In mid-February, budget slashers in Congress
the ax to the U. S. Institute of Peace. Forty Democrats joined the
Republican majority in the House to cut off all funding for the USIP--a
potentially devastating blow to the bipartisan institute that was started under
President Reagan and funded mostly by Congress. It is up to the Senate to
salvage the work of this institute.
The USIP's $44 million annual operating budget
is dwarfed by the State Department's $54 billion--not to mention the $583
billion that goes each year to the Department of Defense. But the small cost of
the USIP pays great dividends. The USIP directly benefits American troops in
places like Afghanistan by helping resolve conflicts, and it is active in
Baghdad and other hot spots around the world. It's been estimated that the entire
budget of the USIP amounts to the cost of keeping 40 soldiers in Afghanistan
for one year.
As was reported
in the Century, USIP staff have been
especially skilled in recognizing how religious faith can be a source of
reconciliation, not just conflict. The USIP exemplifies the best sort of
leadership that the U.S. can offer the world-a leadership based not on weapons
but on a deep understanding of the sources of conflict. The nation's
budget-cutting is foolish and indiscriminate if it erases the work of the USIP.