Foreign Aid and the UN
I was reading Cara Abercrombie '97's piece on Foreign Aid and the United Nations the other day and it really moved me. It moved me to the bathroom, where I had instant access to a barf receptacle. It really is sad. I remember thinking like an idealist when I was about six years old. I also thought there were elves under my bed with pointy shoes and magic canes, and I thought that one day I would take my rightful place among the Smurfs and finally kill off that pesky Gargamel.
Abercrombie seems to believe that in being the most powerful country in the world, the United States is in some way obligated to assist countries that come here begging for handouts. That's the most asinine thing I've ever heard. That's like saying that any wealthy individual walking down the street has a "responsibility" to give money to bums and vagrants. Giving away precious capital when there is no obvious benefit to US interests is inefficient and stupid. Drugs, poverty and disease are running rampant in our country and yet there are people who believe that the United States is responsible for the well being of other countries? When the Soviet Union was a super power, I remember the humanitarian aid they sent to Eastern European countries. It was disguised as tanks and artillery that rolled over protesters in the streets. That may not be the best foreign aid response, but if no other super powers or even regional powers are engaging in significant foreign aid programs, what imperative is there for America to engage in it? A moral imperative? Unfortunately, as E.H. Carr points out, there is no real moral imperative in the real world.
The article preaches a shift of funds to the UN for "peace keeping and support for development." There may be some merit for the social programs run by the UN, but as is pointed out, the budget for programs such as UNICEF is smaller than Dartmouth's operating budget. If it is that small of a monetary commitment, there is no need for a huge shift of US funds to the UN. As for funding them as a peace keeper, you have got to be kidding. The UN has had a pathetic history of trying to resolve conflicts. Look at the disasters in Bosnia and Somalia. In Bosnia, they were incompetent, with their so called "peace keepers" being taken hostage by Serbs and used as human shields. And who can forget the disaster in the Congo, where the so called "neutral" peace keeping forces actually took sides in a civil war. UN peace keeping forces have historically been useless. And people want the United States to invest MORE money in them? If people are looking to throw away money, I will always be here to receive your checks. But seriously, what has the UN done recently in solving an armed conflict? It seems that the most they are capable of doing is making a resolution to condemn the actions of one side. Oooh. That's going solve a lot of problems.
The worst reasoning in that article was when Abercrombie said the US should "put its money where its mouth is." She believes that we should revert funds from defense cuts and funnel it towards international aid.
There are many problems with that. First of all, we have not even started to cut our defense spending, and there is no reason we should. With the threats of an emerging China, and a Turkey that believes it can be a regional hegemon, there are more hot spots in the world than there ever were. So cutting defense spending is not an answer. And even if it were, why should we send those savings to foreign countries?
For years we have been running a budget deficit. If we do manage to save money in some category, why not enjoy those savings through a decreased budget deficit. The way things are now, the United States is mortgaging its future by running such debts. If we could save money, it would be so much better spent in eliminating the deficit and fueling the economy or investing in research and development so that, with increased technology, our work force could be more productive. Those are reasonable things to spend resources on. But international aid? Come on.
We already live in a welfare state. Do you want to live in a welfare world, where people who have problems can always count on Uncle Sucker to give them funds when things don't work out? That's just foolishness. What America needs to do is invest in itself and fortify its infrastructure. By strengthening ourselves, we will ensure that America is ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Or, we can spend money because its our "responsibility." If that is the case then it will soon be Uncle Sam knocking on people's doors with his hand stretched out, because we will be the beggars.