The United States is the largest giver of foreign aid in the world, providing $49.5 billion in economic and military assistance in 2011. Clearly, charity is one of our strong suits. But with the slow economic recovery, and approximately $12 trillion in national debt, the fact is that we cannot afford to keep this up. A good chunk of the money spent on aid could be put to use helping the actual citizens of the US, but instead the government chooses to send billions of dollars a year to many countries that do not even like us, or give us anything in return. We send money to Iraq, and they send some of this to assist Iran (and if I recall correctly, we aren’t on good terms with them). We also send billions to the Palestinians who want to get rid of the Hezbollah, while Hezbollah are openly supporting the Syrian government – the side of the Syrian civil war that we are against.
A nice interactive map of the country-by-country aid shows the biggest and smallest receivers of foreign assistance. While many would expect Israel to be one of the largest, it pales in comparison to countries like Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq. These countries are obviously not the most stable, developed, or on good terms with the US, so why exactly do we spend so much trying to assist them? Perhaps it is because of these traits that we have some sort of obligation to give them a helping hand. After all, dozens of Pakistani civilians have died from drone strikes, thousands in Iraq from the war that we started, and thousands in Afghanistan at the hands of a terrorist organization that the US funded in the 1980’s.
It comes down to the US’s obsessive-compulsive desire to constantly interfere around the world, and in affairs that have little or nothing to do with us. The government repeatedly tries to replace ‘bad’ dictators like Saddam with democracies, and look it never seems to work out. The best solution at this point is to cease all interventions and let these places handle their own business for a while. According to Bin Laden himself, 9/11 was an act of retaliation against the US’s support for Israel. Why play favorites in a game with no prize for us? If we actually let these places develop themselves without the help of the outside world, it may do more good in the long run.
It seems that we are on the right path, as US lawmakers have recently proposed a cut to the foreign aid budget. It is true that the foreign aid budget is a relatively small amount of the total budget. However, the issue is less about the financial consequences, and more about political consequences. The overall mission should be for the world to become less reliant on the US, and more-so on themselves. As history has shown, we are not exactly the best at turning countries into paradises when we get involved. It’s time for us to take a step back, and let everyone else take a step forward.