William Moseley on the Underlying Causes of Famine Citing only drought and political conflict in Somalia as the causes for the famine that threatens over 12 million in the Horn of Africa is "deeply flawed," writes Macalester African studies professor William Moseley in The Washington Post. Droughts come and go in Africa. Many people earn their living in the Horn of Africa through herding. Expansion of farm land, including land leases to foreign governments limits the range of herders and makes them more susceptible to drought. Additionally, farmers once stored surplus grain to use in years of drought but market economies have encouraged farmers to grow cash crops and abandon this strategy. "While the nations of the world must act immediately to address the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, working to ensure prompt delivery and distribution of food aid," he writes, "these same countries must also consider the underlying causes of the crisis as they seek longer-term solutions." USAID has suggested addressing the problem with improved seeds and fertilizers, but Moseley says this strategy is out of reach for the poorest farmers, and instead, suggests a return to more traditional practices. Food prices are likely to remain too high for Africans to depend on importing their grain, making the traditional farming techniques a better solution, he says.
George Melloan on Trimming Military Spending George Melloan begins by criticizing many of President Obama's major foreign policy decisions, from his announced timetable for leaving Afghanistan to his "unpersuasive threats" toward Iran in a Wall Street Journal column. "Fearful that the president's uncertain trumpet will embolden enemies and distance friends, [foreign policy hawks] deplore the planned troop drawdown in Afghanistan and other measures to reduce the U.S. military's forward presence." But Melloan notes that the U.S. budget is stretched and in such times, politicians tend to prefer cutting defense spending to entitlements, which are politically popular. "Certainly the U.S. could pursue its foreign policy objectives at far less cost than it does now," he says. "Government is inherently wasteful. Yet even as we cut fat, it is important to rethink how we use the muscle that remains." Americans should choose to do their work in unconventional ways, as in the initial phase of Afghanistan when they depended on dissident northern tribes to help them overthrow the Taliban. "Nation building" need not involve massive troop deployments. Melloan also suggests cutting foreign aid that often goes to troubled political leaders. "If the U.S. is to survive the coming budget crisis without severe damage to its political influence in the world," he writes, "it will need a smarter foreign policy."