EVERY time Congress is forced to allocate extra billions of dollars when American troops have to be sent somewhere to restore order, deliver aid, or protect US interests, it ought to wonder whether it's spending enough on foreign aid and diplomacy to prevent such events.
Ironically, the current Congress is determined to reject that obvious logic. It apparently would rather use military muscle, costly in both dollars and American lives, than preventative measures. As of now, the House proposes to increase the defense budget in upcoming years while slashing a comparatively minuscule amount spent on foreign aid and diplomacy.
Never mind that America's allies are pleading with it to keep its commitment to foreign aid and diplomatic leadership. Never mind that the US spends a smaller percentage of its gross national product on foreign aid than any other major industrialized nation. Or that aid to Africa, for example, costs the US $3 per person per year, while Africans buy $4.4 billion in US exports each year.
Ironically, the end of the cold war and reforms already under way allow US aid today to be more effective than ever. Aid is no longer wasted supporting corrupt governments simply because they are anticommunist.
The focus now is on the two prime foreign-aid objectives: humanitarian needs and US self-interest. The American spirit has always expressed itself in a willingness to help the suffering, whether at home or abroad, especially if there is confidence that aid truly reaches the needy. Today, Americans can be confident that it does. And much is in the form of development aid -- an investment that comes back to the US many times over as new markets are created for US goods.
The House bill is chock full of more bad ideas and dangerous budget cuts that can be outlined here. It would force the US to close some embassies, waste money unnecessarily reorganizing foreign-aid-related agencies, and hold aid hostage to specific, highly questionable policy goals.
If budget-balancing is the real issue, Congress should nick the $263 billion defense budget for a few billion. If Congress cuts the ability of the US to help or even talk with other nations, it had better be ready to spend a lot more on military solutions in the future. They will be needed.