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How About We Stop Being Stupid?

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States traveled to Afghanistan last week to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement with President Karzai, and while this agreement is intended to signal the beginning of the end of the Afghanistan war, instead it actually looks like it could lock the United States into a military commitment for years to come.

The agreement calls for our Armed Forces to be involved beyond 2014 in the ``training, equipping, advising, and sustaining'' of Afghan security forces so that Afghanistan can combat terrorism and ``secure and defend itself against internal and external threats.''

The irony in that statement, Mr. Speaker, is rich. When are we going to realize that the internal threats facing Afghanistan gather more strength with every day that American boots are on the ground? Insurgents are energized and animated. They bolster their recruitment and increase their numbers because of their resentment over a U.S. military occupation that is now in its 11th year--11th year. We will not bring stability to Afghanistan until we fundamentally alter our bilateral relationship to emphasize peaceful, civil engagement over military engagement. The good thing about this Strategic Partnership Agreement, however, is that it does include provisions relating to democracy promotion, economic development, and assisting in the reforming of the Afghans' governing institutions. These programs need to be the centerpiece of our Afghan strategy, along with major investments in development aid across the board.
The war won't truly wind down until the White House commits--I mean commits--to spending more on diplomacy and more on development and reconstruction than they're spending on the military occupation. We need a dramatic shift in resources--more to rebuild Afghan infrastructure, more to fight poverty, more to reduce infant and maternal mortality, more to send children, especially girls, to school. As long as we maintain a military presence in Afghanistan, as long as fighting is the focal point of our relationship, we will be preventing and undermining the important humanitarian work that needs to be done.

Mr. Speaker, investing in the Afghan people is not just the right thing to do because of our common humanity, it is the smart thing to do from the standpoint of our national security objectives. That's why I call my plan SMART Security. It needs to be implemented not just in Afghanistan, but in other unstable parts of the world where terrorism poses a grave threat.

Thomas Friedman of The New York Times is on board with the principles behind SMART Security. In a column last week, he talked about how a $13 million scholarship program for Lebanese students is doing a lot more to advance our values in that country than $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt. He quotes a schoolteacher in Jordan who talks about how the former is for ``making people'' and how the latter is for ``killing people.''

What is the point of our engagement, Mr. Speaker, with the rest of the world--to make people or to kill people? That's a very important question for us to answer. As Friedman puts it:

So how about we stop being stupid? How about we stop sending planes and tanks to a country where half the women and a quarter of the men can't read, and start sending scholarships instead?

How about we stop being stupid, Mr. Speaker? How about we make the shift to a SMART Security approach? How about we make that shift now and begin that shift with bringing our troops home?

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