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February 09, 2008

Increased Foreign Aid Is Not The Answer
Posted by David Shorr

Increased foreign aid is not the solution to our over-militarized, tone-deaf, go-it-alone, self-centered, self-absorbed, wildly unpopular foreign policy. Rather, it is a necessary but insufficient element of a policy overhaul, and I'm worried that too many progressives are starting to talk about it as a kind of elixir for America's depleted legitimacy. In a way, overemphasizing development assistance actually low-balls the extent of the problem. Deep-seated underdevelopment and the failure to boost standards of living is certainly a piece of it, but only a piece.

The broader problem is this: US foreign policy is out of touch with the perspectives, interests, concerns, and aspirations of the rest of the world. We are wrapped around the axle of our own particular way of looking at things. We've lost goodwill by demanding that everyone get with our program or be treated as part of the problem, and our ignorance about how things look to others makes it difficult to earn that goodwill back.

A favorite example. Was anyone else struck by Fred Thompson's campaign message that America needs someone tough like him to sit across the negotiating table from foreign leaders? Of course, that's exactly what we need, someone to stand up to all these other countries trying to take advantage of us!?! I think a sizable majority of Americans realize that our negative international image is a serious problem that undermines our interests and our security.

The next step is to connect the dots of all the different parts of this problem: how our own nuclear weapons and arms control policy have undercut nonproliferation, the corrosive effect of detainee policy on our human rights credibility, the urgent need for a new approach to democracy promotion, the urgency of building a relationship with different elements of Pakistani politics and society rather than betting everything on Musharraf, and yes, improving the circumstances of those left behind by globalization (abroad and at home).

I say this as someone who still believes in what the United States has to offer the world -- including public goods associated with American hard power -- but the first step towards respecting the rest of the world is respecting how much of an effort that will entail. In a rapidly changing and shrinking world, one of the main things will be to conscientiously and ambitiously upgrade our lines of communication with governments and people around the world. At any rate, it's going to take a lot more than an increase in foreign aid.


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This is a sincere, concise article.

I agree that more foreign aid alone is not the answer. In the past US foreign aid has been misused. I am talking about the USAID - US Agency for International Development. It is a well intended program. But in the 1960's and 1970's some countries - notably Chile, Argentina, and Greece - used AID funds to supplement their secret police and repress their own people under the guise of anti-communist or anti-opposition public security measures. US foreign aid money was used by those who raped, tortured, and killed their own people.

The author writes that the de