Military alone cannot solve all our national security challenges

Jonathan Morgenstein, a Marine Corps Reserves captain and fellow at the Truman National Security Project, urges Americans to stand by international development for the sake of national security.

During my 20 years in the Marine Corps reserves, including two tours in Iraq and one in Bosnia, I learned deep lessons about the awesome capabilities — and realistic limits — of American military power.

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A strong military is key to American security, but military alone cannot solve all of our challenges. America needs stable friends and allies worldwide able to help us prevent and eliminate these threats.

The only way to gain and maintain such allies is through international development, and that’s why I’m proud to be a part of the Make US Strong campaign. International development stabilizes and secures nations. It makes them resilient to civil war, terrorism, disease and international trafficking of humans, drugs and guns. This lesson isn’t new though; it was first learned by the men and women of the Greatest Generation with the Marshall Plan. It’s never enough to fight wars and turn our backs. We must rebuild, strengthen our relations, generate goodwill and make collapsed states safe for democracy.

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A few weeks ago, other veterans and I participated in ONE’s Advocacy Day on foreign assistance. We joined community, campus and business leaders from across the country to tell Congress that international development promotes stability and protects lives around the globe, and thereby keeps America safe from global threats. While meeting with my congressman, I was reminded of the time I recently spent in Uganda working as a civilian for the Pentagon. I met with a number of female Congolese human rights activists who had snuck hundreds of miles through the jungles and across the border into Uganda in the hope of meeting with a representative of the United States. They told me, “America is our only hope.” These activists certainly didn’t want American military intervention. They needed development programs to support building a stable, prosperous country, one that they could be proud of. America was the last and only hope for their fractured world.

Our leaders need to know and believe in these stories. When we live up to these expectations and hopes, it has positive consequences. When our development policies reflect our values, it makes America –- and the world -– strong.

Time and again, terrorist plots are foiled because of the cooperation of governments and societies in the world’s most desperate places that are strengthened by our investment in their stability and security. Help us spread this important message.

ONE is one of the few organizations that has the ability to unify voices from across the country in standing strong for international development. As a member of the Make US Strong campaign, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this important day.

-Jonathan Morgenstein, fellow, The Truman National Security Project

Positions and viewpoints are Jonathan’s alone and photos do not indicate endorsement of these views by the US Department of Defense or United States Marine Corps