Thursday, December 30, 2004

Aid and Bush's World Appeal

Juan Cole is annoyed at this statement by Bush:
Take, for example, in the year 2004, our government provided $2.4 billion in food, in cash, in humanitarian relief to cover the disasters for last year. That's $2.4 billion. That's 40 percent of all the relief aid given in the world last year was provided by the United States government.
Cole points out:
The US Federal budget in 2004 consists of about $1.8 trillion in receipts and $2.3 trillion in expenditures. The 2003 official development assistance budget was $15 billion (a very large portion of which goes to countries that don't need the assistance, and is given for strategic reasons). That is about 0.14 percent of the US GDP. Norway, in contrast, spends $2 billion a year on humanitarian assistance, which comes to almost a full 1.0 percent of its GDP. This is the sort of thing that drove Egeland to make his remark. He was even complaining about Norway, which is several times more virtuous than the US on a per capita basis in this regard.
Meanwhile Matt adds his support to the increasingly common view that money spent on guns should be accompanied by money spent on so-called "soft power" issues. For instance, former secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher suggested in WaPo a while back that the Bush administration should increase the international affairs budget as a way to implement some of the 9/11 commission's recommendations on how to reduce terrorism:
This budget, which includes international assistance and other global programs, has evolved into the most significant non-military tool in the U.S. foreign policy arsenal and has gained widespread support in Congress and among national security specialists, especially in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Like the use of strong military action and effective intelligence gathering, the strategies promoted by the international affairs budget are essential tools in the fight against global terrorism, against the spread of weapons of mass destruction and our efforts to promote global stability.
Matt (via Marshall Whittman) also says that Bush would do well to put some of his political skills to use on the international scene. Of this I am very sceptical for two reasons:
  • As Timothy Garton Ash's recent book and article point out: Europe (and much of Asia and Latin America) is split between a pro-American "right" and an anti-American "left" whereas America is split between an anti-European/anti-UN "right" and a pro-World "left". Bush may be close enough to the center of American politics to get elected twice but compared with the world "electorate" he is on the extreme far right.
  • The types of political tactics and strategies Bush employs successfully at home (appeal to core American values like patriotism and individualism, over-simplification, fear mongering, ruthless attacks on opponents) do not easily carry over to the world scene. His core appeal is very much grounded in an us vs. them view of the world -- the world is "dangerous", we Americans are "good" and he will "protect us".
Feedback is always welcome.

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