Penny wise, peace foolish

Fr. Ted Hesburgh, former University of Notre Dame president and adviser to several U.S. presidents, is among those admonishing the U.S. House for cutting funding to the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), a bipartisan governmental organization created during Ronald Reagan's administration.

"Now is not the time, in the face of global adversity, to cut peace," Hesburgh wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post. "As a man of faith and reason, I know that we need to balance our budget. But I also know that you cannot balance a budget on the backs of our men and women in uniform. Nor can we take the risk of making our nation less safe."

And the USIP does just that: make our nation safer. A commenter to Hesburgh's article asked what the return on investment was to U.S. taxpayers. Rep. Michael Honda of California explains how the USIP is making America safer from terrorism in his article in support of the institute:

  • During the Iraq war, USIP was called upon by the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, to reconcile tribal differences in the "Triangle of Death" in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, leading to decreases in combat deaths.

  • In Afghanistan, USIP supported the Tribal Liaison Organization in developing provincial conflict resolution committees to complement and strengthen the work of the Afghan Ministry of Justice.

  • In Pakistan, the Institute supported projects that trained young madrassa students for meaningful careers in journalism, mitigating the appeal of extremist movements within these key target populations.

Those who voted to cut the institute's funding insist private grants can replace that money. Not only will that be difficult, but it will change the nature of the institution from a governmental one to a private one.

As Honda so eloquently says, "Cutting $42 million -- what we spend in 3 hours in Afghanistan -- not only eliminates a bipartisan institution, but weakens America's ability to prevent violent conflicts overseas and sends the message to the world that America cares little about peace."

I suspect that editorials such as Hesburgh's will become increasingly common as we learn of the many important programs that newly elected Republicans intend to cut. It's hard to think of anything more urgent--and prolife--than peacebuilding.

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