all the debates to date and found a narrow foreign policy narrative and an incomplete snapshot of the candidates’ foreign policy plans.
In all, moderators have posed 1,087 questions of the candidates during this cycle’s main and undercard debates. Of those questions, 315 were on foreign policy or national security. But not one question addressed America’s global development strategy. Not one moderator asked about foreign aid or ending extreme poverty. Not one question explored the limited access to education of girls in the developing world. Not one question focused on the global fights against HIV/AIDS or malaria.
Instead, candidates have been asked what they would do about the Islamic State, or ISIL, well over 50 times. Spoiler alert: they all believe ISIL is bad and needs to be destroyed.
The burden here is not solely on debate moderators, though. Combined, the candidates have used just shy of 88,000 words to answer those 315 foreign policy questions in the debates so far. Only 232 of those words — a meager .26 percent — addressed global development. They came during a Democratic debate last November, when Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton briefly discussed investments in sustainable development to attack the root causes of dangerous instability and Clinton praised the efforts of aid workers overseas.
What military leaders know, but what candidates tend to forget, is that global development is an important part of America’s national security strategy.
“Development contributes to stability. It contributes to better governance,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates once said. “And if you are able to do those things and you’re able to do them in a focused and sustainable way, then it may be unnecessary for us to send soldiers.”
You don’t want a viral epidemic like Ebola to reach American shores again? Help poor countries build better local health systems.
You don’t want terrorists groups to grow and fester in power vacuums? Help developing countries build stronger economies and democratic institutions.
Fighting poverty and helping people in the world’s most vulnerable places makes our country more secure and is a key part of America’s national identity, here and overseas. That it has played such an insignificant part of this campaign is vexing.
Americans’ generosity saves lives each and every day, and it makes our country safer. As the primary campaign moves into this new stage, candidates for president should talk about that truth, and they should explain how they would work to end extreme poverty and stop the spread of preventable diseases like HIV/AIDS. They should talk about the incredible return on investment America gets for the less than 1% of the federal budget we spend on poverty-fighting foreign assistance.
Americans care about these issues. ONE members in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have been showing up on rope lines and in town hall meetings for months encouraging the candidates to speak up. Some have, but most have yet to publicly discuss their plans for ending extreme poverty.
That should change. Just as Americans want a commander in chief knowledgeable about the deployment of our military strength, they deserve one fluent in the deployment of non-military influence.
Last fall, retired Marine Corps general and former National Security Adviser Jim Jones said, “support for development is a vital component of America’s national security strategy, and has been since the end of World War II. In today’s complex environment, development plus security and good governance equals stability.”
Why is it so difficult for those hoping to be our next commander in chief to say the same? Ending extreme poverty is directly relevant to the current threats to our country. Candidates’ foreign policy proposals should not be as one-dimensional as the primary debates have suggested.
No one should get to be president of the United States without publicly demonstrating an understanding and appreciation for the essential role that fighting poverty and stopping disease plays in securing America.
Tom Hart is the North American Executive Director for ONE, the global policy and advocacy organization cofounded by Bono to end extreme poverty and stop the spread of preventable diseases.
Original post can be read here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/02/24/foreign-aid-terror-fighting-tool-debates-no-questions-column/80822898/