by Dr. Tony Beam
The Greenville News, January 29, 2012
The eyes of the nation have been on our fair state for the past couple of weeks, as the Republican candidates for president crisscrossed from I-95 to I-26 to I-85, shaking the hands of every voter they could find along the way. South Carolina turned out to be a make-or-break state for a few of the candidates, and our primary was a great opportunity for our citizens to influence the future direction of our state and our nation.
Looking at the instability we see around the world today, one thing I want the fine men still running for president to not forget is their fundamental responsibility to ensure the United States remains a leader on the global stage. The fact is American global leadership is essential to our national security, our economic prosperity, and our most central values.
Our top military leaders have made clear that by investing a small amount — just over 1 percent of our overall budget — in development and diplomacy programs, we can prevent conflicts before they start, fight terrorism and international crime, promote stability, and thereby keep our service members out of harm’s way. The best war is the one we never have to fight, and in today’s dangerous world, that means utilizing all the foreign policy and national security tools we have available in order to keep our country safe.
There is another issue on voters’ minds this election season, though. In addition to keeping our families safe, Americans are looking for leaders who can get our economy moving again. It may sound surprising to some, but American engagement abroad helps create jobs here at home.
In the Upstate, we know the value of international investment as companies like BMW and Michelin have brought in millions of dollars and thousands of jobs right here in our community. Local businesses here depend on access to the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States in order to grow and create new jobs; and in fact, one in five jobs in South Carolina depends on international trade. Considering the world’s fastest-growing markets are in the developing world, our economic growth depends on our investment there.
So while we know U.S. global leadership helps keep us safe and creates jobs here at home, it produces something deeper and more fundamental for all Americans. The United States is at its best when we are sharing our values of freedom, liberty and democracy with the world. Our development and diplomacy programs communicate these values and save lives in all corners of the globe.
One only has to look at the devastating famine currently ravaging the Horn of Africa to see the critical importance of American leadership. Some 13 million men, women and children are at risk of starvation — that’s about three times the entire population of our state. I take seriously the admonition to care “for the least of these” and believe our life-saving intervention in this strategically critical region is nothing less than a moral obligation.
These days, everyone is looking for places to cut back, but even in difficult economic times, America’s values endure. The world must see that our basic principles cannot be eroded by recession, and that we must allocate adequate resources to continue our successful global development and anti-poverty efforts abroad.
President Ronald Reagan described America as a shining city on a hill, a beacon of freedom and democracy for the entire world to see. This was more than just rhetoric to him — it was a deep-seated belief in America’s role as an engaged global leader.
President Reagan took action by signing international security and foreign assistance legislation into law, saying at the time, “The ultimate importance to the United States of our security and development assistance programs cannot be exaggerated.”
No matter which candidate takes the oath of office next January, it is my deep belief that he should continue this proud legacy by standing up for U.S global engagement. When America is a leader in the world, we are stronger and safer here at home — and that is a platform we can all get behind.
Dr. Tony Beam is the vice president of Student Services and Christian Worldview at North Greenville University and the host of Christian Worldview Today. He is a member of the State Advisory Committee for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.