International Starvation

World Hunger

Is it America’s Fault?

By Daniel Muniz

Can starvation and malnutrition be eliminated? For decades, numerous relief agencies and religious groups have grappled with ways to eradicate this pernicious form of human suffering but hunger still persists on a global scale.

However, one organization claims that not only can world hunger be wiped out; it can be done solely by the United States. Written as a bullet on the home page of the Borgen Project (www.BorgenProject.org) is this provocative statement:

“Eliminate Starvation and Malnutrition ($19 billion)”

Is 19 billion dollars all that it takes to truly eliminate world hunger? In fact, the Borgen Project gives tantalizing figures to other pressing global problems:

• Provide Shelter ($21 billion)
• Remove Landmines ($4 billion)
• Eliminate Nuclear Weapons ($7 billion)
• Refugee Relief ($5 billion)
• Eliminate Illiteracy ($5 billion)
• Provide Clean, Safe Water ($10 billion)
• Stabilize Population ($10.5 billion)
• Prevent Soil Erosion ($24 billion)

The Borgen Project even proposes a novel solution on how to unravel all of the world’s problems. Instead of creating another relief agency, why not go to a place that has almost unlimited resources. Stated in their web site:

“Even multi-million dollar relief agencies are limited in what they can accomplish. The U.S. government with its unprecedented budget is not. The nation has the resources to eliminate some of the top global issues of our time. Rather than create another relief agency we decided to address the bigger picture, the lack of political will and the lack of public knowledge that allows these pressing issues to continue to exist during the most prosperous time-period in history.”

And for contrast, the Borgen Project tosses in Department of Defense figures on appropriations and weapons programs totaling $416 billion. In addition, their web site is littered with quotes from American military figures claiming how money spent on war could have already solved the world’s problems.

The implication is obvious.

Out of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year on Defense, $19 billion is chump change compared to ending world hunger and other pressing global issues.

And the inference is equally obvious. The United States must be a selfish country because world problems such as nuclear disarmament can easily be wiped out with the stroke of a pen if only there was the impetus to do so.

The compare and contrast from the Borgen Project suggests that even selecting only one pressing world problem such as eliminating starvation can be solved from monies allocated to our massive defense budget.

Let’s be honest and put all the fancy wordsmithing aside. This “unprecedented budget” that the Borgen Project wants to tap into is your wallet. This resource does not come from some vault of leftover money that is gathering dust but rather from the U.S. taxpayer. This organization isn’t the first outfit that wants to rearrange the United States budget to solve the world’s problems. Plenty of groups have already shaken the ultimate money tree known as the American taxpayer.

But what is disingenuous about the Borgen Project is that by comparing and contrasting the Defense appropriations to ending global problems, the tacit assertion is made that our military is sucking up all of our nation’s resources that could otherwise be spent on more egalitarian ends. And by only attacking the Defense budget, the Borgen Project implies that money spent for Defense is the sole source of waste in our government. That is a false assertion.

Conservative and even liberal ideologies profusely acknowledge that waste is rampant in all levels of government, not only by the Department of Defense. In some cases, fraud and deception is actually legal especially when it comes to municipal and state governments attempting to acquire federal money. The Department of Defense does not own exclusive rights to waste and mismanagement when other bureaucracies are scrutinized. There are plenty of other governmental agencies that have first dibs on wasting money.

Unfortunately, by making untruthful and outright dishonest innuendoes about the defense budget squandering the nation’s resources, the Borgen Project immediately limits itself to an audience who loathes the military. Huge constituencies of both parties have served in our armed forces. Congress is filled with veterans who have served with valor from both sides of the ideological spectrum.

The proclivities of certain high profile extreme elements of the leadership of the Democratic Party gives the illusion to the adherents of the Borgen Project that they actually have access to a very large sympathetic audience. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are plenty of Democrats who have either honorably served in the military or have plenty of friends or relatives who are currently in or have been in the service. To them, the military is not a cesspool of shame but rather a source of pride.

Granted, many constituents of the Democratic Party may have more of an openness than Republicans to listen to what the Borgen Project has to say but the unflattering way our armed forces is depicted by them will not go very far.

And although many Democratic leaders do engage in such inflammatory rhetoric, what they practice is totally different than what they preach. With rare exceptions (like John Kerry), Democrats will fight to save Defense dollars especially when it is in their own district which the Borgen Project recognizes.

As a result, the first mistake of the Borgen Project is that they have in effect limited themselves to a membership of groups of malevolent radicals who loathe the military instead of attempting to appeal to a huge mainstream segment of the population. Overall, there really is a very large audience of discerning people who are authentically interested in resolving many of the world’s most pressing problems. They are conservative as well as liberal but they are also interested in practical methods that does not demean or defame their country.

The next mistake of the Borgen Project is that they engage in a form of historical amnesia.

Our defense budget didn’t mushroom to this size by chance. In fact, by the turn of the twentieth century, America was very much an isolationist country with pacifist tendencies. In the previous century, Europe had been unceasingly wracked by inconclusive wars that made the United States rather reluctant to enter into World War I.

The failure of the Versailles Treaty made many Americans more wary of getting involved in another European conflict.

However, World War II did pull isolationist America back into war and it did create a massive war machine that defeated tyrannical and oppressive regimes. But the threat to freedom never ended at the last days of World War II. America never did return to its isolationist inclination because the Cold War immediately took shape. This country maintained its massive defense budget in response to the growing menace of the Soviet Union.

This historical amnesia never seems to come to play in the minds that loathe the United States and its military.

The next assumption is equally as disingenuous as it is duplicitous. Suppose that one day, an administration, regardless of party affiliation decided to write out a check for 19 billion dollars drawn from our treasury and then disbursed the proceeds directly to the countries in which famine is present.

Can the leaders of governments, whose countries are being ravaged by starvation, actually distribute such massive aid in an equitable manner?

Or at least in a way that NGOs (non-governmental organizations) would be capable to distribute such aid.

In other words, these governmental leaders whose countries are experiencing famine would have to be sane rational individuals who are truly interested in the overall welfare of their citizenry. And such leaders would have to exist in every country in which appalling starvation conditions exist.

The stark reality is that a number of governmental leaders of impoverished counties care more about their own well being and their grip to power than the good of their people.

For instance, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has greatly restricted and impeded the activities of relief agencies in his famine-threatened country. In fact, he even claims that hunger and malnutrition does not exist in Zimbabwe. What was once the breadbasket of Africa is now teetering on the brink of starvation.

Does Robert Mugabe care about his people? Not really.

Can the Borgen Project actually sit down with the Mugabe government and discuss a logical plan to distribute food to his starving people?

Quite a few relief agencies with decades of experience have already tried but have met with little success and the Borgen Project would not do much better even if it had a suitcase full of cash. The Mugabe government would be happy to take money and relief supplies but their regime has consistently shown that they will only distribute aid to members of their own political party and its sympathizers. People who don’t conform to the government’s ideology will continue to go on starving.

Is Robert Mugabe any different than any other totalitarian governments?

With cash in hand and relief supplies in tow, oppressive authoritarian regimes have historically thwarted efforts to feed its own starving people. And all the noble intentions of the Borgen Project is not going to change that.

In addition, even educated leaders of democracies succumb to irrational policies.

Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa as well as many members of the African National Congress (ANC) subscribe to the conspiracy theory that the CIA created AIDS to destroy undesirable segments of the human race. Mbeki’s government thwarted efforts to treat infected citizens with lifesaving medications because of the belief that white-owned drug companies were experimenting on Africans.

Although educated in England, Mbeki is a devoted communist who trained extensively in the former Soviet Union. He, as well as many others in the ANC, views the West with great suspicion and mistrust. For many governmental leaders, ideology will always come before the wellbeing of their own people. And again the Borgen Project and others like it are not going to change that kind of mentality. Quite a few experienced people have already tried.

Fortunately for South Africa, after a mammoth global public outcry, the government did finally relent and allow life saving treatments to be distributed to their dying people but they are still suspicious of western democracies and assistance.

The leaders of many of these impoverished countries are not exactly sensible and sound people who can be dealt with in an intelligent and reasonable manner. In fact, many countries would not be in poverty in the first place if it were not for their corrupt leadership and mismanaged bureaucracies.

Countries like Mexico, Venezuela, Angola, Nigeria, and plenty of others have vast natural resources such as oil but the peoples of these nations rarely reap any benefits of such wealth because of fraudulent leaders and inept governments.

Quite a few corrupt politicians and dictators have already squandered enormous sums of wealth from their natural resources.

Handing out more money to these inane governments is not going to solve their problems.

The next mistake for the Borgen Project and other similar organizations is that they refuse to acknowledge that a lot of our tax dollars have already been spent to eradicate such miseries as hunger and disease. And a number of dramatic successes have already occurred on a huge global scale.

America has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and helped heal the sick.

America has already spent a lot of our tax dollars to alleviate human suffering and there are plenty of accomplishments that this country should be proud of even though these triumphs are rarely if ever highlighted by poverty warriors such as the Borgen Project.

The sad fact is that many foreign governments are consumed with a lust for greed and selfishness that produces a sheer disregard for the welfare of their own people. And no amount of money can change that regardless of how well intentioned it is.

America is a generous nation that has done lots of good. And it has the freedom to admit its own mistakes and a democratically elected government that allows the opportunities to correct its own errors.

Instead of making Americans feel uncomfortable with their generosity, these corrupt and misguided regimes ought to be ones under the microscope squirming in the hot seat; not us.

Instead of shaming the United States with purported moral faults such as greed and selfishness, the Borgen Project and other similar organizations ought to devote their energies to shaming the crooked leaders of these impoverished nations. The real enemy to many of the world’s pressing problems is not the United States, but the dark side of human nature.