Gen. David Petraeus, Gen. John Allen, retired Adm. James Stavridis, and more than 120 other retired generals and admirals sent a letter to Congress demanding they not allow a proposed budget cut to diplomatic and foreign aid to pass.
“As you and your colleagues address the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2018, we write as retired three and four star flag and general officers from all branches of the armed services to share our strong conviction that elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe,” the letter reads.
The letter is in response to the Trump administration’s announcement on Monday that it wanted to increase defense spending by $54 billion while cutting non-defense spending by the same amount.
With President Donald Trump’s recent remarks about America needing to win more wars, that the US must “rebuild” its military, and his insistence on using US forces to combat “Islamic terrorism,” the former military leaders pleaded to Congress to find other solutions.
“We know from our service in uniform that many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone,” the letter continued.
They went on to write that diplomacy and foreign aid could be used when “confronting violent extremist groups like ISIS in the Middle East and North Africa to preventing pandemics like Ebola and stabilizing weak and fragile states that can lead to greater instability.”
The retired generals and admirals stressed that such action can save lives by keeping America’s men and women in uniform out of harm’s way.
“The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way,” they wrote. “ As Secretary James Mattis said while commander of U.S. Central Command, ‘If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.’”
It is obvious that Trump does not value the lives of service men and women in the same way these former military leaders do. Only five days into office, Trump ordered a raid in Yemen which resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL along with 29 civilians.
Trump was quick to call the raid a success, saying the SEALs were able to gather laptops and other equipment. Though later analysis has shown that the raid produced no new information and the equipment gathered was in the end, useless. The raid’s primary target, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Qassim al-Rimi, wasn’t even present in the camp.
Trump’s wanton disregard for the lives of US troops could not be more apparent in his actions and in his new budget proposal, which throws out diplomacy in favor of using military force to solve every problem – which only perpetuates the cycle of violence all over again.
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Dan Arel is a bestselling author of The Secular Activist; and Parenting Without God. He is an award-winning journalist and host of the Danthropology Podcast.