John Marks: Local security starts with foreign policy

April 5, 2012

John R. Marks III
My View

With U.S. troops finally out of Iraq and our involvement in Afghanistan perhaps coming to a close, our nation begins a new chapter in its relationship with the rest of the world. Yet many Americans are uncertain about the role we will play and how we plan to maintain a position of global leadership.

America’s role won’t be determined in our embassy in China, or on the front lines in Afghanistan or at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Global leadership begins at home — here in Tallahassee and in towns and neighborhoods across the country.

Each of us must have an interest in America’s security. Each of us is affected by global events, and I am proud to be working with the Make US Strong campaign and the Truman National Security Project on this important issue. As a member of the Board of Trustees for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I am also working with other mayors to address global challenges and their effect upon our cities.

Our world has become vastly more challenging. The focus of America’s national security policy has shifted from the dominant threat of the Soviet Union during the Cold War to a multitude of weaker, smaller regimes and elusive terrorist groups. In addition, climate change is raising sea levels, creating drought and increasing food shortages. As if this weren’t enough, diseases are becoming more resistant to antibiotics and continue to spread throughout the developing world.

At the same time, technological advances have created an increasingly interconnected world. Goods, services, information and people travel across borders with more ease than ever before. While globalization may offer a societal benefit, it also means that discord in the developing world more readily affects us here at home. Strife in countries such as Somalia and Yemen breeds new generations of terrorists who can undermine our own security — directly or indirectly — here in Tallahassee.

Clearly, these dangers threaten global stability and our safety at home, but a lesson from the Greatest Generation can provide guidance. As an officer in the Air Force during the 1970s, I witnessed the success of the Marshall Plan and the strong ties it forged between the United States and other nations. The Greatest Generation knew that winning World War II wasn’t enough; we needed to rebuild Europe and Japan. They realized that the best way to ensure global stability and security at home was to take the lead in development abroad.

International development programs assist other nations in building prosperity, establishing responsible, transparent governments, and developing quality education for their children. Development is not charity, but a long-term investment in global stability that keeps Americans safe.

International development, such as building roads, water-treatment plants and schools, is much cheaper than sending soldiers abroad or dealing with the aftermath of terrorist attacks. Here in Tallahassee, we know that after-school programs for kids can keep them from joining gangs and entering a life of crime. In places such as the Horn of Africa, building schools keeps those kids from joining al-Qaida.

The future presents daunting challenges, but as Americans we have the ability, more than anyone else in the world, to shape the course of the 21st century. Let’s honor the legacy of the Greatest Generation by following their example, investing in international development to maintain global stability and keep America safe.

Additional Facts

Today at 6 p.m. at Sittig Hall, 301 S. Bronough St., Mayor John Marks and state Reps. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda and Alan Williams will welcome U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate Janessa Goldbeck. She is bicycling on the 4,200-mile Cycle For Security Tour, part of the Truman Project’s Make Us Strong campaign, a movement dedicated to promoting international development. Go to:


John R. Marks III is mayor of Tallahassee. Contact him at