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The US Should Give More Foreign Aid, Poll Suggest Americans Would Go For That

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 23-12-2010

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[What follows is only my personal opinion. I don't claim my authority as a pastor for it. It's just me and, as always, I could be completely wrong.]

The daily headlines suggest that the United States and all western democracies are, in the days ahead, facing not fewer but more threats from terrorists-whether they’re violent Islamists or, as in the case of those thought responsible for today’s embassy bombings in Rome, anarchists. Force, whether military or police, is one obvious response to the threat of international terrorism. Beefing up security is another.

But, as we have seen in recent years, one desperately willful person can avoid being flagged by military and police forces and other security personnel.

The resentment of the West, particularly of the United States, is a toxin that daily creates a bigger pool of candidates for terrorist activity.

Much of this resentment is understandable, given our American penchant for not noticing the horrific poverty of our planets’ fellow citizens, many of them living in places from which we derive the fossil fuels that power what is, by the standards of both the contemporary and historical world, a lavish way of life.

Of course, those who harbor resentments against the United States often overlook the sacrifices Americans have made for our international neighbors, whether in wars to save the world from tyranny, in programs like the Marshall Plan, in its benevolent occupation of Japan following World War II, or in Americans’ penchant for generous charitable giving. (We have also been guilty of unnecessary wars on other peoples, even within our own borders, and that, too, feeds the resentments of the world.)

Be that as it may, a simple fact remains: It is in the best interest of the United States to cultivate international friendships. This is particularly true at a time when China, with its massive population, a government willing to oppress its own people, and its role as America’s primary mortgage-lender, is on the rise.

The US government needs to find ways to do well for its people by doing good for other peoples. That means, among other things, increasing the proportion of the federal budget on foreign aid, prime-pumping development throughout the world and so, creating more sophisticated new markets for American goods and services.

I know; we’re in a recession and we desperately need to cut the national debt, an enormous threat to the country’s economic, financial, and national security. But our dire straits only underscore the need for us to make friends of our enemies throughout the world, decreasing the resentment toward the US and so, shrinking the pool of potential terrorists that could, eventually, help bankrupt the country fiscally and morally. (A primary goal of terrorists like Osama bin-Laden, by the way.)

For many years, Americans have grossly overestimated the amount of money the federal government spends on foreign aid, breeding still more resentment…this time from Americans, playing into a long-standing strain of isolationism that has always existed within a country accustomed to having most of a continent to itself and who, in the twentieth century, got used to being the preeminent superpower on the world stage.

A few weeks ago, Joel Paque, over at the US Global Leadership Blog, pointed to a poll conducted in November by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. It demonstrates that Americans remain misinformed on the percentage of the federal budget spent on foreign aid-actually a little more than 1%-estimating that it exceeds 20%. But, as Paque points out, those who think that targeted foreign aid could be an intelligent use of American economic power, still formidable, can take heart: The poll shows that Americans would be comfortable with as much as 10% of the federal budget going toward foreign aid.

The chart below shows the difference in Americans’ perceptions and realities when it comes to US foreign aid. It comes from Paque’s piece:

Paque writes:

Coming at a time when serious discussions are taking place on how to reduce the federal deficit, these results suggest most Americans would support spending much more than we actually do.

I think he’s right. Read the whole thing.(Thanks to TMVer Holly Robinson for alerting me to this piece.)

[This is being crossposted at my personal blog.]

The Moderate Voice

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