Monday, August 08, 2011

Sen. John Kerry On Foreign Aid

Sen. John Kerry recently wrote a piece as part of a leadership roundtable on US Foreign Aid. He wrote it in light of the crisis in Somalia.

He writes, "At this time of budget crisis, a United States senator defending foreign aid might well be advised to get examined by a political consultant if not a mental health professional. But right now it is more urgent than ever that those of us who believe in robust American leadership step up and articulate the dangers of American retrenchment."

He goes on to explain that many question whether the United States can afford foreign aid and development investments-- however, in reality, "it is that we can't afford not to."

He gives several reasons why. First, global leadership is a strategic imperative for America. It is not simply a favor we do for other countries. "It amplifies America's voice and extends our reach." In a world that is growing more and more interdependent, "slashing foreign aid is a formula for isolation and shrinking influence."

"America cannot just opt out of a networked world."

Is there a cost? Of course there is. However, all foreign aid programs, including sending diplomats to Afghanistan, reversing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and assisting Somalia during their recent devastating drought, add up to less than 1 percent of the annual budget. "It is a very small investment for such a great return."

"This year alone we will spend approximately $700 billion on our military. The entire international affairs budget is one-tenth of that. If you took the whole Foreign Service roster, you could barley staff one aircraft carrier." That is how little we spend on foreign aid.

Yet, diplomats are serving on front lines of multiple revolutions and wars and making extremely vital contributions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Surely, in a tax code spanning more than 72,000 pages of expenditures, many of which are proven to generate absolutely NO economic activity, we can find the cuts to preserve our investment in reducing security threats, in opening markets for American businesses and in creating opportunities for American leadership."

Kerry concluded with this statement. "Building our nations civilian capacity and providing our diplomatic corps with the essential tools to succeed in the demanding jobs we continually require of them is essential."

"To get the job done, we need our diplomats."

-Gabrielle Gurian