Helping Others Serves U.S. Interests

November 30, 2009

November 29, 2009


Helping others serves U.S. interests

By James Smith


As a captain with the South Carolina Army National Guard, deployed to Afghanistan, I witnessed the great strength of America from remote and impoverished areas. I was deployed to serve as a mentor for the Afghan National Police (ANP).


My team’s mission was to establish security through embedded operations with the ANP and to build stronger relationships with area villagers. Despite significant religious, language and cultural differences, the ANP and I found a common bond. Indeed, my dear friend, Badam Gull — a devout Muslim and ANP officer who left his family to secure his own country — put himself at risk on numerous occasions to protect my life.


In addition to providing security, we worked with the local population to provide water, food, shelter and education. I experienced the positive, long-lasting benefits that come with helping people obtain their most basic human needs.


Respecting human rights, providing security, fostering stability and creating goodwill results in a most unbreakable bond. With commitment, these types of bonds can reach far beyond the borders of Afghanistan.


Global security challenges are increasing the demand for a unified approach that will strengthen developing nations and dramatically improve living standards for those who are most vulnerable to poverty and disease. Poverty does not create terrorism; however, extreme poverty, lack of opportunity and hopelessness can create conditions in which extremist ideologies take root.


In challenging times, just as I witnessed in Afghanistan, a solid, unbiased development assistance plan not only improves the perception of the United States, it also helps create an environment that is less vulnerable to terrorists.


Reflecting these priorities, our national security strategy is built on three pillars: defense, diplomacy and development. Yet, diplomacy and development — two-thirds of our security equation — account for only 7 percent of our overall national security budget. This must change.


As Defense Secretary Bob Gates says, “As much as the armed forces must be prepared to take on development tasks, the fact remains that much of the necessary expertise belongs in other parts of our government … the goal for us must be an integrated effort … it will require a serious commitment of resources and priorities from the Congress and the country.”


To help bring attention to this need for increased, smart and effective development efforts, I’ve joined a group called ONE. ONE is a campaign and advocacy organization backed by more than 2 million people who are committed to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease.


ONE advocates for results-driven efforts that have helped save millions of lives from HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases. Millions of other lives have been improved by more effective aid and trade reform with greater democracy, accountability and transparency to ensure that citizens of developing nations can hold their leaders accountable, and that resources are deployed effectively. Through smart development efforts, necessities such as roads and schools are being built and regional stability is rising along with them.


Development assistance plays a strong role in saving lives by promoting regional stability and strengthening our diplomatic power through good will. Helping others is not just a moral imperative — it serves U.S. national security interests as well.


Additional Facts


Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, served a tour in Afghanistan. He also is a laywer in private practice. For more information, go


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