Thursday, January 27, 2011

USAID to the Chopping Block?

So, 165 Republicans/conservatives (I don't know what to call these people anymore) in the House have decided that in order to save some dollars, we should just go ahead and defund USAID (disclosure: the org for which I work receives over 2/3rds of its funding from the US Government).

I've been struggling to write about this, but luckily, Allie already wrote a great post about it over on her blog. So fortuitous.

She argues that, apart from its moral implications, foreign aid has always been part and parcel of American defense and diplomacy. The two biggest recipients of USAID right now are Afghanistan and Pakistan. USAID was created and expanded to stop the spread of Communism:

In fact, this ideological foundation was so significant to USAID that the program crumbled along with the Berlin Wall and the fall of communism. Without the obvious connection between security objectives and social and economic development, both Congress and the Presidency turned their backs on USAID. From 1985 to 1997, foreign aid appropriations consistently decreased, and USAID cut thirty percent of its positions from 1993 to 1996.

Of course, foreign assistance should go beyond military, defense, or diplomatic goals. I believe it is the US's responsibility as a wealthier, more stable nation to help out those countries that are struggling. We cannot exist in a vacuum. But there are other incentives, too. As Allie writes:

...In the age of globalization, we are a world of global problems. We cannot pretend that the issues our country faces stop at our borders. What happens in Haiti, what happens in South Africa… these things reverberate within the United States. HIV does not recognize national sovereignty, nor does climate change. And though we’re so worked up about immigration policies, we do not often stop to think about how we could lessen migrant flows by improving quality of life within other countries. Global development is in our best interests in every sense, from the political to the social and even extending to the economic, where emerging markets offer significant opportunities for U.S. business to expand.

So, I think Allie has laid it all out quite nicely. USAID: Good for defense, good for diplomacy, good for the economy. Also, good for health, human rights, democracy, women's rights, children, the environment, and a whole other mess of things.

Many, many, many thanks to Allie for letting me steal from her better-researched, better-written, more-thought-out post. Just go read her instead. She has nice photos too.

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