This is a paper I wrote on US Foreign Policy. 4-27-2004. Enjoy.
United States Foreign Policy.
Should the United States stay on its present course of foreign policy; or should we, as a country, focus on ourselves and let the rest of the world fend for itself?
Judging from the events going on in the world today, the United States is not very popular. We are seen as opulent, wasteful, power-hungry, busy people who only care about money and our foreign policy reflects this. We feel that it’s alright to invade any country we want if their government is not following a plan we approve of. Or if we don’t invade, we’ll establish a peacekeeping force there ‘for their own good.’ (Mogidishu, Somolia – that turned out well.) We will put trade embargoes on countries we don’t agree with but let our biggest oil importer (Saudi Arabia) do what it wants even though there is just as much evidence of violence, and corruption there than in the “axis of evil.”
Much of our current foreign policy has its roots in the Cold War. After WWII the US supported many European countries financially to get them back on their feet. Many of these countries are our bigger trade partners now such as Britain and Germany. Then during the Cold War, we started supporting many second and third world countries to stop the spread of communism.
When the superpowers were vying for allies among poor countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the United States willingly provided food aid, health care and economic development assistance, the assumption being that if the U.S. didn’t, the Soviets would. It is no coincidence that since the height of the Cold War in the mid-1980’s, spending on international programs has been cut almost in half, when inflation is taken into account (CQ researcher).
It was also during this period after WWII that the United Nations came into being. Throughout its history, the UN has seen far more failures than successes. This organization was started to help foster world peace but it has failed to prevent or stop many of the conflicts that plagued the world in the recent centuries. The Korean War ended in 1953 with Korea still divided. From the 60’s to the 80’s, there were civil wars in Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, and El Salvador that were often seen as surrogate struggles in the Cold War, because the two superpowers supported the opposing sides. (CQ researcher) And just who was one of the main supporters in the UN? The United States! While the U.S. only gives little more than 1 percent of personnel for UN peacekeeping missions, we contribute more than $674,500,000 dollars a year for the UN’s budget and over 7 billion dollars on foreign aid.
At the moment, the United States has at least twenty ongoing military operations and just as many aid programs in the world today (global security.org). That is a lot of dollars leaving our country. Many people believe there is a good reason for this expenditure and that we should keep doing it.
AID (agency for international development) supporters say that many developing countries have been drawn along the road to democracy by AID, which provides about one-fifth of their revenues. “If you look at 1980, in our hemisphere there were only four democracies, and now all but one country – Cuba – has had at least one democratic election,” says Julia Taft, president of InterAction, an umbrella group of some 150 private, voluntary organizations. “We didn’t buy those democracies, but we helped them with development assistance programs. I find it very discouraging that after having made those investments over the years in holding up the values of democracy, the importance of open markets and of more equitable social programs, we are ready to say, ‘Well, thank you very much, we’re glad you’ve made all these changes, and now we’re going to go on and just care about ourselves (CQ researcher).”
There are also people who say that since we in the United States are so fortunate, it is our duty to provide support and assistance to the rest of the world. If there is a bitter civil war in a small African country, we should step in and stop it. Then provide aid for all of the refugees and money to stimulate businesses that were destroyed during the fighting. Many people feel a moral compulsion to give and help others, and that is a noble cause; but is that an excuse to spend 15% of the Federal budget overseas?
“We’ve reached a place in our foreign policy that we need to concentrate on what’s good for America and stop this business of handing out to governments all over the world money that they take and then vote against us in the United Nations.” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms said. “I have said for years that I don’t like foreign aid. I don’t like the concept of it. I think Congress ought to act on individual cases, upon individual recommendations by the president and the secretary of State (CQ researcher). “
This statement reflects a growing sentiment in U.S. government and in the general public.
“Development assistance has been a real failure,” says Bryan Johnson, a policy analyst for international economic affairs at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. In a study of 77 countries that have received U.S. development assistance for at least 35 years, Johnson conclude that 39 were no better off, in terms of economic growth, than they were before they began receiving the aid. ‘Of those 39 countries, fully half are actually worse off,’ Johnson says (CQ researcher).”
In this view, foreign aid impedes development by protecting corrupt or inept governments from the harsh realities of today’s global economy, which rewards the most efficient, free-market systems. In a country like Tanzania, where 50% of the government budget comes from foreign assistance, there are no incentives whatsoever to open their borders to international trade and investment, to establish a judicial system that protects contract rights, or to privatize their banks. (CQ researcher)
So it can be seen that while depleting the U.S. budget, giving development assistance and aid to other countries can actually stunt their economic growth. It’s a lose/lose situation. It is time that we drastically decrease our foreign aid and military operations. Now that doesn’t mean that we, as Americans, stop giving money to the poor around the world. It just means that we stop using government dollars to do it. If someone feels strongly about it, they can give from their own pockets.
Bryan Johnson also contends that private charities are less wasteful than AID in administering the distribution of humanitarian assistance. “Even private charities have come under some criticism for waste because they say that some 20 cents out of every dollar stays in the United States to administer the programs,” he says. “But in the U.S. foreign aid program, 70-80 cents stay in the United States, which means that only 20-30 cents actually gets to the people abroad. So from a humanitarian angle, foreign aid is a disaster (CQ researcher).”
This is why it’s better to give directly to organizations like World Vision and the American Red Cross.
The other big side to our world relations is our military deployment. Most Americans can agree that the military was justified in going into Afghanistan to take down the supporters of the terrorist attacks on 9/11; but now we are spending 3.9 billion dollars a month to stay over in Iraq. (The Olympian) This is hardly the best use of the United States money. Just think what could be done with that money if it were applied to another program inside the U.S. like Social Security, health care, or the homeless.
The old foreign policy system just doesn’t seem to be working and it would be better for everyone if we decreased or completely stopped our federal aid and military operations around the world. The United States would have more money to apply to problems we face at home, we would have our loved ones in the armed forces back with us instead of being stationed in 20 different countries worldwide (let alone, them killing people from 20 different countries), and it would force countries with struggling economies to adapt and improve. It’s a win/win situation. So write to your congressperson and tell them what we need to do. Reduce foreign aid and withdraw our military. Let’s improve America where we need it most, in America!
“Iraq Costs could hit $600 Billion” Alan Fram. August 12, 2003 . April 26, 2004 <http://www.theolympian.com>
“Policing the world for First Freedoms (World Watcher)” Llewellyn D. Howell. September 2003. April 20, 2004 <http://web7.infotrac.galegroup.com>
“Reassessing Foreign Aid” Mary H. Cooper. September 27, 1996. April 13, 2004 <http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/>
“The United Nations and Global Security” David Masci. February 27, 2004. April 13, 2004 <http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/>