Smart Power: The Economical Solution for the Future
Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” In today’s interconnected world, however, foreign policy also is becoming increasingly local. Using our diplomatic and defense tools wisely can benefit our domestic economy and American workers. And in several ways, progressive “smart power” is already paying dividends here at home.
For example, our trade and investment policies are helping to create American jobs, as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides outlined in a recent article. The President’s National Export Initiative – a plan to double the nation’s exports by 2014 – has so far led to a record $2.1 trillion increase in exports, which has helped to create over 1.2 million new jobs here. Moreover, Free Trade Agreements – like recent pacts with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama – and increasing foreign investment are expected to lead to even more job creation, proving that “Economic Statecraft” is more than just a slogan.
While these trade and investment policies are creating jobs, our military is implementing a concerted effort to go green in order to cut costs. While critics are quick to point to the current cost of energy alternatives, the military realizes that currently investing in the promise of homegrown, renewable advanced biofuels – which are expected to be price competitive by 2020 – is better than taking the risk of relying on a volatile global oil market. The Pentagon estimates that a $1 rise in the price of oil raises its fuel bill by $130 million. These may seem like just numbers, but the $3 billion unanticipated bill it was stuck with in fiscal year 2011 because the price of oil was significantly higher than expected illustrated the cost of this reality. Our leaders at the Department of Defense understand that embracing sustainability is vital when the costs of not doing so are unsustainable, and that decision will pay off for the American people in the future.
The Pentagon is also taking a proactive approach to curbing its budget long-term, which is crucial to tackling our fiscal problems. The winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is already saving the military money. In tandem with these efforts, the President’s budget for 2013 would decrease Pentagon spending by $487 billion over the next decade. Under this plan, we would still remain the strongest military in the world while also helping to reduce the debt and get our fiscal house in order.
These big-picture initiatives impact local communities. As Deputy Secretary Nides noted, foreign investment by a Canadian auto company helped create 100 jobs in Michigan. Meanwhile, American businesses, like those in the Minnesota-based Defense Alliance, are helping the military with its sustainability initiatives. Finally, the money we save from decreasing the Pentagon’s budget can, if used wisely, spur job growth in other sectors. A smart, progressive foreign policy is not only keeping Americans safe at home, but is also creating opportunities for them to prosper as well.
Jessie Daniels is a Truman Security Fellow.