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General Marshall and the American Tradition of Help

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It was on this day in history, November 10th, that former Army Chief George Marshall went before Congress to talk about winning the peace after World War II. Marshall, then Secretary of State, was calling for aid to war-torn Europe.

The destruction caused by World War II left much of Europe in ruins. It was a daunting task to rebuild. But Europe was also hit by other disasters after the war, including harsh winters and severe drought. As the winter of 1947-1948 approached, countries in Europe were facing shortages of food and other supplies.

Marshall talked about a two-pronged approach for helping Europe. One was the long-term reconstruction program, to become known as the Marshall Plan. The other was an interim aid program to keep countries afloat until reconstruction could occur.

Marshall said, “it will do little good to discuss the merits of a recovery program for Europe if in the meantime political and economic conditions have deteriorated to a point where such a program could not possibly succeed.”

Marshall called for aid for Austria, Italy and France “to permit the people of these three countries to continue to eat, to work, and to survive the winter.” Interim aid passed the Congress and set the stage for the subsequent Marshall Plan. Both were huge successes in American foreign policy.

Today, we face similar situations with regard to countries in desperate need as winter approaches. There is flood-ravaged Pakistan where a U.S. donation has come through to maintain food supplies for the next couple of months at least.

Afghanistan is another country that could face food shortages because of low funding for the UN World Food Programme. There is a whole system of child feeding and rehabilitation in Afghanistan that has not gotten the resources it needs to succeed. Even Iraq is facing shortages for its food programs for women and children.

In Benin, widespread flooding has struck that country, destroying homes and livelihoods. Intervention is needed now to prevent malnutrition from taking hold in the children, and to start recovery of the damaged agricultural sector.

These are some of the countries that need aid for this coming winter. These countries also need long-term plans for building up food security. This will take a renewed commitment on the part of the U.S. and other governments toward making food security a top priority in foreign policy.

Marshall certainly understood this, as food was the foundation for the interim aid and long-term recovery programs he discussed on this day in history. As Marshall put it, “It is in the American tradition to help…we can act for our own good by acting for the world’s good.”

Visit the George C. Marshall Foundation web site.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.
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