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Today’s Defense with Congressman Barney Frank

On Thursday the 15th of March, I had the pleasure of going to see Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank at the Harvard Club on Commonwealth Ave. He was delivering a speech titled “The Deficit and Defense” and it was to an audience of around 100 individuals representing both the private and public sector.

Mr. Frank’s speech was geared towards explaining how our inflated military budget, which is currently around $700 billion including the war in Afghanistan, contributes to the national deficit, which is near $1 trillion, and the long term costs of servicing this debt. Our military spending is greater than the next 14 highest spending countries in the world and accounts for over 45% of all the worlds military expenditures. While Mr. Frank is a great supporter of our troops and wants them to have the absolute best equipment and weaponry available, it was clear in his talk that he firmly believes that today’s military strategy and structure is from an era that no longer exists.

The United States built up vast arrays of conventional weaponry (tanks, bombers, artillery, etc) during the cold war that was available in case the unthinkable happened. Today, our enemies have changed in a dramatic way. They are no longer confined by borders, international law, or concern themselves with the worries or desires of the international community.
Mr. Frank made it clear in his remarks that not only is there plenty of potential for savings and gained efficiencies at the Pentagon but that it will be of necessity as the United States is forced to make budget cuts in order to pay for the tremendous debt that has been accumulated over the years. Mr. Frank highlighted the recent effectiveness of international operations in Libya, Kosovo, and other involvements in several other conflict zones as proof that multi-nation coordinated action is the most cost effective and equitable solutions to most of the threats that we should expect in the decades to come.
The United Nations was put on center stage during the revolution in Libya and Mr. Frank could not stress enough how important it is that future engagements are handled in a similar manner. The United States did not enter by themselves, they did not commit to a never ending battle, and they did not enter without consulting the international community, creating clear objectives, and defining an exit strategy. This serves as a template for future administrations and is an extremely effective option for the United States and others as we embark on an more connected, boundless, and inter-dependent world.
At the end of Mr. Frank’s rousing speech I was fortunate enough to be able to ask whether he supported the United States funding UNESCO once again, regardless of their stance on Palestine, and he stated that he did and that he was hopeful funding for the UN would become a greater importance to the Congress over the coming years. While Mr. Frank is not expected to run for re-election and is hoping to have a quieter life with his husband in their home in Maine, I think it is clear that Mr. Frank believes in the importance of the UN now and it’s even greater importance in the future.
Here at UNA-GB, the advocacy committee will continue to engage our members and elected officials alike on supporting the UN and its mission.  We hope you join us!
– Nat Watson, UNA-GB Advocacy Co-Chair

Memorializing Peace

This past weekend was not only a weekend for family barbecues, beach, fun and the sun but was a weekend for recognizing those that both defend our country, as well as those that defend the peacekeeping mission of the United Nations.

The weekend started with the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on Sunday May 29th, recognizing the efforts of the peacekeepers that work to spread peace throughout countries, as well as enforce and make adaptations to already existing regulations within countries in order to have an overall more peaceful society.   This is done through the actions of the UN Police, where in some situations they are given the task of being the main force of regulation for countries in need.  Currently, there are 120,000 brave men and women from 115 countries serving as UN peacekeepers in 14 of the most difficult regions in the world!  The 29th is intended to recognize both peacekeepers that have and continue to spread peace throughout the world, as well as those that have in the past, including those who tragically lost their lives doing so.

In fact, the danger associated with being a UN Peacekeeper was displayed this past week with an attack on Friday in Lebanon (May 27th) that injured six UN Peacekeepers from Italy as well as two Lebanese civilians.   The UN Peacekeepers were members of the UNIFIL the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, whose missions are related to helping the Lebanese military and enforcing peace within the country.  Despite the attack, the United Nations has continued to enforce their mission of peacekeeping and helping civilians in Lebanon that are in need.

This day of recognition is closely linked to Memorial Day, a U.S. national holiday which occurs at the end of each May, meant for recognizing those that fought and defended our country and lost their lives, as well as the “unofficial” start of the summer. Originally referred to as Decoration Day starting in 1888, it is a national holiday that was started in New York in 1866 after the Civil War to recognize those that had lost their lives fighting in the war as it continues to recognize those that fought and lost their lives in war after.

We look to recognize and appreciate the efforts of both the UN Peacekeepers and the national military, both who defend important missions and risk their lives to protect and defend those around the world.

You can do something right now to support the UN Peacekeepers and their mission of spreading peace throughout the world, by visiting the “UN Peacekeepers” link above (or Click Here), which gives you the opportunity to write a letter to a UN Peacekeeper and thank them for their efforts in spreading peace worldwide.  We can also continue to do our part every day to work to make this world more peaceful and just!