To What Extent Should U.S. Foreign Assistance Be Conditioned on the Behavior of the Recipient?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
May 16, 2008
USAID Cargo Ship

The United States is the world’s largest donor of bilateral and multilateral foreign aid. Though there are different ways to measure foreign aid, the following countries are among the leading recipients of U.S. assistance: Afghanistan, Colombia, Egypt, Israel and Iraq.

To what extent should U.S. foreign assistance be conditioned on the behavior of the recipient?

Comments

Comments

Luke G.
|
United States
May 17, 2008

Luke in New England writes:

I think you should do what you can to make sure the aid reaches the people who need it, but other than that, it should be unconditional.

Offering food based on conditions is not far removed from holding a gun to someone's head and offering them their life on condition of them doing what you tell them to.

Anna
|
District Of Columbia, USA
May 18, 2008

Anna in Washington, DC writes:

Foreign aid given on an ongoing basis should have strings attached to it. Those countries who can afford to help others should, but recipients should have to meet criteria or agree to standards of good governance. Assistance given in response to a natural disaster or something along those lines should be given without conditions.

Zharkov
|
United States
May 18, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

Our federal government has given U.S. foreign aid to the worst dictators in human history -- Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Saddam Hussein, among many others. Rather than call it "foreign aid", it should be called what it is -- money formerly belonging to American workers taken from them by force of law. Americans have every right to decide who gets their money. If U.S. government officials give our money to America's enemies, they should be sued and forced to pay the money back out of their own personal assets.

John
|
Greece
May 18, 2008

John in Greece writes:

@ Anna in Washington, DC and Luke in New England -- This is a real debate! Strange, but I agree with both of you.

According to my opinion, you Anna and Luke say something very important: many people all over the world feel the need to help other people that need help. But, how will we be real helpful and not harmful at last?

I think that that this debate is based on Joe's recent question (with all the respect, I rephrase a little): Would you give help to thieves?

Anna is also right "replying" that you must proceed when you have to face the issue "Assistance given in response to a natural disaster or something along those lines should be given without conditions." If

I understand correct, you describe that thinking people feel the need to help and it's better to help a little, than at all.

However, Joe and Luke question something maybe even more serious: have we ever consider that this "romantic," humanitarian tendency for offering help automatically and unquestioningly may end up exactly the opposite to our humanitarian, pure scope?

What I mean?

Let me give an example like Burma, Africa, like anywhere...

...You send humanitarian help to Burma. We all know they are thieves (I mean the regime).

On the other hand, Anna is also right. We all feel that need when we see the TV pictures. She is absolutely right. She has a point and she speaks from her heart. Thatãs why she has a point.

Nevertheless, they (Burma regime) take 10, but they offer to victims 1. All the other help (the 9) becomes their "private property." Because we all know that "party" people live REAL healthy, far away from disasters.

And they still keep on doing their "business," probably advertising "our1" as their internal politics effort. They do not say where these money come from. They say: "we the good Burma government that cares gives you that."

So, they steal, we give, they REMAIN, with what WE GIVE!

It's real debatable.

John
|
Greece
May 19, 2008

John in Greece writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A. -- I think that you exaggerate a little.

The question is how the western world's Aid and especially the U.S. Aid which is the biggest and the most generous can more successfully reach the victims and not the "thieves."

I do not know the accuracy and the chronological order as well as the special conditions of the historical examples you give, but I am sure that we cannot "imprison" recent (a couple of decades) foreign Aid political decisions.

Moreover, it's not politically ethical to threaten all these people that took and keep on taking these decisions by saying "bring the money back."

Whatever they decide they do it for the good of America and the rest of the world.

All these committees, the Congress, the White House etc. deserve congratulations and not "threats."

According to my opinion the only question is: How can we do the GOOD even BETTER?

JOE
|
Tennessee, USA
May 19, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

While I seldom agree with Zarkov in U.S.A., Ross Perrot put it best long ago:

"U.S. Politics can be summed up quite easily: They act like they are doing something so it looks like they are doing something; but, nothing results in the transfer to the end user or constituents."

Please note: I did say Politics, not Policy. The DOS, like the Intelligence community and military do their jobs well; but in the system of checks and balance, the true fault lies with the Congress and Senate in mistakes as they usually have finial say or have involvement. The problem in House is that they also have too much diversity ...look at how New Orleans was handled: did we do any better in reality? When the confusion or problems arise ...again Ross put it best: "They just point fingers at each other in blame and again, nothing gets done."

What I'm saying is simple, the question does not show a strong premises in this case as there are multi dimensional factors involved; so how can it be answered properly?

In reality, we would like to help everyone; but you could write a book or thesis on fiscal, social, political and moral limitation possibilities alone.

The truth is, you don't starve your people to feed others. It is not a good choice to have to make; but a reality. "It is as important to National Security and world security to have a strong Economic, Working America." The jobs are not out there for our skilled labor force and we cannot feed or provide medical coverage for our own. That is matter of fact ...it is a reality that if America fails, so does world democracy and we need to shore up our foundation first.

An example is simple: India. Just a few years ago the graduation classes of major universities there were polled as to where the feel there is more opportunity ...over 90 percent said the U.S.A., this years poll: 75 percent feel there is more opportunity in India ...because they have taken U.S. jobs.

If things keep up, it may the U.S.A. who needs aid and who will provide it asking nothing in return? Did France help New Orleans, did Russia? Did Korea? Did Germany? Did Iraq? Did Vietnam? Did Thailand? Did the Philippines? The list goes on, but who came to the aid of Americans in trouble? Who helped the tornado victims in America this year from other countries?

Ronald B.
|
New York, USA
May 19, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

The Formula....

Here's the formula.....give more to those who are most oppressed....keep giving even if some aid is stolen....keep giving even if some aid is wasted... just keep giving....we cannot control the outcome, only the process....conditional giving is a hallmark of fascism.

Rachel
|
Texas, USA
May 19, 2008

Rachel in Texas writes:

I tend to view international relations between countries as relationships between people. The same rules that govern our relationships with individuals should apply on an international level. Of course, there are special exceptions to the comparison - those, however, are pretty rare.

Aid is, by its nature, meant to assist. In the pioneer days, lending aid to a neighbor was done without expectation of repayment. Bank loans today have changed things a bit, but I think you still see the principle carried through among friends and close-knit communities. Even if operating under the Christian principles of charity [Proverbs 25:21-22], aid is still unconditional. Of course, discretion should be exercised in the type of aid given.

For instance, you don't give a drunk more liquor, you do not show the thief the combination to your safe, and you certainly don't simply hand out money to either of the above. Money will not do them any good, and giving them exactly what they will ask for is not always the best idea for you.

On an international scale, we give aid because natural disaster has struck a country, because allies are in a tight spot, or because the economic situation is so dire that the country cannot pull itself out alone.

To "attach strings" to the aid that we give to countries already determined to be in dire straits is a bit low. It's like telling a mouse caught in a mouse-trap that if he'll swear to never eat cheese again, we'll let him out.

The aid we give should always match the exact needs of the country. If the people are poor, provide ways for them to access micro-loans. If the people are hungry, give them food. If the people need help rebuilding their city, send supplies.

Just as we wouldn't give a drunk or a thief money, it is irresponsible and unwise to simply send a check to countries who do not exercise our standards of security, integrity , or freedom.

John
|
Greece
May 20, 2008

John in Greece writes:

@ Joe in Tennessee -- Joe wrote:

"Who helped the tornado victims in America this year from other countries? Nobody."

Nobody! You are absolutely right.

And that happens while U.S.A. is always where the need is. Standing by others and supporting everyone.

The worldwide help was poor even after the Louisiana disaster.

You have an extremely strong argument.

That's why I liked so much this phrase of yours "...it is a reality that if America fails, so does world democracy and we need to shore up our foundation first."

The only question I have is:

You write:

"The truth is, you don't starve your people to feed others."

However, in a previous post of yours (let me write it in my own words) you suggested that "...if you have only one meal and a child is hungry you must offer this meal to the child, otherwise you should feel ashamed of yourself that you did not."

I am sure you agree how difficult it is to make policy according to ethics.

And America does it this way!

I would love to read your post on this.

Best regards. I love your posts.

Jennifer
|
New York, USA
May 20, 2008

Jennifer in New York writes:

I think it depends on the conditionalities. It's fairly clear the the policies of the Washington Consensus were not the panacea everyone had hoped. And now that aid is focusing on institutional change rather than purely policy prescriptions, there are still kinks to be worked out.

In my opinion, conditionalities are appropriate, but should be developed with the buy in of recipient states. Some of the current U.S. policies are horrible in this regard: requiring shipment by U.S. businesses when other purveyors would cost less and tying U.S. policies to health aid and family planning initiatives. A lot more can be done without sacrificing the interests of the electorate.

Zharkov
|
United States
May 20, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

Suppose an earthquake hits Iran in the middle of our war with them? Do we resupply the enemy while our soldiers are trying to destroy their supplies?

Obviously our national interests and goals must take precedence over the immediate need of the victims in some cases, and it requires functional irrationality to deny it.

Historical ignorance is not excusable. Who helped Hitler when he needed it the most? American industrialists. Who helped Lenin when he lacked financing for the Russian revolution? New York bankers. Who supplied Iraq when they fought Iran? American officials. Who helped the Jihad in Afghanistan? Surely you can guess that one. Reasonably foreseeable consequences are routinely ignored. America has "been there, done that" when it comes to helping our enemies survive.

Foreign citizens are not children, and America is not their parent. It is not a crime against humanity to withhold the free lunch if they have a hostile government working to defeat America around the world.

Anna
|
District Of Columbia, USA
May 20, 2008

Anna in Washington, DC writes:

Everyone who has responded has made some really good points. When I suggested that we should "attach strings" to some of our aid, I was trying to drive at what Rachel in Texas said when she wrote "it is irresponsible and unwise to simply send a check to countries who do not exercise our standards of security, integrity, or freedom."

However, I think we would both agree that the United States should still send aid to the people who really need assistance in those countries. In these cases, our assistance should be used to help the people most in need. It is here that I agree with Ronald in New York that we should send aid to people who are oppressed, even if some of it is wasted or stolen. We have a moral imperative to help those who are in need.

However, if we help in the short-term without thinking concurrently about the long-term, we are not helping the people move forward. We would really be helping the people if we used some of our long-term aid - not disaster assistance or famine relief but broader aid packages - as leverage to encourage their governments to be responsive to them, to promote democracy.

I think Jennifer in NY makes a great point when she says that the conditionalities should be developed with the buy in of recipient states. This is really important - giving people a stake in the process and the outcome. I think it also speaks to the saying that it is better not just to give someone a fish but to teach him how to fish. When you empower someone else or a group of people in a positive way, that is when you really help them.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 20, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ John in Greece -- John, I just drove through Greensville, Kansas coming back from my daughter's college graduation and had a chance to talk with a couple local farmers I met when I stopped for gas.

This is the town that President Bush just gave the high school commencement speech in on May 4th, one year after a 1.75 mile wide tornado packing 311 mile per hour winds, leveled the entire town to just the building foundations and killed 11 people.

Foreign assistance would not have been needed in such a localized disaster, as people came from all over the country to help. Americorps with the clean up, FEMA, the Red Cross, private citizens, etc.

I've seen for myself the resiliance of people who's sense of humor rises above circumstance, and 1 year later Greensburg has rebuilt to a remarkable degree.

The few trees left standing have new growth on them, and the town and the trees reflect the same hope, having survived.

If one were to base a thesis on the premis that America cannot take care of its own, therefore America should not help others around the world, because no one comes to our aid anyway....well I can tell you as eyewitness that premis is flat incorrect.

Many nations aid offered in good will during the Katrina disaster was indeed accepted by the U.S., including many if not all of the nations Joe cited previously. What goes around comes around, and that is only natural.

Which brings up a basic premis about aid generally as it regards the principals of giving.

Some nations leaders offered humanitarian aid in exchange for political concessions from the U.S..

The U.S. did not accept that aid simply because we do not precondition humanitarian aid on political grounds when the U.S. gov. provides such aid to others.

The basic condition the recipient government must meet is that the aid get to the people that need it.

After resolving just this type of issue, the U.S. has resumed food aid shipments to North Korea.

There is a difference between types of aid and the requirements placed upon the recipient government.

Developmental aid such as is available through the Millenium Challenge account involves institutional building of good governance as its premis for existing as a type of "grant" to further a nation's investment in its own building of a better society.

One could interpret the basic question "to what extent...? above to "should we provide aid with or without behavior change as a required result".

Well change is inevitable, peaceful change is desirable, and "democracy R US" sayeth the people. That freedom sells itself is a universal "given".

To condition America's involvement in global crisis upon an already existing human condition is I think a little redundant...(chuckle)...some seem to cling to the myth of isolationism in my country.

Being that U.S. foreign assistance is an essential tool to better relations with the world, assistance also becomes a national security asset in implementation on a very practical level.

Why, because folks generally don't bite the hand that helps them feed themselves.

That's as basic as it gets.

John
|
Greece
May 20, 2008

John in Greece writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico -- I totally agree with you "professional painter", although I think you are a real "Thinking Artist".

As always, your comment is not only pure and clear but also descriptive and real.

P.S. I am not against U.S. Foreign Aid.

I believe in this.

That's what I am trying to say so many days.

This "program" is vital for America. But, whenever I say this, Joe gives me back this phrase: "you don't pay -- the tax payers do."

So, I respect this, otherwise, I would be fully FOR.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
May 21, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ John in Greece -- Well John, your perspective is just as valid as anyone else's when it comes down to it, so why worry about it?

Here we are as a nation at war. Spending half a trillion dollars in defence and a fraction of that on aid programs. Considering the contribution to peace the aid makes as this is manifest in terms of return on the taxpayer dollar, it's a big bang for the buck, saving lives.

Where it concerns DOD assets, Naval, Airlift, etc. we're (the taxpayer) spending the money anyway just having them on station, or manuver.

So cost is relative to the mission parameters. Weighed against the high cost of doing nothing.

JOE
|
Tennessee, USA
May 21, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

It seems they will not publish all ideologies not in line with DOS mindset which have validity...unless they seem to come from a position of ignorance.

REMEMBER WHAT GREENSPAN TOLD GH: It is the Economy stupid.

You don't help others at the cost of hurting your own and we can not keep printing money that is not backed.

Oil is high because the dollar is so weak and we keep printing it to make it weaker...the only thing keeping the stock market strong is Global Investment...which means we are at the mercy of Russia and China in every regard, yet they do not provide charity in the manner we do. ... and now WE ARE PROVIDING 500 Million to China?

America cannot keep giving what it doesn't have. Somehow our leadership forgot what it is to be an Average Citizen...this was obvious when a Presidential Candidate, who is more in line with domestic issues, couldn't believe a half of tank of petrol cost sixty three dollars for a worker and his pickup. That same half tank of petrol is now over seventy dollars. WHY? How could it be that one of the Best Leaders doesn't understand the cost of their legislation at the Peoples level? Thats frightening.

How can you take the food out of the mouth of your own people and think that your enemies care? You help your family and friends first, but not at the cost of losing them. You certainly do not make your enemies stronger by feeding them and providing money to re enforce and arm themselves against you. Is that intelligent or in the worlds best interest?

The limit is only in making the aid provisional and you can not give what you do not have.

Andre'
|
Pennsylvania, USA
May 21, 2008

Andre' in Pennsylvania writes:

The top priority in providing aid should be their demonstrated performance in the war on terror and their support in extending democracy throughout the globe.

Lewis
|
Japan
May 22, 2008

Lewis in Japan writes:

Foreign Assistance/Aid is a valid and useful tool in improving perceptions of the United States throughout the international community. By being #1 in the act of giving, the United States also strengthens our position as a strong and moral leader.

Occasionally we are also able to benefit additionally by advancing our political, diplomatic or military goals through providing aid. For example, a harsh regime preaching the evils of America to it's citizens may find those words falling on deaf ears if the population is surviving on nourishment and supplies donated by the U.S.

Thus, whenever beneficial, the U.S. should seek to advance our interests in this way while never being afraid to give aid soley for moral reasons. The trick lies in attaching incentives -- witholding aid when they are not met -- while preventing the situation from reaching a crisis.

Mothers often tell unruly children to finish their homework before they can have dinner, but both mother and child know that dinner will be served before starvation becomes imminent. Similarly, America must place conditional limitations on our aid while simultaneously be prepared to 'crack first' should a humanitarian crisis loom ahead.

Lewis
|
Japan
May 22, 2008

Lewis in Japan writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A. -- Zharkov said:

"Foreign citizens are not children, and America is not their parent. It is not a crime against humanity to withhold the free lunch if they have a hostile government working to defeat America around the world."

Rest assured, every official in that rhetorical hostile government is eating well while the citizens starve in the streets. In a best case scenario, their hunger will provoke revolt and regime change will follow (read: violent conflict). In a worse case- and more likely- scenario, we face a massive humanitarian crisis where the population starves, the regime uses the limited food supply as a weapon and America accomplishes nothing.

I see the parent-child analogy as overly simplistic but still quite apt in describing the U.S. relationship with several developing nations.

Peter D.
|
United Kingdom
May 23, 2008

Peter in Scotland writes:

You help your friends of course you do. But why help someone who is stabbing you in the back?

Why does Egypt under Mubarak get so much?

"The United States has provided Egypt with an annual average of over $2 billion in economic and military foreign assistance since 1979. The United States will reduce Economic Support Funds (ESF) to about $400 million per year by 2008 in keeping with a plan to reduce aid to both Israel and Egypt. The Administration requested $455 million in economic grants and $1.3 billion in military grants for
FY2007 for Egypt."

from - "Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations" by Congressional Research Service. Jeremy M. Sharp
Middle East Policy Analyst, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division. Updated 2006.

Particularly strange considering that the US and allies are getting backstabbed by Mubarak's regime!

I'm thinking about the recent broadcasting via Nilesat - Egypt's satellite - of Iraqi insurgent run Al Zawraa TV inciting pro-terrorist so-called 'resistance' insurgency in Iraq - killing Iraqis and Americans - soldiers and diplomats alike.

See this video on YouTube -
"Iraq X-File: USA vs USA (1) Support satellite terror TV NOT!"
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=SxLSVF3T1nI
- this is one of the videos in my IraqMission channel on YouTube.

So why would the U.S. think of spending even one dollar part of which pays to incite anti-American enemy fire?

Plus Egypt is not a properly democratic country and I would have thought some of the U.S. money might help the people of Egypt more by, say, identifying and helping the Egyptian people ways they can remove their rotten dictator.

The fact that Mubarak rigged his own election again should not take away from the fact that the most helpful dollars for the Egyptian people would be dollars which pay to rid them of their tyrant.

I want to support the dollars which pay for this discussion blog which allows people like me the opportunity to explain this point. Those are dollars well spent!

But it seems to me however that $2 billion plus Egypt is getting is spent it hasn't gotten rid of the Egyptian people's number one problem - Mubarak - not a friend of the U.S. in need at all but more like an unsuccessfully bribed and therefore still backstabbing enemy of the U.S.?

This is my first attempt to comment on this blog and I'd like to declare myself as someone who really respects and loves Secretary Rice and is inspired by the great leadership she is giving -- not just to Americans but to people in the rest of the world, such as myself.

I'd like to say more about Secretary Rice's promising future but the rules of this blog don't allow that it seems.

Chul-hong
|
South Korea
May 23, 2008

Chul-hong in South Korea writes:

The transparency of distribution is very important.

The recipients may use U.S. aid for other purposes.

U.S. should watch the process of distribution.

.

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