Americans watched in alarm but not shock as Parliament was locked down after a “terrorist incident” in London on Wednesday, the first anniversary of the deadly attack in Brussels. A refugee camp in Nigeria was also bombed on Wednesday — again — by five Boko Haram suicide bombers who’d slipped in the night before, alongside vendors of the charcoal that those who’ve come to the camp to escape Boko Haram need to cook their food. The day before, a car bomb killed 10 people in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. And a few days before that, 42 Somali refugees were killed when a helicopter fired on their boat off the coast of Yemen.
The through-line of this bloody snapshot is Islamic terrorism. But the response, as laid out in President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint, is to pump an extra $54 billion into the best-funded military in the world while cutting investment in virtually everything else.
One of the most counterproductive cuts of all, however, is the plan to make our country safer by slashing such “soft power” staples as diplomacy and foreign aid.
There’s no serious debate about the fact that terror and instability are inextricably linked.
Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who spends just about full time advocating military action, knows how such cuts would work: It “would be a disaster. If you take soft power off the table, then you’re never going to win the war.”
Foreign aid accounts for less than 1 percent of the federal budget. And as Graham said, “Investing over there, even though we have needs here, makes us safer.”
That’s the strategic argument, but the moral imperative is even more compelling: We cannot walk away from the world amid what the United Nations is calling the most serious humanitarian crisis since 1945.
Twenty million people are at risk of starvation in four African countries: Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, where a famine has been declared and a potential genocide has not. Millions have been forced to flee their homes in the country we helped midwife just six years ago, and tribal violence has created a hellscape of forced starvation, mass rapes and towns empty now except for the starving animals that farmers had to leave behind.
Trump’s answer to a situation we’ve sworn more than once never to stand by and let happen seems to be to cut funding to the United Nations, which for all its problems does a heroic job of working with refugees.
“It’s time to prioritize the security and well-being of Americans,’’ the president said recently. But to do that, we cannot abandon a world in trouble.