Realistic Expectations for Foreign-Aid Reform

The opinion column "Like Welfare, Foreign Aid Shouldn't Go On Endlessly" (June 5) about setting end dates for foreign aid, as with welfare, is on the right track.

Having worked some years on foreign-aid projects, I have often thought that every US foreign-aid program ought to at least have an exit plan. Maybe Congress should require it. While all cases need not be treated with mechanically equal schedules, the principle of temporariness should be universally preserved out of respect for both donors and donees.

But with no room in the author's logic for high-leverage modest aid to poor nations on long-term economic or purely humanitarian grounds, there is an undercurrent of isolationism in his argument. It is shortsighted to underestimate the future economic dynamism of African and Middle Eastern countries and the importance of aid contacts as a matter of sound economic and political policy.

Idealism drives a lot more aid than cynics assume (though a lot less than political leaders claim). This is OK, and we should be as up front about this as about our political motivations. As Gen. George C. Marshall taught us, decency often coincides with hardheaded, strategic good sense. Idealism is far less likely to get our aid programs in trouble and waste taxpayers' money abroad than naivet, administrative instability, or a combination of too much money and too little thought (or sometimes the reverse).

The suggested five-year aid deadline, while reasonable for a discrete project, is inflexible for an entire country's program and brushes over developing-world issues with which we should engage long term. Hasty pursuit of quick results can be a waste of time and money.

Finally, I submit that development is an approximate and problematic endeavor under even the best of circumstances. It is in the nature of aid that circumstances are usually far from the best. We need to be realistic in our project claims and ambitions, in our trusteeship of tax dollars, and in our assessments of failure and success. Stripping away international development buzzwords ("sustainability" and "objectively verifiable and quantifiable indicators" lead today's list), the fact remains that planning, doing, and evaluating projects are inexact activities. When Americans understand foreign aid's actual intent (temporary needful assistance) and extent (modest), by and large they support it.

Lance Matteson

Pownal, Vt.

Democracies, take the lead

Your editorial "Albright's Omission" (June 9) misses the point. By omitting mention of the UN in her speech at Harvard University's graduation, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright showed clearly that she recognizes the fact that democracies must take the lead if peace is to be brought to the world. The UN can never be democratized as long as there are dictators governing many of its nations. It should not be abolished, but a parallel organization of a Union of Democracies should be established to bring peace to the world and to launch a Marshall Plan to other countries who democratize.

The founder of the Association to Unite the Democracies, Clarence Streit, a New York Times correspondent, realized this at the founding of the UN and has for 50 years advocated the logical approach to world peace: Unite the European and North American democracies first, and then bring in all other nations that meet whatever democratic criteria are set up. Within a decade more than 100 of the nations of the world would join, and by 2050 the dictators would be deposed by their peoples, democracy instituted, and requests of the remaining nations to join the unified democracies made. We can have world peace established in the next century if we follow Ms. Albright's lead.

Captain Tom Hudgens


President and CEO

Association to Unite the Democracies

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