In the past month, President Obama has implemented bold policy initiatives to reform America’s faltering economy, health care system, and education. Though he promised during his campaign to double foreign assistance by 2015, the President has tread cautiously in his effort to address global economic disparities. However, ignoring the impact of hunger and poverty abroad can pose significant risks of their own.

Setting aside the obvious moral imperative for Obama to fulfill his inaugural promise to provide smart assistance to the world’s impoverished, it is crucial for President Obama to quickly begin implementing efficient aid policies in the developing world for reasons of national security. As trade becomes more and globalized, so too do sophisticated modes of technology which allow for quicker means of communication and underground mechanisms for weapons distribution. Poverty easily breeds resentment. And, as we all know, resentment is prime fodder for terrorism, civil strife, and regional wars.

In a recent report by the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, scholars tackled the importance of economic growth in developing countries:

“Over the long term, a failure to enable agricultural growth will not only greatly limit the potential of Sub-Saharan African and South Asian economies to contribute to global prosperity, but likely mire us in unending regional conflicts and multiply our political and security threats. States that cannot feed their own people will tend to fail, opening the way for civil wars among armed militia groups or the development of new sanctuaries for terror groups that have sworn to do harm to America and its friends. Costly international peacekeeping interventions are a likely result.”

In the wake of WWII, United States policy makers united to restore economic vitality to war-torn Europe. They understood that a monumental piece of legislation, like the Marshall Plan, which pledged to rebuild the destroyed foundations of the continent, would be needed to repel future wars. As a result of their efforts, the period between 1948-1952 allegedly saw the fastest economic growth in European history.

Now, in 2009, with the dangers of climate change and destabilizing refugee crises just on the horizon for the world, similarly swift, bold, innovative international policy is undeniably necessary. In the past decade, under a new neo-conservative vision, we launched wars to forcefully instill democracies and Western-style governments in countries where we were not welcome.  We put the economic fates of these two nations in the hands of greedy private contractors. We sent our militaries into the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to fight an elusive enemy. And today, we reap the consequences: an even angrier, more unstable Middle East and a nuclear Asian subcontinent on the verge of collapse.

These haunting statistics from a new report at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs are just a glimpse of what is to come if action is not taken in Africa:

“If climate change continues and if adequate investments in agricultural science are not made, the result will be an unprecedented tragedy. At the present time, roughly 45 percent of all agricultural production in Africa comes from lands that are hot, dry, and non-irrigated. Because of continued population growth, African farmers will not have the option of abandoning these lands. In fact, more farmers are moving onto drought-prone South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Difficult domestic challenges may lure the President to focus inward, but what we need right is far more than fiscal stability. We need a globe ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century–increasingly scarce resources, ethnic wars, failed states, and numerous other challenges globalization has brought, or wrought.

The President recently reasserted his commitment to global partnerships for development and security in his budgetary address to Congress. But, he should be wary of increasing funds through the same inefficient, profit-motivated policies of the past decades and take steps to ensure that our aid dollars (they come from taxes after all) are monitored more closely to adequately address the needs of legions of disaffected, furious, fundementally wronged populations abroad.

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