In defense of foreign policy

Providing aid to other nations is both politically beneficial and economically feasible

LIBERTARIANS have the clearest foreign policy of any group in the public sphere. This policy is derived from what Economics Prof. Lee Coppock describes as the "Night Watchman" role of government. Since the role of government is restricted solely to defending the nation from itself and others, hard core libertarians have no foreign policy.


Actually, to be fair, their foreign policy states that we should do nothing unless we literally get punched in the face - like Pearl Harbor. Promoting democracy is meddling in another group's business. Making alliances with friendly nations are fine as long as we do not use any capital on such an alliance or make any of the commitments required of being a good ally. From this perspective it is clear that foreign aid, a centerpiece of a strong foreign policy, must be cut.


In "Foreign aid masquerade" (Feb. 17), Austin Raynor backs Rand Paul's argument that United States foreign aid must be completely removed from the budget. Raynor begins by talking about the folly of supporting an authoritarian Egyptian regime to the tune of $60 billion in mostly military aid. Yet he misses a few key factors. First and foremost is that the caretaker of the hopefully soon-to-be-formed Egyptian democracy is the military that the U.S. has been supporting for over a decade. This military is influenced a great deal by its democratic benefactor. A second factor is the simple concept that beggars cannot be choosers. Just try to form a Middle East foreign policy with several allies in the region without making friends with non-democracies. You are now allied with Turkey and Israel. Everyone else is an acquaintance at best and your foreign policy falls apart. The final thing to note on this issue is that the U.S. has been constantly pushing each of our allies in the region - including Egypt - to open up to freer elections and grant civil liberties. With all this in mind, most people say that they just wish that we did not have to spend so much money on it.


Raynor made such an argument when he pointed out that a majority of Americans - 73 percent - believe that our foreign aid should be reduced. In fact, a recent study out of the University of Maryland shows that Americans want to bring our foreign aid down to 10 percent of our budget from the perceived 25 percent. Interestingly, only one percent of our annual budget is foreign aid. This means that we are getting quite a lot of bang for our buck. In fact, the U.S. economy does pretty well because of our foreign aid. This is because our aid packages routinely require a majority of the aid to be spent on U.S. products. The harm to our economy and debt are clearly minimal, which is well worth it if our programs abroad are working.


To be frank, the argument that foreign aid is sometimes harmful is a reasonable one to make. As Raynor pointed out, unlimited food aid ruins local economies, and money trails that are not followed end up lining the pockets of corrupt officials. Yet these are problems that can be managed with proper oversight. And the benefits are great. Direct food aid to conflict and disaster zones literally saves lives. Development aid, when properly applied, induces growth in moribund underdeveloped economies. Military aid has its own merits. Iran is a country that has repeatedly threatened its neighbors and the U.S., shown its willingness to interrupt the world oil supply and has built up its military prowess. In order to counter this regional threat, the U.S. has grown military counterbalances in the Middle East in the forms of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and others.


I am by no means saying that our foreign aid allocation is perfect. Giving aid to North Korea for false promises on their nuclear program is practically the definition of wasteful spending. Helping Sudan's Omar al-Bashir because of a paper peace in Darfur is questionable at best. Yet at the same time our aid to Haiti saved countless lives, while our complex web of aid and diplomacy in Pakistan helps defend the liberal institutions that we take for granted in the United States. Foreign aid plays a complex and vital role in the maintenance of our foreign policy. Assuming we are not all hard-core libertarians, we should keep spending that relatively insignificant sum. Let the budget hawks fight over how to slash the programs that really cut into our debt.


Joel Taubman is a second-year Engineering student.

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