Considering the Global Economy and Development in National Security

Lael Brainard
Lael Brainard National Economic Advisor - National Economic Council

July 24, 2008

Editor’s Note: Following is an excerpt by Lael Brainard from a Center for a New American Security report, which outlines recommendations for a new national security strategy. Brainard’s contributions to the multi-author report focused on integrating global economic and development concerns into the national security framework. Learn more about the report.

Enhancing Prosperity and Development

Strategic leadership takes into account all the dimensions of national security—economic and social as well as political and military. The interconnectedness of the global economy has reached an unprecedented level, particularly with respect to foreign direct investment and financial markets. Webs of interaction in many other dimensions such as communications, transportation, civil society, and culture grow denser by the day. Meanwhile, politics and policy have lagged behind, providing insufficient focus, will and capacity to supplement and regulate market based forces to achieve balanced and shared economic growth. This governance gap needs to be narrowed by making relevant international institutions more effective, broadening and deepening state-to-state collaboration, and working with the private and nonprofit sectors on innovative partnerships and informal networks. These partnerships and networks would provide a more balanced picture of the winners and losers from globalization as presently structured, and would present a broader spectrum of costs and benefits to policy makers charged with regulating the global economy.

Dramatically reducing global poverty is not just a matter of personal morality but also of national and global security. With the global population projected to swell by one-third in the next 20 years, with 90 percent of the increase concentrated in developing countries, development warrants being on a par with diplomacy and defense in overall U.S. national security strategy. Extreme poverty exhausts governing institutions, depletes resources, weakens the social fabric, and crushes hope, fueling a volatile mix of desperation and instability. Impoverished states are more prone to explode into conflict or implode into chaos, imperiling their citizens, regional neighbors, and the wider world as livelihoods are destroyed, investors flee, and ungoverned territories become a breeding ground for terrorism, trafficking, environmental devastation, and disease. In a vicious circle, these destabilizing effects of conflict as well as demographic and environmental challenges make it even harder for leaders and institutions to promote human development.

Making global poverty reduction a priority harks back to the best traditions of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “freedom from want,” Harry Truman’s Point Four Program, and John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress. We must deploy foreign aid as a key instrument of U.S. soft power, drawing on lessons learned about how to make it most effective, including leveraging the tremendous resources, energy, and innovation of the American public in both the private and civic sectors. Not only do such efforts help reduce global poverty, but when the United States leads in helping to lift others, we enhance our overall influence and authority in the world community, making it easier to obtain support for U.S. objectives in other areas.