Chapter Nine Foreign Aid: September Eleven and Debates into the Twenty-First Century



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Chapter Nine
Foreign Aid: September Eleven and

Debates into the Twenty-First Century

Many African countries suffer from feeble cabinets, paltry systems of policy making, and erratic decision making at the top.1


[T]he CIA chief in Pakistan…[was a] small, well dressed man with a deferential manner and an intellectual bent.2
With Mr. Bush pressing other countries to knock down their trade barriers and expand open markets, his approval of an 80 percent increase in farm subsidies - with all the advantages that confers on American grain exports - is viewed as a move in the opposite direction.3
Maybe you just had to assert the obvious: that this was a war, that this was the Green Zone, and that this was America.4
…the U.S. government went into Iraq with scant solid international support and on the basis of incorrect information - about weapons of mass destruction and a supposed nexus between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda’s terrorism - and then occupied the country negligently.5
Aid is not development; it doesn’t do diddley-squat.6

George W. Bush and Unilateralism
The Bush Premises and September 11
Foreign aid levels had plunged in the mid-1990s from $12 billion in 1993 to $9 billion in 1996. George W. Bush, when he arrived in the White House in January of 2001 had no plans to change these amounts and appeared to have modest ambitions on foreign policy.7 He would be a domestic president. He and his advisors talked about “a more ‘humble’ America that didn’t tell countries how to conduct themselves inside their borders.”8 The prospective president did not appear to a have much knowledge of international relations being unable to name several world leaders during the election campaign. During the campaign, George W. Bush had stated “I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation building.”9 Bush, in his debates with Al Gore, had argued against interventions in places such as Bosnia and Somalia and promised that there would be no more state building on his watch.
President Bush and his advisors argued against nation-building as intrusive of other states and as burdensome to a United States that should think more nationally rather than globally. While international trade and security were important issues, democracy, governance and institutional development were not. After the January 20 inauguration, however, there were shades of a neo-isolationism in the early Bush Presidency which would in the wake of September 11 revert to a unilateralism that had long been evolving within neo-conservative foreign policy circles.
Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser, and in the second administration, his Secretary of State, initially was viewed as a realist rather than an ideologue in terms of foreign policy. Rice made a compelling argument that the United States could not afford to involve the U.S. in developing country nation-building efforts because that would “degrade the American capability to do the things America has to do.”10
In a general sense the Bush administration viewed international relations as a mixture of economic and military power.11 In looking at the Middle East, the Bush administration saw it in regional terms as part of an internal war within Islam. This meant that the characteristics within a single country were less important than the totality of that conflict.”12 What little attention was paid to foreign aid focused rhetorically on an expanded role for faith based organizations in international development activities and a concern about health programs that promoted birth control or tolerated abortion.
On September 11, 2001 planes struck the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington D.C. A fourth plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. September 11 was a wake up call for both the Bush administration and the country in terms of foreign aid as in so much of U.S. public policy. As a result of September 11, 2001 foreign aid and military assistance spending would over time begin to increase precipitously. It would also stimulate the Bush administration towards a greater interest in foreign interventions, shift the country towards unilateralism and restore nation-building, democracy and governance to prominence in foreign aid. Most importantly it would lead the U.S. towards its most serious military and foreign policy disaster since Vietnam. Change in both military and foreign policy would have significant implications on U.S. foreign aid policy.
The September 11 attacks on the U.S. had three effects upon the American people. First there was a surge of patriotism. Secondly, popular attitudes after September 11 evolved for some into “an unseemly inferiority complex” in terms of international relations.13 Thirdly, the U.S. after September 11 began to stray significantly from its founding ideals particularly in terms of constitutional rights.14 U.S. foreign policy became what one commentator called a “condominium of power,” a model based in part on the international rule of law and international institutions or alternatively, if that failed, the use of unilateral coercive economic or military action.15
According to Bob Woodward, prior to September 11, 2001 the U.S., though it had “inconceivable scenarios, [for countries all over the world] had no plans for Afghanistan, the sanctuary of bin Laden and his network.”16 The Bush administration, in its zeal to attack the Taliban and bin Laden, declared a “crusade” in the aftermath of attacks on the U.S., a word which had extremely negative connotations in the Islamic world.17 U.S. policy in a post-September 11 world, according to Woodward,
was all consistent with Bush’s belief that he [was] an agent for change - that he must state a new strategic direction or policy with bold, clear moves. And because it would be the policy of the United States, the only superpower, the rest of the world would have to move over, would adjust over time.18
To the Bush administration, the intervention in Afghanistan and later Iraq had become part of the “moral mission of the United States.”19
After September 11, within the Bush administration, the “ideological opposition to any participation in what is called nation building…disappeared.”20 The declared goal of the Bush administration was to “support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture.”21 Nation-building came back onto the foreign aid agenda. Because of its renewed zest for intervention, the civilian leadership in the Bush administration, who sometimes were labeled neo-conservatives, micro-managed the interventions in Afghanistan and particularly Iraq. Many of the neo-conservatives, such as former Deputy Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, were “essentially idealistic interventionists who believed in using American power to spread democracy.”22
For policy makers in the U.S. State Department, after September 11 an important tool was the promise of “a generous package of aid and debt relief” for allies such as Pakistan who helped in the war against bin Laden.23 As David Sanger put it, “The president has now committed himself to some of the largest nation-building efforts since the Marshall Plan, from Iraq to Afghanistan and perhaps, if his vision is realized, elsewhere in the Middle East.”24
Iraq: Return to the Quagmire
The Iraq war from the beginning was to be executed as a U.S. only unilateral invasion unlike the Gulf War or Afghanistan.25 The U.S., in invading Iraq, to use Woodward’s words, “would be taking down a regime, would have to govern Iraq, and the ripple effect in the Middle East and the world could not be predicted.”26
The issue in a post-September 11 foreign policy world was the extent to which the U.S. was going to be able to “Americanize” its intervention in Iraq and foreign aid programs in the Middle East. Moreover, the political nightmare of Vietnam haunted many in the Bush White House.27 Though there were elements of a governance policy in Iraq that might prove useful, there was a strong concern among critics of U.S. policy such as Larry Diamond that the Iraq model ultimately would be a negative one.28 In situations of conflict one cannot operate without the military, but that often skews the reconstruction process. Internationally, as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, “[g]lobally, fear and distrust of the U.S. government increased.”29
Bush, according to Bob Woodward, never did create a political development plan for post-invasion Iraq, an issue that concerned many of Bush’s military and civilian advisors.30 This was confirmed by a pre-war British memo, which expressed concern that the U.S. lacked any plans to occupy, reconstruct and govern Iraq. Bush administration officials were virtually silent on Iraq’s post-war future despite British expressed concern that the occupation of Iraq would be a major nation-building exercise.31 In Iraq, according to Bob Woodward:
Much has been made of the lack of planning that preceded the invasion, but it was…[international] isolation afterward that turned out to be as great a problem …. The occupation [was] characterized by a lack of institutional memory and expertise. Moreover, though there [were] some specialists involved, and a few non-native Arabic speakers, for ordinary officials no knowledge of the region [or the language was] required.32
The Iraq intervention, among other things, illustrated that foreign policy decisions face historical barriers between idealism and realism and as Woodward has pointed out, “Intelligence services…don’t do a very good job trying to understand the soft side of societies - how well the government is working and the fundamental attitudes of the people.”33 The Bush administration to its critics was not prepared after the end of the first phase of the Iraq war to undertake nation-building on a large scale.
Those recruited to work in Iraq soon became part of the problem. In Iraq, “there were a lot of young people who came in, particularly in the governance and policy area. [They were very] nice, very personable people - nothing against them. But they had no knowledge whatsoever of Iraq, very very little of the region, and absolutely no prior experience in post-conflict operations.”34 Within the Bush administration, decision-makers did not understand the massive undertaking they had taken on in Iraq. By the end of 2002, officials in the Pentagon had begun to recognize that planning for post war Iraq was “all screwed up.”35
The American occupation of Iraq from the beginning was strange; there was an unreal quality to the U.S. presence. There were conflicts between the military, USAID and the State Department over the management of assistance.36 Communication and consultation was non-existent. There was also a sense of isolation within the American headquarters in Iraq, the infamous Green Zone. In the Green zone, “[o]n the inside were the Americans who if anything were too secure - spoiled by wealth and national power, self-convinced, and softened by the promise and possibility of safe lives.”37 William Langewiesche has quoted a Green Zone resident who noted: “People came to the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority], never spoke to an Iraqi, and just launched these projects.” Langewiesche went on, “For related reasons, once the projects were launched there was a tendency within the Green Zone to believe that therefore progress had been made - often despite strong evidence on the outside that it had not.”38
There was never a philosophy of occupation developed within the Defense Department even though by the end of 2006 the U.S. had been in Iraq longer than the U.S. fought in World War II. The U.S. stumbled “blindly into Baghdad.”39 Rather it was assumed by the White House Deputies committee who had responsibility for planning that a lengthy occupation would be routine and peaceful. Iraqi’s people would greet the U.S. troops with their bubble gum and chocolate bars in much the same way the people of post-war Europe had done. Within the Department of Defense, there was an assumption that the occupation could be worked out as they went along. It was not an issue that was referred to the leadership of the Department or the Executive branch. On the ground problems would be addressed only when the U.S. opened up an office of post-conflict reconstruction in Baghdad.40
The occupation of Iraq was a throw back to an earlier time. Iraq, as a place, as an occupied country and as an image in the occupiers’ minds, contained “romantic elements of foreign adventure as well - of colonial plantations and compound life, of military posts throughout the world, and of the war that swirls just outside the gates.”41 During the first year of the occupation the Iraq proconsuls, Jay Garner and Paul Bremer had the “responsibility for all of the tasks normally run [in the U.S.] by national, state and local government.”42 Even within the Bush administration, there was fear of what Stephen Hadley, the Bush second term national security advisor, called “the imperial option.”43 According to an administration critic:
There were excesses, as might be imagined. The hiring of the senior CPA staff was steered by Donald Rumsfeld and his conservative deputies at the Pentagon, who, by insisting on rigid agendas, effectively ruled out some of the more worldly officials and diplomats who might otherwise have been willing to intervene. In their place came zealous amateurs, often from the private sector, whose chief qualifications seemed to be their Republican credentials and their eagerness to get involved. To their credit, most of them eased off the ideology once they faced the practical realities of Iraq. They muddled through and sometimes got something done before getting out; they left no marks. A few of the most zealous, however, refused to back down, and, indeed, upon arriving in the Green Zone seemed to think of Iraq as a living laboratory, a testing ground for their ideas.44
In Iraq, the Green Zone became a significant problem for the military, the Foreign Service and foreign aid officials alike.45 It soon became clear:
The decision to install the occupation government in the center of the city and to base it in the very same buildings that had been used by the recent dictatorship was a serious blunder - one of several such blunders rooted in the arrogance of Yankee know-how, and in the strange failure to anticipate the end of the honeymoon, and the hostility that even enlightened invaders would soon elicit.46
Except for some in the State Department, the other principals in the White House and the Department of Defense were more interested in war than in humanitarian assistance, support for democratic governance or economic development.47 The Defense Department’s initial answer to the humanitarian issue was to get USAID to make a series of strategically placed airdrops.48 Neither USAID officials nor its contractors were able to get outside of the Green Zone in order to begin developing policies.49 Within the Department of Defense, “[w]eeks into the war, more and more paper was flying around Rumsfeld’s office and the Pentagon about how to organize the aftermath.”50 However, as Woodward points out, Rumsfeld and his colleagues at the Department of Defense just were not interested in the occupation and simply could not recognize that they faced a task of full blown state building.51
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld originally did not want the U.S. committed to nation-building and Bob Woodward quoted President George W. Bush as saying, “I oppose using the military for nation building. Once the job is done, our forces are not peacekeepers.”52 In reality, however the Defense Department after September 11 became firmly involved in the nation-building process in a number of countries including the botched effort in Iraq which led to Iraqi collapse into full scale civil war by 2006.
Major Isaiah Wilson, a researcher for the U.S. Army’s Operation Iraqi Freedom Study Group assessed the U.S. planning process in Iraq in 2006 and concluded that because “of the failure to produce a plan…the U.S. military lost the dominant position in Iraq in the summer of 2003 and has been scrambling to recover ever since.”53 With the end of the military invasion, “what [the U.S.] didn’t plan for was the possibility that hundreds of thousands of soldiers would just go home, that the workforce to rebuild the country would melt away.”54 Then the real conflict began. By the end of 2006, the U.S. had virtually lost control of Iraq and the reconstruction efforts were largely sidelined.55
Iraq and Foreign Aid
Foreign aid to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had his supporters within USAID, was entirely about feeding people. Governance and development were secondary to the maintenance of control. Afghanistan with its international coalition began to reconstruct itself through U.S. and other bilateral and multilateral donors. Though there was a resurgence of Taliban resistance in the southern part of the country, Afghanistan foreign aid policy remained firmly multilateral in its scope. Initially, under George W. Bush, U.S. foreign aid spending patterns remained what they had been over the past decade. By early 2002, “American aid spending stagnated at about $10 billion…. As a percentage of the American economy, it [had] fallen from nearly 3 percent in 1946 to 0.1 percent.”56
After September 11, under George W. Bush the foreign aid budget surged, “fed by concerns that impoverished and failing societies could offer breeding ground or havens for terrorists.”57 On November 3, 2001 as Congress neared completion of a “$15.1 billion foreign aid spending bill, it [walked] a tightrope between staying true to long-held positions and showing support for several autocratic regimes that are cooperating with the U.S. war on terrorism.”58 In assessing the Bush administration at the beginning of his second term, Elizabeth Becker noted that Congress was ready to increase foreign aid to the world’s poorest nations by nearly $2 billion. This would be the biggest increase in development assistance since 1962, thee year after President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps, USAID and established Alliance for Progress in South America.59
Iraq and Afghanistan, not surprisingly, were high on the list for additional foreign aid monies. However, traditional foreign aid recipients were also affected. In 2002, “[t]he United States announced that it planned to spend more than $1 billion over the next four years to improve water efficiency on farms and in factories, to provide electricity to the poor, to help communities combat deforestation and to ease hunger in Africa.”60
In the aftermath of the U.S. invasion, there were concerns that the U.S. would win the initial conflict in Iraq but lose the occupation and peace. At the outset, it was foreign aid which was expected to ensure the peace. This was not to be and these dangers, warnings at the time, were not heeded.61 In March of 2002, the Bush administration made its foreign aid pledges bigger, more urgent and more up front and center than it did in Bush’s first year in office and the President said he would ask Congress “to increase American aid to poor nations by 50 percent over the next three years to $15 billion in 2006, and to try to start the money flowing within months, not a year or two.”62 According to Bob Woodward, post-September 11 “American values, democracy and human assistance programs [were] the softer side of Bush’s agenda.” 63
Over time, the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center attack, and the downing of the plane in central Pennsylvania were to change U.S. approaches to foreign policy and foreign aid. The changes were at least partly fiscal. The 2002 foreign aid program contained proposals by President Bush to increase spending to fight AIDS and reduce hunger overseas; this would raise foreign assistance to more than $18 billion by the 2004 fiscal year.
U.S. interventions in Afghanistan and later Iraq (as well as earlier Bosnia and Kosovo and in several states in Northeast and West Africa) began to promote processes of institutionalization, democratic governance and of the rule of law. After September 11, President George W. Bush redefined his foreign aid policy in terms of reducing poverty and ending repression with statements about moral and strategic purposes. These would include “[d]emocracy, free markets and the rights of women.”64
Yet, despite the surge of foreign aid funding, a number of traditional foreign aid areas were still on the chopping block. To quote Elizabeth Becker again, “In one of the first signs of the effects of the ever tightening [2005] federal budget…the Bush administration has reduced its contributions to global food aid programs aimed at helping millions of people climb out of poverty.”65 To its critics, the Bush administration was less concerned about LDC poverty alleviation and development, and more concerned about national security needs.66 There was a fear that “long-term development and poverty reduction goals, the traditional concern of USAID, will be overwhelmed by the demands of shorter-term strategic considerations….”67
There were calls for new spending to support democracy and governance and to ensure transitions to secularism particularly in the Middle East and Northern Africa. However, there continued to be significant resistance in Congress to increasing the foreign aid budget. Over a year after September 11, according to Paul Blustein, “congressional appropriators appear[ed] poised to approve hundreds of millions of dollars less than the president requested for foreign assistance next year.”68
In 2005, the Bush administration, asked for $2.8 billion for the HIV/AIDS fund and announced that it was “gearing up to meet the president’s goal of $15 billion [in foreign aid] over five years, though some Congressional Republicans concede[d] that budget deficit concerns [would] probably scale back both initiatives.”69 By 2006, the proposed foreign aid budget was over $20 billion. USAID alone handled $14 billion. In 2007, the Bush administration proposed a foreign aid budget of $23.7 billion. With much of that money aimed at combating the AIDS virus and creating a new economic development program, Africa would be the main beneficiary of this latest expansion in foreign aid activity.70 HIV/AIDS and the Millennium Challenge Account became the two major priorities of the Bush administration in its second term.
The Iraq Fiasco
According to critics of the Iraq program, no money had been pre-identified for democracy and governance prior to the beginning of the U.S. invasion. Elisabeth Rubin, speaking of people in Hilla, Iraq, made the point: “This is a country of 23 million people, and we’re there with no plan for what we’re going to do. So we just started figuring it out ourselves.”71 In 2003, the Director of USAID, Andrew S. Natsios estimated that the rebuilding of Iraq would cost U.S. $1.7 billion. By the middle of 2006, the U.S. had spent over $250 Billion.72 The situation could verge on the ridiculous according to Rachel Roe, who was a reservist and a lawyer who was rebuilding the legal system in Najaf. One legal specialist “showed up in the palace in Baghdad looking for the head of democracy and human rights to see what’s the plan and found some 21-year old political appointee who had no idea what was going on.”73
U.S. personnel in Iraq lacked the language skills and cultural sensitivity to perform their duties effectively and had “little experience with complex overseas interventions to restore and maintain order….”74 According to Thomas Ricks, the “U.S. civilian occupation organization was a house built on sand and inhabited by the wrong sort of people….”75 The Iraq bureaucracy had declined in terms of capacity during the occupation. International support for Iraq from Europe or the oil producing states can at best be described as tepid. Tragically, after three and a half years of occupation, the Iraq Study Group would conclude in late 2006 that the “Iraq government is not effectively providing its people with basic services: electricity, drinking water, sewage, health care, and education.”76 The coordination of reconstruction between the senior management of the Department of Defense, the State Department and USAID remained ineffectual.
Humanitarian and development concerns remained secondary. Mid-level planners from USAID had to convince the military that they should specify “no air strike” sites in Iraq such as health clinics, water plants and the electric grid. They also advocated humanitarian aid for food and relief after the invitation.77 USAID officials were not entirely successful in either of these requests. According to William Langewiesche, speaking of the U.S. administrators in Iraq:
It is true that most of the rank and file [in the beginning] had supported the invasion, and continued to believe that they were contributing to the struggle against terrorism, but they were not ideologues so much as ordinary, overconfident, mildly presumptuous college graduates - freshly scrubbed Americans of the sort who inhabit Washington, D.C., nestling up to power.78
In the Iraq occupation, the Bush administration faced three problems: 1) they had to find payment for public sector employees; 2) they had to rapidly issue contracts for economic development and reconstruction; and 3) the occupation administration had to reconstruct the security forces. According to Bob Woodward, the administration in effect punted on all three. Three years after the invasion of Iraq, the three core problems of security, service delivery, and infrastructure and governance had not been solved. The public service remained dysfunctional and most social and economic development projects had come to a complete halt.79
Governance and oil did not mix well in Iraq. According to Jonathan Weisman, in the debate on the 2004-2005 budget “Senate Republicans proposed…to convert nearly half of President Bush’s $20.3 billion Iraqi reconstruction program into loans underwritten by that nation’s oil, and even some of the president’s sharpest defenders said Congress [was] likely to significantly change the administration’s vision for rebuilding Iraq.”80 For the next several years, even in the context of the collapse of security in Iraq by 2007, many in Congress and some in the administration continued to assume that oil revenues would fund the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
By 2005, U.S. aid to Iraq, most of which flowed through the Defense Department, was pegged at $21 Billion. This assistance was targeted at “governing and developing a democracy, help to provide essential services such as electricity, water, sanitation and schools; help to strengthen the economy, assist in strengthening the rule of law and civil rights; increase international support and communicate to Iraqis and promote a ‘free, independent and responsible Iraqi media.’”81 It was a wish list for U.S. foreign aid around the world.
As late as 2006, some Republicans in Congress continued to talk about using Iraq’s oil money to rebuild the country. According to David Firestone, “In explaining how it proposed to spend $20.3 billion to restore a civil society to Iraq, the administration has prepared a virtual travelogue of the country’s descent into destruction and chaos.”82 Sensitivity over democracy was high in Iraq. According to Dana Wilbank:
White House officials were steamed when Andrew S. Natsios, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said [in 2003] that U.S. taxpayers would not have to pay more than $1.7 billion to reconstruct Iraq - which turned out to be a gross understatement of the tens of billions of dollars the government now expects to spend. Recently, however, the government has purged the offending comments by Natsios from the agency’s Web site.83
Despite these failures and USAID efforts to direct support for long term social and economic development there was increasing resistance in the U.S. Congress for provision of reconstruction support. The Iraq Study Group concluded that technical assistance support for Iraq was essential and recommended that U.S. economic assistance be increased to $5 billion per year.84
Coming out of Iraq was a contracting model, a U.S. Defense Department process that would be transferred to another plane (in terms of scale) in smaller countries. The Iraq intervention took outsourcing to its limits. As part of the occupation process, the
The military’s reliance on [Iraqi and overseas] civilians to serve as interrogators and translators in Iraq is now so great that many people are being sent abroad without complete background investigations or full qualifications for the positions…. Once on the job, [in Iraq] several experts said, many of the contractors are barely supervised.85
As a result, not surprisingly, there was widespread waste and corruption in Iraq contracts.86
Contracting in Iraq became analogous with the Civil Operations and Rural Development Support Program (CORDS) - the hearts and minds strategy which provided social services and infrastructure support to rural dwellers Vietnam.87 Increasingly the government’s business was done through sole sourcing, without any threads of competitive bidding. From a foreign aid perspective, U.S. allies had to assure delegates at a two-day conference of international donors in New York that the billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid contracts financed by Iraq’s oil revenue would be put out to competitive bidding.88
With the influx of aid, there were increased dangers and threats to foreign aid contractors in Iraq as well as Afghanistan and in other parts of the Middle East. In Iraq, the bulk of the foreign civilian deaths were contractors and “[t]he chaotic nature of civil conflict is a major reason aid workers face greater danger more often.”89 According to Elizabeth Rubin, discussing another Iraq casualty:
In a way [Fern Holland’s] story slipped effortlessly into a parable about American exceptionalism. Headstrong, reckless, idealistic, Americans have always believed in the power of will - that one man or woman with enough faith and tenacity can at some moment pull off his or her vision.90
Eventually, a great majority of foreign aid workers in Iraq, fearing they had become targets of the post-war violence, “quietly pulled out of the country…, leaving essential relief work to their Iraqi colleagues and slowing the reconstruction effort.”91 By the end of 2006, relief, reconstruction and development efforts had come to almost a complete stop.
Contemporary Debates
Unilateralism vs. Multilateralism
At the end of the twentieth century, despite the end of the Cold War, there were more than 27 conflicts in 26 locations throughout the world. These civil conflicts forced choice on the U.S. All but two of these 27 were civil war conflicts; moreover several of them involved what came to be called “terrorist movements.” In the last half of the twentieth century, while impulses of isolationism remained, the United States tended to bounce on an issue by issue basis between multilateralism and an “isolation” like interventionism that sometimes has been referred to as unilateralism. To quote Mark Hertsgaard:
American elites sometimes talk of our nation’s isolationist tendencies, but the correct adjective is unilateralist. The United States has hardly shunned overseas involvement over the years; we simply insist on setting our own terms.92
The story of foreign aid in a post-September 11 world really starts with Somalia, its links to Osama bin Laden, and the evolving unilateral role that the U.S. first carved out for itself at that time and then temporarily abandoned.
After the collapse of the Somali government in 1991, the United States and the United Nations intervened in Somalia. In addition to the temporary intervention of the U.S. military, the international intervention in Somalia (1993-1995) brought in hundreds of international NGOs, which then were told to develop grants programs to fund thousands of local NGOs to deliver humanitarian assistance. The intervention in Somalia began in support of the humanitarian assistance program but ended in confrontation with Somalia warlords.93
“Blowback” was a CIA term “for how foreign policy can come back to haunt a country years after in unforeseen ways.”94 Blowback as a phenomenon defined the U.S. intervention, and later the abandonment of Somalis, and the impact that the Somalia debacle would have on U.S. foreign policy for the next decade leading to the capture of Somalia by Islamic fundamentalists and a U.S. sponsored Ethiopian intervention. Blowback, which as a term was immediately applied to the “Blackhawk Down” tragedy, was a term applicable to U.S. humanitarian assistance and foreign aid as well. Nowhere was this pattern more clearly defined than in the months after September 11, 2001. Somalia, as would be the case later in Iraq, was an international intervention which went quickly awry. According to Michael Maren:
The violent events that occurred [in Somalia] in 1993 were not an aberration; they were, in fact, foreign aid carried out to its logical extreme. Foreign aid run amok. The desire to help had - as it almost always does-become the desire to control. In a routine foreign aid situation there is [a] local government, even a corrupt local government, to check the tendency of aid organizations toward control. There is a point at which the interests of the aid organizations clash with the interests of the government.95
The incident, which has come to be known as “Blackhawk down,” was such an exercise of control and representative of an overreach by the United States without sufficient force available, into a part of the world that U.S. policy makers did not understand.96 By 1993, the Americans had become totally isolated from the Somalis that they had come to save.97 Shortly after the Blackhawk down massacre of nineteen U.S. soldiers the U.S. announced that it would withdraw from Somalia, a development which later came to be seen as a victory for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda movement.
After ten years of chaos, the warlords and an orphan interim government (virtually unsupported by the U.S. and international community), were overthrown by a group known as the Islamic Court Union whose leader, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, declared on June 2, 2006, that he would bring the Islamic revolution (with its declared conflict with the United States) to Somalia. Three days later the Islamic Court Union declared its control over Mogadishu and Central Somalia, an area with more than half the total population of the country. In December of 2006, the U.S. sponsored an Ethiopian intervention to restore the provisional government to power.
Bin Laden has been linked to a series of other events during the 1990s, beginning with the first bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993. Bin Laden was also alleged to be involved in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, and is said to be linked, directly or indirectly, to the 2000 USS Cole bombing, the Bali nightclub bombings, the Madrid and London train bombings, as well as bombings in the Jordanian capital of Amman and in Egypt's Sinai peninsula. Most importantly, bin Laden attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001.
After September 11, 2001, the reaction of the United States increasingly has been to strike back when its interests are threatened, refusing to accept international criticism, and in effect talking back to the United Nations.98 To Robert Kaplan, “A great philosophical schism has opened within the West, and instead of mutual indifference, mutual antagonism threatens to debilitate both sides of the trans-Atlantic community.”99 The problem became more than a polemic, according to David Sanger, “The prevailing view focuses not on the dangers, but on the limited options for doing anything about them.”100 Unilateralism allowed the U.S. to both rebuff its critics and take action against its adversaries.
In reality, according to observers of the second Bush administration, there was a plan for unilateralism among Bush administration officials influenced by the so-called neo-conservatives who dominated foreign policy (Bush himself, Vice-President Dick Chaney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz among others) that was independent of September 11, 2001. The decision was not cluttered or haphazard; it was a deliberate choice. According to Rick Barton, a former official in the Clinton administration, “There was a clear choice [within the Bush administration] - unilateralism, occupation and change in the Middle East.”101 Iraq was the focal point. After September 11, observers predicted a deepening disorder throughout the world.102 As William D. Hartung has put it, perhaps with a modicum of exaggeration:
George W. Bush has adopted an aggressive, unilateralist foreign policy that reflects unbridled imperial attitudes not seen since the peak period of direct U.S. interventionism in Latin America in the early decades of the twentieth century.103
Labeled by its advocates and critics alike, as neoconservative unilateralism, Bush’s vision of foreign policy included “an ambitious reordering of the world through preemptive and, if necessary, unilateral action to reduce suffering and bring peace.”104
This does not mean that there were no debates within the Bush administration. There were “deep ideological schisms that had rent Bush’s national security team throughout the first term….”105 The Department of State, headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell, tended to be more multilateral in their world view and cautious about military intervention. Unilateral pressures intensified, however, after September 11, 2001. By the early twenty-first century, “U.S. unilateralism [had become] simply the other side of the coin from U.S. isolationism.”106
Further, military intervention wherever it occurred led to increased foreign aid intervention, a pattern which was clearly illustrated both by the U.S. intervention in Iraq and NATO involvement in Afghanistan. Since the Al Quada attacks, many policy makers in the U.S. have assumed that only America could solve the political and security problems of the world and increasingly the term unilateralism came to be debated by pundits and academics alike.
Some aggressive unilateralists have argued, in the context of the likes of Osama bin Laden, that there must be a new form of imperialism that will bring parts of the world again under Western control as a part of the war on terrorism.107 The issue raised by Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and other late twentieth century crises, for Niall Ferguson, is whether or not in the early part of the twenty-first century there is a need to re-order the world in a way that replicates at least some elements of the Empire model.108
For the United States, the choice after September 11 became a unilateral approach to international order or a return to some form of collective leadership. As Ferguson, a radical unilateralist has put it, “The hypothesis…is a step in the direction of political globalization, with the United States shifting from informal to formal empire much as late Victorian Britain once did.”109 Ferguson has argued that the U.S. should take up this global burden but fears that the American Empire “lacks the drive to export its capital, its people and its culture to those backward regions which need them most urgently and which, if they are neglected, will breed the greatest threats to it’s [and the world’s] security.”110 Critics of unilateralism and aggressive multilateralism suggest that these conditionalities smacked of colonialism.
Pulling Back from Unilateralism
There had been political opponents to the Iraq intervention within the Department of Defense, the military and most importantly the Department of State and it was made clear that opponents of the invasion would quickly be replaced because the White House wanted all senior positions in Iraq to be filled with U.S. Republican Party loyalists. Loyalty was the key. The Pentagon would claim that political considerations were not a factor in replacing professional USAID and State Department officials with administration loyalists. The mainstream press remained skeptical. In the wake of the intervention in Iraq and the revelation that he was mislead on the presence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, and absent a plan to rebuild the country, Secretary of State Colin Powell concluded that the war had “gone sour.”111
Despite the threat of military intervention, U.S. foreign aid influences after September 11 remained to a large extent informal or soft, exercised through economic, cultural and in some cases military means rather that through formal institutional (or colonial) structures.112 Foreign aid policy was central to that process. Colin Powell as Secretary of State had been somewhat protective of USAID at times filling non-career slots in the agency with career officers, most of whom held traditionalist views of foreign aid in economic development, humanitarian and governance terms.113
During the second Bush administration, at least to down to the Congressional elections in November of 2006 when the Republican party lost control of both the House and the Senate, “the United States [has exercised] power unimpeded by partnerships, alliances and rules - and without apology for its imperial status.”114 In the five years after September 11, U.S. unilateralism has become increasingly rigid, and part of what one writer has called “a neo-imperial agenda.”115 In both foreign aid and security terms this neo-imperialism of
[a]llying ourselves with repressive regimes, overriding human rights conditionalities on U.S. aid, violating the conventions of international law, and standing behind a policy of “regime changes” and first strikes are all acceptable means in Bush’s endless war against evil.116
Unilateralism already has a retro feel, however, as the U.S. moves haltingly towards a post-Iraq world. Instead of unilateralism, the world will require more “‘internationalism’ than before, and the novel experience of cooperating widely with associates who are no longer satellites or dependents - as well as with the enemy of the past forty years.”117 Particularly, in a post-September 11 world:
The United States has a strategic problem: its war on terror, unlike its long fight against Communism, is not universally seen as the pivotal global struggle of the age. Rather, it is often portrayed abroad as a distraction from more critical issues - as an American attempt to impose a bellicose culture, driven by the cultivation of fear, on a world still taken with the notion that the cold war’s end and technology’s advance have opened unprecedented possibilities for dialogue and peace.118
There is a role that the cool thinking of academics and intellectuals can play in foreign aid and foreign policy process rather than in policy implementation. According to Edward Horesh, as early as 1981, “The proper role of academics in development studies…is to analyze economic and social conditions in less developed countries, not to take responsibility for increasing the rate of economic growth in those countries.”119 Horesh goes on, “An academic social scientist cannot take a direct hand in policy making and simultaneously remain an academic because ‘academic research is general whereas policy is usually specific and in addition requires…knowledge of the institutions and processes in which it is to be applied.’”120
After 2004, as the U.S. had become bogged down in Iraq, multilateralism began to make a comeback. As Glenn Kesler noted in late 2004, “Secretary of State Colin L. Powell [departed] on a weeklong trip to consult with an alphabet soup of European multilateral institutions and confabs, carrying a message that the second-term Bush administration [was] ready to work closely on forging what officials have dubbed ‘effective multilateralism.’”121 Foreign aid became a part of this shift as alternatives to unilateral intervention were proposed.122 Jane Perlez has put it this way:
On the theory that ignorance and poor education are among the reasons that young people are drawn to radical Islam, the Agency for International Development has been revamping its programs in Muslim countries in the last two years to spend more on schools and less on other things, including family planning.123
Within a few months of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the presumption of a long-term occupation, the basis of U.S. action until that time, had gone. The Bush administration rapidly moved the timetable forward on the electoral, the constitutional processes and on the installation of an Iraqi government. However, despite this, and the commitment to obscene amounts of foreign aid assistance, the U.S. had become embroiled in the proverbial quagmire in Iraq as the U.S. public became disenchanted with U.S. military and financial intervention in what had become a three sided civil war.
After the tragedy of the Iraqi invasion a number of critiques of unilateralism began to appear. The idea now was to limit American casualties, or the perception of them, and to “‘accelerate’ the handover of sovereignty to Iraq by the end of June [2004] - an adequate four months before the U.S. elections.”124 There was increasingly a “[r]eluctance in even defining the situation…perhaps the most telling indicator of a collective cognitive dissidence on part of the U.S. Army to recognize a war of rebellion, a people’s war, even when they were fighting it.”125 The declining security situation neither allowed for foreign aid support at a level which would stabilize the country nor allow the U.S. to withdraw its forces.
Criticism of the war became largely but not exclusively a partisan one by 2004. Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry both “faulted President George H. W. Bush for assembling a Persian Gulf War coalition that amounted to a ‘Pax Americana,’ [though the Gulf War was clearly a multilateral intervention] and criticized the incumbent president for bungling the war in Iraq by failing to enlist the United Nations and key allies in the enterprise.”126 John Kerry, the then
presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, [though he voted for the Iraq resolution] repeatedly slammed President Bush for what he call[ed] a “go-it-alone” foreign policy. The line of attack comes naturally. Throughout his nearly 20 years in the Senate, the Massachusetts Democrat has expressed a deep commitment to negotiation and international institutions as a way to advance U.S. interests.127
The debate should have been between multilateralism and unilateralism. Much of the international community saw Afghanistan differently from Iraq. Michael Massing has put it this way, “In contrast to Afghanistan, where reconstruction has been carried out under aegis of the United Nations, in Iraq it has been led almost exclusively by Americans - and not Americans…with long records of working with the international community in alien environments.”128 The intervention in Afghanistan, from its beginning, had a strong international coalition, albeit led by the United States.
Iraq had been from the beginning an American operation. There was, according to Colin Powell, a particular Bush White House machismo “that targeted any criticism of the administration or suggested weakness.”129 From a European perspective, as the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, is said to have put it, “The struggle was not so much about Iraq as it was about ‘two visions of the world.’”130 According to Robert Kaiser, “The [Iraq] war has damaged the good name of the United States in every corner of the globe, has cost unanticipated scores of billions [all of it borrowed] and now threatens long-term damage to our Army and National Guard.”131
Human Security, Democracy and the Governance Problem
Jan Egeland of the United Nations has argued that there has been “a global trend of declining support for humanitarian efforts around the world.”132 Neglect for genocide in Rwanda and in Darfur are only the latest examples of this. Increasingly, debates about the nature of foreign aid, “may delay a solution for the “pre-eminent moral and humanitarian challenge of our age.” These were the words of a United Nations panel chaired by Ernesto Zedillo, the former president of Mexico, a panel that included Robert E. Rubin, the former Treasury Secretary.133 UN official Egeland went on, “Humanitarian aid workers who are impartial and needed to save thousands are often caught in the political crossfire. Terrorists and others are targeting us.”134
Humanitarian aid became increasingly important after 1985 as both ethnic conflict and the economic pressures of structural adjustment led to state collapse in parts of Asia, the Middle East, Central America and most importantly in sub-Saharan Africa. By 1996 U.S. emergency aid was increasing and took “10% of the total aid budget; in 1991 it [had been] only 1.5%.”135 After September 11, a number of donor countries, including the United States, began to put human rights conditionalities into their foreign aid programs136 and since September 11, a major focus of U.S. foreign aid, at least in rhetorical terms has been democracy and governance.137 Humanitarian concerns over time have led donors to increasingly support human rights, the rule of law and democracy and governance programs.
David Reiff has explained the emphasis on human rights in 1996 in this way, “From the civil wars in Somalia and Bosnia to the current crisis in Zaire, it has been the international aid agencies who have most strongly and consistently called for military intervention in humanitarian disasters.”138 Increasingly, conflict resolution and human security issues have been a part of the discourse on foreign aid. In March of 2002, “President Bush…proposed a three-year $5 billion increase in American foreign aid to poor nations that support human rights, adhere to strong systems of law and have open markets.”139
At the same time, those areas most in need of assistance are sometimes excluded from traditional foreign aid. In 2003, the province of Aceh, Indonesia, “where the United Nations estimates that 100,000 people have been displaced as a result of fighting there, is without any foreign aid workers because Indonesia has refused to give them permits, say officials with the United Nations and other organizations.”140 According to Mary B. Anderson, “When international assistance is given in the context of violent conflict, it becomes a part of that context and thus also of the conflict.”141
The Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) was established in the early 1990s and was overtly concerned with conflict resolution and the political change processes. The goal was to begin to support institutional development within the OTI framework. Prior to this time, political development, governance and reforming of political elites often had been a neglected element of foreign assistance. OTI focused on what the Clinton administration called fragile states. The goal of OTI was to ensure rapid on the ground presence in troubled, fragile or collapsed country situations and with it a unique organizational culture and flexible budget.
OTI was given special crisis waiver authority to fund its operations, the authority to make overtly political interventions and to intervene, particularly where there is ethnic conflict, in regional centers away from the capital city.142 A particular concern was to work directly with indigenous, non-urban, non-governmental organizations. Robert Rotberg has called OTI the “special forces of development assistance…, gave it an overall positive review and concluded that the organization has proved itself to be “nimble, imaginative and innovative.”143 The program was not without its weaknesses. OTI has suffered from tight budgets and a very limited permanent staff. Sustainability of OTI has been a problem. Operationally OTI can function in a particular country for less than three years. Contractors, grantees and their staffs have not always been comfortable with the OTI mode of operation with its short lead time, its indeterminate goals and its short life span.144
Later a separate Office of Conflict Resolution was created within USAID in the wake of September 11, 2001. According to Andrew S. Natsios, the then Director of USAID who established the Office, “The nation-building challenge that follows…[the donor] switch to peacekeeping is daunting.”145 It was Natsios’ goal to target fragile and collapsed states.146 In the transition process, “[l]awlessness, spotty oversight and ethnic strife all have vexed past rebuilding efforts, according to audits and reports by public and private institutions.”147 Paul Lewis has put it this way, “The scope, cost and complexity of peacekeeping operations were [and are] likely to grow as more countries find themselves in the grip of violence, famine and civil war.”148
OTI was designed to alleviate the political transition problem in chronically unstable countries. According to Rick Barton, OTI’s first Director, the Office of Transition Initiatives was created to pull failed and failing states back from the brink of collapse. The program represents, “the current best hope for development in many states. There is much denial in foreign aid/foreign policy circles regarding how we got into a situation like this [reconstructing states] but it is there and must be addressed.”149
Conflict resolution was an essential first step to democratic governance of course and a Center for Democracy and Governance (later an Office) had been established in USAID in 1994. An early weakness in the developmental approach to foreign aid was that historically it tended to ignore the political processes and ignored the legitimate political concerns of recipient country political leaders. According to Edward Horesh:
[t]he point is rather that the political leadership found legitimation for their own policies from the prevailing opinions of the development profession which gave intellectual respectability to the monopolization of power by the state and the pretensions of ruling political parties.150
The concern for political development was not new. Throughout the Cold War, “aid allocations - by bilateral and multilateral donors - were dominated by politics - both the international politics of the Cold War and the internal politics of aid agencies.”151 According to an a USAID advisor in 1987, “Together, the three measures under the category of political issues are designed with the assumption that an assessment of political climate and political will to carry out reforms is essential to ultimate success and survival of any major policy reforms.”152
The record of USAID in democracy and governance was spotty. A 1987 USAID survey of Zaire virtually ignored the governance environment and the U.S. officially labeled Zaire as a state transitioning to democracy down to the end of the Mobutu regime.153 There often was resistance to policies that purported to expand democracy. The former Zaire experience was exaggerated but not unusual. In Egypt, critics in 2004 complained that, “contrary to Bush’s pronouncements, U.S. aid - nearly $2 billion per year over the past two decades - has propped up an unpopular government, its army and police, and helped suppress democracy.”154 According to Steven A. Holmes, “The hard reality is that in the last few years, American financial aid to the fledgling democracies of Central America - and to much of the rest of the world - has fallen, as if off a cliff.”155
By the late 1980s, donors had begun to focus on basic human rights and democracy and governance issues. Ironically, this occurred at a point where structural adjustment, public sector reform and privatization were the order of the day and LDC leaders might long for the day, in the height of the Cold War, when they had a political impact on donor policy. Donors began to push for democratic processes at the same time that they required state systems to contract. According to USAID, “Democratization is an essential part of sustainable development because it facilitates the protection of human rights, informed participation, and public sector accountability.”156 Democratic governance came to be a part of the set of conditionalities required by the international community as part of the policy reform process.
By 1990, USAID began to encourage outside input on democracy and governance issues. According to one USAID official, “I thought you [the author] would be interested from an academic perspective at least. Understand the administrator has initiated outside groups to get into the discussion and Ok’ed our sharing these papers.”157 This was refreshingly different than earlier policies which had been largely in house and marked secret or confidential. Military and security issues have become part of the overall process impacting on governance, as well as the movement toward economic and social development. Measuring the impact of governance programs was difficult. Quantitative performance indicators, a prerequisite for USAID’s evaluation process have long been a problem with regard democracy and governance of course.
Not all foreign aid recipients supported the democracy emphasis. As Glenn Frankel pointed out, “Egyptian officials, who have always wielded a veto over which private organizations are allowed to receive U.S. aid, are unhappy about an American proposal to earmark $20 million for democratization.”158 There were different meanings to governance democracy of course. For some it remained policy reform and economic freedom. As a senior USAID official put it in 1991, “Successfully implemented, [public sector reforms] will have a bigger impact on democratization than anything else. In fact this will replace most of our ‘democratization’ efforts. No bourgeoisie, no democracy.”159
Essential to foreign aid success, was working out “a mutually acceptable balance of reciprocal control,” between donor and recipient, over the political process.160 If reciprocal control was a concern, then in the future “the truly radical thing for the United States to do is to invest its resources and its credibility not in individual leaders but in the fledgling attempts…to build institutions of law and accountability.…”161 This is the meat of democracy and governance. In Africa for example, the declared goal of the foreign aid community was to focus on political stability, democratic governance and conflict resolution combined with the development of the continent’s economies.162
There have been differences about the importance of democratic governance between those who stress political freedom and those who argue for economic liberitarianism. According to Howard French, “Where these two schools of thought come together is in the need for foreign donors to give greater encouragement to countries where real democratization is taking place - places…where ‘the poor are more empowered and where this induces governments to provide more basic services’.”163
With an increased emphasis on democracy, the foreign aid “catch phrase [has become] ‘good governance.’ Without it, experts say, aid is often wasted.”164 Yet, often, according to one critic, some bureaucrats in USAID’s Office of Democracy and Governance talk “as if democracy were just a piece of technology, like a water pump, that needs only the right instillation to work in foreign climes”165 In emphasizing governance, especially in the Middle East, the Bush administration believed “focus must be on national structures.”166 Critics of the U.S. foreign aid policy on democracy and government accused the Bush administration of being “hubristic, messianic, [and] imperialistic” particularly when the actual money committed to the Middle East for democracy and governance was very little.167
The Middle East remains the great challenge in terms of democracy and governance. Introducing democracy and governance in the Middle East has proved a considerable challenge particularly in the Levant. Elections, critics suggest, are mainly held to impress donor countries and to prove to the donors that the recipient country is doing the right thing. As Stephen R. Weisman has put it, “The United States, Europe and Arab countries are considering greatly increasing - maybe even doubling - aid to the Palestinians on the condition that they and Israel take certain steps toward reducing their conflict, U.S. and Palestinian officials say.”168
Decentralization has long been an important component of the democracy and governance emphasis. According to Howard French, “Many donors say they want to encourage decentralization and reinforce democratic practices, to which most lenders have paid only lip service in the past.”169 “In sum,” according to Raymond Hopkins, “within broad policy guidelines, the management of global political problems, especially those of a non-military nature, resides primarily in decentralized, partially-connected networks of executives in both national governments and private multinational business.”170
As the last decade of the twentieth century ended, a major debate about civil society groups focused on the relationship between civil society and political society, and whether or not the former is a pre-requisite to the latter. Do civil society groups foster democracy or do they advocate a very narrow set of special interests of persons that are economic in nature? Much foreign aid reached NGOs whose advocacy work was social and economic and did not focus on political or human rights. In some situations, these special interest groups could gain the potential for exercising an inordinate influence over society. From a governance perspective:
To supporters, the groups – better known in the diplomatic world as NGO’s, or nongovernmental organizations - are essential to Africa’s burgeoning democracy, giving communities the money and power to take part in their own development and circumvent ineffective or corrupt governments. To critics, they are new colonialists who instill dependency among Africans, and their contributions to Africa’s development are hard to measure.171
As the millennium approached, the international governance system was characterized by “heightened interdependence, overlapping national interests, and borders permeable to everything from terrorists and technology to disease and democratic ideals.”172 Technical assistance had been internationalized. From a governance perspective, there were a “growing number of human rights and aid workers from third world countries who [were] playing an increasing international role along with workers from Western nations. Major human rights operations in Cambodia, Guatemala and Haiti in the 1990’s have included workers from the third world…”173
Trade and Investment Debates
Despite the lack of support in the private sector or the business community for foreign aid and the annual legislative battle over foreign aid, the foreign aid program has survived because there is a modicum of humanitarian concern within the broad electorate which is reflected in both the executive branch and in a bipartisan coalition of supporters in Congress. However, political leadership has also been quick to see the commercial advantages of international assistance.174 Many donor nations, including the U.S., had long had a policy of tying aid to purchases from the donor country.175 For many critics, foreign aid had become “an expenditure designed to further objectives of foreign and commercial policy.”176
Trade liberalization, policy reform, and democratic governance as a package, has constituted a third stage of foreign aid (1983-2006) following an emphasis on growth and industrialization in the 1950s and 1960s and an emphasis on economic redistribution and basic needs in the 1970s.177 As early as 1970, according to a Presidential report on foreign aid, “development of the private sector in developing countries can be encouraged by appropriate domestic policies, by foreign investment, and by an adequate infrastructure and public services.”178 This came to mean that there was “a need in the developed world to create new markets for goods and services in developing countries and to increase trade with them in order to create more job and growth opportunities within the developed countries.”179
Foreign aid recipient country officials have taken increasing note of the special interests that were favoured in U.S. foreign aid, particularly those revolving around agricultural trade. Under aid regulations, U.S. shipping was favoured, there were buy American clauses in almost all aid projects, food gifts reduced U.S. surplus agriculture, and there were special provisions for the protection of U.S. small business and agriculture. It should be kept in mind that since the beginning of the modern foreign aid period, agricultural interests were very successful in carving out special privileges, particularly in provisions that were intended to encourage the export of U.S. surplus agricultural commodities.180 In the end, if foreign aid means international cooperation, “[t]his cooperation has two essential aspects: the creation of a vast economic area, in which trade is as free as possible, and the granting of development aid to the associated countries, mainly by means of [funds] specially set up for the purpose….”181
“Trade not Aid” became the slogan of the 1990s among many critics of foreign aid. The African Growth and Opportunity Act passed and signed in 2000 provided a system of preferential access to U.S. markets for selected African goods. It was, according to Paul Theroux, a charitable idea which assumed that African countries could not compete on their own and without preferential treatment.182 However, the African Growth and Opportunity Act did not remove the restrictions on LDC trade with the United States. According to Michael Prowse, “By increasing the public sector’s political power, they may sometimes inhibit the emergence of beneficial market and trade relationships.”183 These market and trade reciprocities have not yet evolved between LDCs and the U.S. (and other more developed countries.
Trade policies in many ways are central to the development debate. As Elizabeth Becker noted in August of 2002, “In May, President Bush signed the $190 billion 10-year farm bill that will continue to give the nation’s biggest farmers $19 billion in subsidies, perpetuating a Depression-era program of direct financial aid to encourage production of grain and cotton.”184 The trade off [was] clear and the U.S. had conditions: “If the United States is to open its wallet, poor nations must open their markets.”185 However, opening U.S. markets to LDC products is another matter. According to Becker, “Further complicating aid programs is a debate at the World Trade Organization over concerns that the United States has used food aid to dump surplus commodities in foreign countries where the supply has undercut local [LDC] farmers’ earnings.”186
Given the realities of U.S. food policy, with regard to the nature of the debate between business development and trade vs. education and health, “it is also one that illustrates an expanding ideological consensus on the need to address poverty, disease, famine and conflict in Africa - as well as the remaining gulf between left and right about how best to do it.”187 Moreover, a chief complaint from LDCs has been that the rich nations are not consistent on the issue of trade liberalization.188 In the end, “less hypocrisy on the trade front wouldn’t hurt.”189 Ultimately, from a trade perspective, the “worst trade barrier [was] the $300 billion in agricultural subsidies given to farmers in the world’s wealthy nations….”190 Increasingly, as David Sanger has pointed out, “the problem is in establishing freer trade, something the West has promised but that has not materialized.”191




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