The Senator From Massachusetts Rises to Defend Foreign Aid

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) defends foreign aid in The Washington Post:

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's more urgent than ever that those of us who believe in robust American leadership step up and articulate the dangers of American retrenchment. Many question whether we can afford foreign aid and development investments, but the reality—however hard to swallow—is that we can't afford not to.

We can't afford not to what? Maybe we should reallocate some of that foreign aid money to Senate staff, so Kerry can afford to hire a proofreader. He continues:

Energetic global leadership is a strategic imperative for America, not a favor we do for other countries. It amplifies America's voice and extends our reach. In a world growing more not less interdependent, slashing foreign aid and development investments is a formula for isolation and shrinking influence. America can't opt out of a networked world....

We no longer have the luxury of isolationism as a fallback, though I don't believe we really ever did.... 

Why do we do this? Because it's who we are. It's in America's DNA—from the Marshall Plan to our response to the earthquakes in Pakistan and Haiti....

By showing the world that we comprehend, and share, their destiny we engender goodwill and strengthen critical partnerships.

According to Kerry, foreign aid is not an act of selflessness, because it is in our strategic interest. It is in our strategic interest because it shows how selfless we are, and the world will be grateful for our beneficence. And no matter the payoff, we would do it anyway, because that's just who we are. The closest Kerry comes to a coherent argument is a 1961 quote from John F. Kennedy:

Widespread poverty and chaos lead to a collapse of existing political and social structures which would inevitably invite the advance of totalitarianism into every weak and unstable area. Thus our own security would be endangered and our prosperity imperiled.

Let's put aside the fact that the totalitarian threat to which Kennedy was referring no longer exists. This rationale for being social worker to the world is so broad that it could justify just about any "investment" in fighting poverty and preventing chaos. Kerry emphasizes that "foreign aid programs and foreign policy initiatives...barely make up 1 percent of the annual budget." But however small the cost might be in the context of the entire budget, Kerry cannot identify any measurable national security benefits to weigh against it—a failure highlighted by his lazy conflation of foreign aid cuts with "isolationism," as if the only way Americans engage with the rest of the world is through forcibly extracted charity.

More on foreign aid here.

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  • I, Kahn O'Clast||

    Your proofreader jibe is one with which I will not put.

  • ||

    Insert "up" where appropriate.

  • Mainer||

    Isolationism is the latest word to be re-defined as, someone I disagree with. And any decent human disagrees with, too.

  • sevo||

    "This rationale for being social worker to the world is so broad that it could justify just about any "investment" in fighting poverty and preventing chaos."

    Even if the rationale had some validity, the problem is, it doesn't work.

  • DJF||

    Foreign Aid = Giving money to middle class bureaucrats in rich countries and rich people in poor countries

  • sarcasmic||

    nice

  • DJF||

    I think it would be cheaper just to write a check to Lexus and BMW and have them deliver the Lexus to the bureaucrats and the BMW’s to the rich people

  • marlok||

    politician using the word "robust" = reach for your wallet

  • sarcasmic||

    Widespread poverty and chaos lead to a collapse of are caused by existing political and social structures which would inevitably invite and the advance of totalitarianism into every weak and unstable area of life.

    That's better.

  • Jack||

    Will no one rid me of ths troublesome liberal?
    *and, yes--that's EXACTLY how I meant it (wink, wink, nod, nod)

  • Jim||

    The last thing we need is Kerry being made into a saint.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    John Kerry is still alive?
    Huh.

  • ||

    BRAAAAAINS!

    Seriously. I could use some.

  • SIV||

    I thought he succumbed to his multiple war wounds?

  • ||

    He was in Viet Nam, you know. Did I mention he was in Viet Nam? He was. Vietnam.

  • ||

    And Cambodia! At Christmas.

  • ||

    That's seared--seared!--into my memory.

    Also, he was in Viet Nam.

  • ||

    And he can prove it! He has the hat!

  • TEAM STATIST||

    If we don't keep the money flowing, America might lose controooollll!!!!

  • Teresa Heinz Kerry||

    "Wunna you ungra'eful... li'l wenches... shag it over this-a way... and whistle up yer beloved stepmoney a nice... fresh... drinky-winky..."

  • wef||

    Many question whether we can afford foreign aid and development investments, but the reality—however hard to swallow—is that we can't afford not to......

    swallow?

    Lewinskies all of 'em.

  • ||

    It is true that foreign aid is a small portion of the budget, but it is money thrown into a bottomless pit. Not one penny we have sent over seas has ever gotten anyone out of poverty or averted the rise of any totalitarian regime.
    Hmmmmm....does anyone know what happened to all the dough sent to Haiti after the recent earthquake? How are the Haitians making out pre vs. post quake?

  • Nittany Cat||

    "Not one penny we have sent over seas has ever gotten anyone out of poverty or averted the rise of any totalitarian regime."

    Marshall Plan disagrees.

  • sevo||

    ""Not one penny we have sent over seas has ever gotten anyone out of poverty or averted the rise of any totalitarian regime."
    Marshall Plan disagrees."

    Tony Judt disagrees with you.

  • jtuf||

    The Marshall Plan made Western Europe feel indebted America, which gave President Eisenhower power to pressure them into retreating from other fights. Now we have a Western Europe that is dependent on the USA to defend it.

  • sevo||

    jtuf|8.3.11 @ 8:57PM|#
    "The Marshall Plan made Western Europe feel indebted America,.."
    Nope. As often happens, it made them pissed at us.

    "which gave President Eisenhower power to pressure them into retreating from other fights."
    Uh, what? What "other fights"?

    "Now we have a Western Europe that is dependent on the USA to defend it."
    You bet! Otherwise, they'd have to pay for their own defense. No Euro wants to do that.

  • Stretchy||

    How about, get rid of foreign aid budget and remove trade barriers with poor countries so their farmers and entrepreneurs can sell their products.

  • sevo||

    You'll need to get rid of ag subsidies too, and the French will howl with agony over that.

  • cynical||

    "as if the only way Americans engage with the rest of the world is through forcibly extracted charity."

    Don't be silly, I'm sure Kerry is a fan of war too, so long as his team is in charge.

  • ||

    Ix-nay on the ar-way. That's "kinetic charitable action" now.

  • cw||

    Why is it that in U.S. foreign policy, we can only choose between isolationism and internationalism? Are those two really the only choices?

    Fuck Kerry and his false dichotomies.

  • cw||

    This rationale for being social worker to the world is so broad that it could justify just about any "investment" in fighting poverty and preventing chaos.

    Sounds like a twist on Cheney's one-percent doctrine: if there's even an infinitesimal chance of anything bad anywhere in the world, it's "our" responsibility to assuage and eradicate it.

  • Paul||

    Energetic global leadership is a strategic imperative for America, not a favor we do for other countries. It amplifies America's voice and extends our reach.

    So Kerry is on record admitting that the purpose of foreign aid is to flex American muscle and to serve as a form of imperialism.

    This one's going into my quote file.

  • Paul||

    Widespread poverty and chaos lead to a collapse of existing political and social structures which would inevitably invite the advance of totalitarianism into every weak and unstable area. Thus our own security would be endangered and our prosperity imperiled.

    Thanks for this. I had almost forgotten why we had gotten into Vietnam. It's always helpful to remember Vietnam and all wars like them are essentially liberal ventures.

  • BradK||

    It amplifies America's voice and extends our reach.

    If a Republican had uttered this, the left would scream "Fascist!" before the next sentence could be uttered.

  • jtuf||

    I'll write checks to help people in other countries every year, I just don't want the Feds acting as middle men.

  • JoJo Zeke||

    ... as well as the trite "hegemony." Misused, as always.

  • James J.B.||

    This is what is amazing. We are paying money out on OUR DEBT!!! Then we give money away. Why don't we just step out of the loop and let the Chinese, the French, or whoever else thinks it is our business to save them to give aid.

    Also if Foreign aid is so small, what would be the harm if it was zero. I hate when those bastards say that. Most programs and subsidies are really small and if we cut them kittens will die. BS. TOTAL F'N BS.

  • James J.B.||

    I wonder how such an empty suit ever convinced anyone to vote for him?

    Here's a trenchant question - has Kerry ever said anything of value - really, anything?

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