On Thursday the 15th of March, I had the pleasure of going to see Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank at the Harvard Club on Commonwealth Ave. He was delivering a speech titled “The Deficit and Defense” and it was to an audience of around 100 individuals representing both the private and public sector.
Mr. Frank’s speech was geared towards explaining how our inflated military budget, which is currently around $700 billion including the war in Afghanistan, contributes to the national deficit, which is near $1 trillion, and the long term costs of servicing this debt. Our military spending is greater than the next 14 highest spending countries in the world and accounts for over 45% of all the worlds military expenditures. While Mr. Frank is a great supporter of our troops and wants them to have the absolute best equipment and weaponry available, it was clear in his talk that he firmly believes that today’s military strategy and structure is from an era that no longer exists.
The United States built up vast arrays of conventional weaponry (tanks, bombers, artillery, etc) during the cold war that was available in case the unthinkable happened. Today, our enemies have changed in a dramatic way. They are no longer confined by borders, international law, or concern themselves with the worries or desires of the international community.
Mr. Frank made it clear in his remarks that not only is there plenty of potential for savings and gained efficiencies at the Pentagon but that it will be of necessity as the United States is forced to make budget cuts in order to pay for the tremendous debt that has been accumulated over the years. Mr. Frank highlighted the recent effectiveness of international operations in Libya, Kosovo, and other involvements in several other conflict zones as proof that multi-nation coordinated action is the most cost effective and equitable solutions to most of the threats that we should expect in the decades to come.
The United Nations was put on center stage during the revolution in Libya and Mr. Frank could not stress enough how important it is that future engagements are handled in a similar manner. The United States did not enter by themselves, they did not commit to a never ending battle, and they did not enter without consulting the international community, creating clear objectives, and defining an exit strategy. This serves as a template for future administrations and is an extremely effective option for the United States and others as we embark on an more connected, boundless, and inter-dependent world.
At the end of Mr. Frank’s rousing speech I was fortunate enough to be able to ask whether he supported the United States funding UNESCO once again, regardless of their stance on Palestine, and he stated that he did and that he was hopeful funding for the UN would become a greater importance to the Congress over the coming years. While Mr. Frank is not expected to run for re-election and is hoping to have a quieter life with his husband in their home in Maine, I think it is clear that Mr. Frank believes in the importance of the UN now and it’s even greater importance in the future.
Here at UNA-GB, the advocacy committee will continue to engage our members and elected officials alike on supporting the UN and its mission. We hope you join us!