Finding Security by Helping the ‘South’

Official Washington’s new group think is that more money must be poured into the Military-Industrial Complex to continue wars in the Middle East and hem in Russia and China on their borders. But the real security threats come from mass dislocations in the Third World, says ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller.

By Graham E. Fuller

It does not take much imagination to see where refugees are taking the world over the longer run. This issue currently lies at the heart of some very ugly American politics. It is also tearing apart one of the noblest political experiments in human history, the European Union. It is radicalizing broad regions of the world and fueling global violence, from Myanmar to Tunisia and South Africa.

Photo from Wikipedia: Syrian women and children refugees at Budapest railway station

Syrian women and children refugees at Budapest railway station (Photo from Wikipedia)

The basic conclusion is simple: either the North goes to the South, or the South comes to the North. The meaning of South coming North is already clear: conditions in the South are driving refugees to flee to the North.

Most refugees bring along serious political, social, economic and cultural problems of their homelands which complicate their ready integration into the North. This is especially true in smaller, and hence more culturally fragile countries in Europe, nation-states that possess unique cultural and social balance that any major influx of foreigners will disrupt.

There is only one unique Netherlands or Denmark, or Estonia, or Norway. They are not classical immigrant nations as are the vast spaces of the U.S., Canada, Australia, even Russia and Latin America.

This larger long-term movement of populations is certain. Existing conditions in large numbers of countries in the South are becoming untenable: poverty, disease, misgovernance, conflict, environmental degradation, unemployment.

Many of these blights are locally generated. But the West cannot deny its role in this as well. Western imperialism, remember, took over most of the known world for a good century or more; its sole purpose was to benefit the imperial metropole through resource extraction; the world order was designed to facilitate those gains. Its blessings to the colonized were mixed, to say the least.

But the blame game is not important here as the current reality is that we face a global problem of massive proportions however we ascribe the causes. And affixing blame does not solve the problem either. What is certain is that the problem today has now arrived on the doorstep of the affluent North.

The problem of migration of a billion people or so in decades ahead is daunting. It represents the paramount security problem for Western states. We are speaking of economic and social dislocations, a rise in unemployment and crime, the rise of nativist neo-fascism, greater Western involvement in the geopolitical crises and conflicts of the rest of the world. All this threatens the fracturing of the painfully constructed modern European order.

When we speak of malnourishment of hundreds of millions, loss of habitat under global climate change, greenhouse gasses emerging out of the ravished Amazon rain forest, social desperation, pandemics, violent competition for scarce resources, these are surely more urgent security issues for the West than ownership rights over rocks and atolls in the South China sea. Or the balance of military power in the Black Sea Basin. Or the degree of security and insulation that Latvians can be promised from the proximity of a powerful Russian state.

Meanwhile, military budgets continue to rise in the U.S. to fight wars that do not reflect meaningful global reality of the modern interconnected age. Over the last decades the U.S. and Europe have been fundamentally defeated in most Third World conflicts at high cost in blood and treasure, often leaving the situation worse than it was.

More to the point, what good has come out these optional U.S. wars of choice, either for the U.S. or for the tortured terrains in which they were devastatingly fought?

There is little to be gained in fine debates over whether the U.S., or NATO, or Russia, or China bear greater blame for global competition. The true geopolitical stakes may be lower today than in anytime in the past. The real issue is whether continued massive funding for such traditional armchair balance-of-power strategies is productively spent and is addressed to the true crisis of the future: gross global inequality of life.

In the U.S. we have (partially) come to understand that the wellbeing of the poor is not just a local problem but a national one. National dimensions require national solutions for the greater wellbeing of all society.

In the end there is no security behind gated communities. Islands of wellbeing in the middle of neglect and hardship are unsustainable and unethical. Nor can Western welfare islands long exist globally, insulated from a world of gross inequities.

They are poor and lazy one might say. But they struggle harder to live each day than the average Western suburbanite. And most people in the world in any case do not really want to leave their homes for some foreign country where they don’t know the language or customs. But if things get bad enough, they will come, even at high personal risk as we witness today.

Fences, patrol boats, walls, checkpoints, buying off countries to serve as refugee half-way houses, more draconian immigration laws, feel-good invective against the immigrants lurking just outside our gates, all this is fantasy, just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

If we don’t want the South coming North, then the only other option is for the North to go South. No, not in the old punitive way. In many respects the North has already “been South” in past centuries, and it hasn’t always been a pretty sight.

This is not to dismiss some fine Western-sponsored technological projects and NGOs like Doctors Without Frontiers. But sadly these contributions are only a drop in the bucket. Vastly more is called for. Remember the hugely generous American Marshall Plan at the end of World War II aimed at rebuilding a devastated Europe, including Germany? It was not conceived as philanthropy but as an integral part of American security policy.

How to improve conditions across the developing world? U.S. foreign aid in this capacity has been miniscule less than 1 percent of the annual U.S. budget. Yet wasteful and unproductive Pentagon budgets run to some 54 percent of U.S. annual discretionary spending. (More if we consider bloated security and intelligence institutions.)

Are we more secure today? From ISIS? From refugees? From terrorism? From Russia and Chinese border politics on their peripheries?  Where are our security priorities?

A Marshall Plan for the South wouldn’t it be a gross waste, money down foreign rat holes, propping up corrupt elites siphoning off the monies? Partially true, but might not all these terms similarly apply to many U.S. defense expenditures and the vast hangers-on of the military industrial complex with its corruptions, overruns and pork barrel?

So to divert some 50 percent (for starters) of this security budget to Investment in a more stable South might be money well spent. And who loses from a redirection of security spending, other than the huge arms industry, and the think tank acolytes and consultants that feed off them?

There is no easy blueprint on how to render the South more livable so that larger percentages of its populations will not feel compelled to flee to our shores. From Mexico and Central America, from the Middle East and Africa.

The problem is self-evident and multi-faceted, and no, money won’t do it all. But a couple of hundred billion “wasted” in Africa and Latin America on infrastructure projects, schools, clinics, roads might actually improve things a lot more than our non-stop wars.

How have the trillions we have wasted in worsening lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, served our security needs? Or stopped the refugee flow North? Washington security experts need to develop some real-world thinking about the implications of how peoples’ lives around the world will impact the rest of us.

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim World; his latest book is Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan. (Amazon, Kindle) grahamefuller.com

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9 comments for “Finding Security by Helping the ‘South’

  1. March 1, 2016 at 11:39

    Seems to me that this is just making a distinction about US foreign policy when it has been aiming at control in ‘the South’ for half a century now since it creation of a new territory in the Chagos archipelago at Diego Garcia.

    This allowed it to keep up with Soviet and Chinese threats in the Middle East while exploiting the potential of Africa and South Eat Asia.

    Sounds like the French saying about change and things remaining the same!

  2. Erik
    March 1, 2016 at 09:56

    I should add that the best remedy for imperial bullying is a higher federal order, granting every individual an equal share of the proceeds from all natural resources, requiring joint military action against all military or economic attack or subversion, and establishing federal programs to resolve border issues, ensure free public education, etc. Of course this does not preclude free market economies or a wage incentive system, it merely regulates those in the public interest.

    The problem is getting there when the US has descended into a medieval tyranny of economic power.

    And the problem from there is ensuring that a world federation is not vulnerable to corruption at the top, as the US Constitution was vulnerable to dominance by the economic concentrations that did not exist when it was written.

  3. Erik
    March 1, 2016 at 09:31

    An excellent thesis, and one I have argued for many years. The security rationale for massive humanitarian aid is strong, for the US would have no organized enemies if it had spent most of its military budget since WWII on such aid, if it had built the roads, schools, and hospitals throughout the developing world.

    It is worth noting that a mere budget switch won’t work, because DC just dumps the cash into the hands of corrupt business punks to throw away, delivering only corruption and incompetence, murder and suffering. The projects must be administered entirely by US/NATO NGOs monitored closely and held to delivery of effective results, not useless structures and more cash payments. Those NGOs should be doing (with local employees) the social work, using the facilities, and studying and recommending the projects.

    But this vision of what might have been must primarily sharpen our understanding of the tyranny of money and business bully-boys who have overthrown democracy in the US, by controlling mass media and elections. That is why the richest nation does not have a humanitarian foreign or domestic policy. It is the reason that the ignorant voters do not understand this already, and quake in fear of every illusory demonic risk that the tyrants put before them to start another war, while they are robbed by the same tyrants.

    Those who hope for a sane future for the US must hope that the tyranny of economic power over the mass media and elections can be ended. That is the only way back to democracy, the only hope for humanitarian policies. It cannot be done with the tools of democracy, those same mass media and elections.

  4. dribble
    March 1, 2016 at 08:30

    There seem to be so many ex-CIA guys at Consortium News the only rational conclusion must be that this website must be in reality some sort of weird propaganda outlet. Surely one of the great unanswerable conundrums must be that if the rest of the CIA guys are as dumb as the ones that hang out here, how on earth did they manage 911?

    Mr Fuller is right. Lets not exert our imaginations trying to work out who’s to blame for all this refugee mess. It could be the US, NATO, Russia or China? Well, NATO is the US, so that’s one down. Russia and China? Nope, they had nothing to do with it. So was it the US military industrial warmonger system operating all by itself? Who would have guessed?

    Since the US is protected by the Atlantic Ocean, its difficult to see how third world refugees could be any sort of problem for that country, whether it be in the North or South. The refugees seem to not want to go to Russia either, its probably too cold. So that northern land is out as well. On the other hand, they all seem to end up in Europe, land of the instant welfare check, which for obvious reasons is probably a lot more important to them than geography.

    So lets apply the appropriate descriptives. What are the refugees fleeing from: American warmongering. Where are they going? European welfare agencies.

  5. dribble
    March 1, 2016 at 08:26

    There seem to be so many ex-CIA guys at Consortium News the only ration conclusion must be that it is in reality some sort of weird propaganda outlet. Surely one of the great unanswerable conundrums must be that if the rest of the CIA guys are as dumb as the ones that hang out here, how on earth did they manage 911?

    Mr Fuller is right. Lets not exert our imaginations trying to work out who’s to blame for all this refugee mess. It could be the US, NATO, Russia or China? Well, NATO is the US, so that’s one down. Russia and China? Nope, they had nothing to do with it. So was it the US military industrial warmonger system operating all by itself? Who would have guessed?

    Since the US is protected by the Atlantic Ocean, its difficult to see how third world refugees could be any sort of problem for that country, whether it be in the North or South. The refugees seem to not want to go to Russia either, its probably too cold. So that northern land is out as well. On the other hand, they all seem to end up in Europe, land of the instant welfare check, which for obvious reasons is probably a lot more important to them than geography.

    So lets apply the appropriate descriptives. What are the refugees fleeing from: American warmongering. Where are they going? European welfare agencies.

    • Secret Agent
      March 7, 2016 at 01:34

      There are so many CIA guys because Consortium News is a limited hangout.

  6. john francis lee
    March 1, 2016 at 04:16

    I must admit that I am struck dumb by your embrace of this CIA man … the godfather of Iran-Contra, of al-CIAduh, the man who brought the Tsarnaevs into the USA to be trained as terrorists to attack Russian in Chechnya/Dagestan … the guy starts pumping his new line and you give him a platform!

    Wake up! CIA men never die, they just make new, cosmodemonic plans.

    Save your credibility. Lose Graham Fuller!

    • David Smith
      March 1, 2016 at 12:26

      I do not presume to speak for Mr. Parry, but IMO you do not get his subtle mind. Consortium is not a pseudo-left propaganda site like CounterPunch, where precious opinions are massaged. The thesis of the articles are intended to generate a polemic in the comments; which, unfortunately, do not always reach the level of dialectic. Articles on disparate subjects are linked under the surface. Mr. Parry speaks to us as a Zen master speaks, not to inoculate with dogma but to get the mind moving independently. He is certainly aware Fuller is a CIA “past master”, and the funny business a ” past master” is up to.

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