Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A bipartisan conversation on foreign aid and national security

Earlier today I had the opportunity to attend a program entitled "Americas Global Leadership: Impact on New Hampshire," featuring Senator Kelly Ayotte (R- New Hampshire) and former Secretary of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Ridge.  The event, which was organized by the US Global Leadership Coalition and co-sponsored by a variety of local partners, including the New Hampshire Institute on Politics at St. Anselm University, The New England Council and the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire, drew a diverse crowd of elected officials and military veterans, as well as civic and religious leaders.

In a wide-ranging conversation Senator Ayotte and Governor Ridge made the point that there are both practical and moral reasons for the U.S. to help other nations in their time of need, especially when it comes to providing support for vital infrastructure and strengthening civil society. Along these lines, I though Governor Ridge made an excellent point when he suggested that if a member of Congress had raised the idea of sending aid to bolster public health infrastructure in West Africa a few years ago, they might very well have drawn the ire and scorn of critics - and yet today, he said, that person might be regarded instead as farsighted in light of the ongoing Ebola crisis, a disaster in which weak public health systems abroad now pose an indirect threat to the United States.

Given the very real challenges the U.S. and its allies face today, from ISIS to Ebola to how to approach Russian aggression in the Ukraine, I was somewhat heartened to hear from these two leaders, who chose to come to Manchester and address serious questions of how America acts and is perceived in the world, and to see them do so under the banner of a nonpartisan organization. Perhaps if more people were willing to engage in discussions like the one I heard today, discussions that focus on the issues themselves, instead of engaging in hyper-partisan shouting matches, we might be able to get more done, both in this country and beyond.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2014.

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