If you want to know what a ‘bang for your buck’ means take a look at the foreign aid budget that has been a credible component of our foreign policy for decades. In times of peace, and in times of conflict the monies that are used for a variety of ideas and causes has solidified America’s position in the world while assisting those around the globe who need support and guidance.
Foreign aid is an essential aspect in our relationship with the world. Too few, I suggest, understand that fact.
From assistance to our allies which helps to maintain a world in which we are more secure, to aiding in the development of more markets overseas, and creating friendships in the court of world opinion all lead any rational person to understand why foreign aid matters.
I am always reminded when the topic of foreign aid comes up to the actions that Congressman Richard Nixon took in 1946 in the face of a very isolationist House of Representatives when it came to foreign aid. There was a need in Europe that required American involvement, and RN, as part of the Herter Commission traveled to Europe to make an economic assessment. In the weeks that followed Nixon would be a strong advocate of the Marshall plan.
But it did not come easy.
As RN penned in “The Memoirs of Richard Nixon” his own polling showed that 75% of his constituents were “resolutely opposed” to foreign aid. But Congressman Nixon understood the facts, and the needs for economic aid to Europe. He prepared newspaper columns and went out on the hustings to promote the issue of foreign aid. It made sense then, and history of course shows RN was correct.
Who now will wage the same fight for foreign aid dollars in light of the economic hammer pounding down on the federal budget? A very short-sighted notion to cut the foreign aid budget is being discussed, and if allowed to go unchecked we will feel the negative effects of this idea.
The financial crunch threatens to undermine a foreign policy described as “smart power” by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, one that emphasizes diplomacy and development as a complement to American military power. It also would begin to reverse the increase in foreign aid that President George W. Bush supported after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as part of an effort to combat the roots of extremism and anti-American sentiment, especially in the most troubled countries.
Given the relatively small foreign aid budget — it accounts for 1 percent of federal spending over all — the effect of the cuts could be disproportional.
The State Department already has scaled back plans to open more consulates in Iraq, for example. The spending trend has also constrained support for Tunisia and Egypt, where autocratic leaders were overthrown in popular uprisings. While many have called for giving aid to these countries on the scale of the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild European democracies after World War II, the administration has been able to propose only relatively modest investments and loans, and even those have stalled in Congress.
“There is a democratic awakening in places that have never dreamed of democracy,” Mrs. Clinton said on Friday. “And it is unfortunate that it’s happening at a historic time when our own government is facing so many serious economic challenges, because there’s no way to have a Marshall Plan for the Middle East and North Africa.”