The Threat of Global Poverty

Issue: Spring 2006

When Americans see televised images of bone-thin children with distended bellies, their humanitarian instincts take over. They don't typically look at UNICEF footage and perceive a threat that could destroy our way of life. Yet global poverty is not solely a humanitarian concern. In real ways, over the long term, it can threaten U.S. national security. Poverty erodes weak states' capacity to prevent the spread of disease and protect the world's forests and watersheds--some of the global threats Maurice Greenberg noted in the Winter 2005 issue. It also creates conditions conducive to transnational criminal enterprises and terrorist activity, not only by making desperate individuals potentially more susceptible to recruitment, but also, and more significantly, by undermining the state's ability to prevent and counter those violent threats.

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