Good Reads: Amanda Knox released, Panetta in Israel, and US foreign aid cuts
With Amanda Knox's murder conviction overturned, the world's press can now return to other matters, such as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and looming US foreign aid cuts contemplated by Congress.
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But as The New York Times’s Steven Lee Myers notes, it may be the US itself that risks the loss of influence, as Congress contemplates cutting back on foreign aid budgets in the ongoing budget crisis. Among items on the chopping block are food and medical aid to Africa, disaster relief in Pakistan and Japan, and political assistance in the Middle East.Skip to next paragraph
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As Mr. Myers writes,
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.
If the US can no longer afford to wield influence outside its borders, it will have a lot less ability to engage with like Pakistan and Afghanistan, South Africa and Israel, Mexico and Indonesia, where the US has spent billions over the past decade in attempting to strengthen democratic institutions and citizen empowerment.
Consider this piece by Declan Walsh in the Guardian about how Pakistan's blasphemy laws have made that country's judicial system so dysfunctional that even judges now fear for their lives. The US is increasingly unwelcome in Pakistan these days, because of its military involvement, but abandonment of more peaceful and diplomatic engagement would mean that the bitter taste in many Pakistani mouths will be the one that lingers.
With the winds of change sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East, and now as far south as the African nation of Zambia, there is evidence that many of the values that America has spent so much time advocating are actually taking hold. Wouldn’t it be ironic if American foreign policy disengages now, just when its diplomatic engagement could do the most good?