"Straighten up and fly right or we're just going to give you a billion dollars." It's tempting to zero out aid to openly hostile "allies" like Pakistan and Iraq. And with our budget mess it certainly ought to be liable for some trimming. Wiki tells me that US foreign aid to Afghanistan equals 72% of that country's GDP. That's some stimulus program.
In general, though, foreign aid is money well spent
on improving stability and developing markets.
The Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates put it in simple terms last week: "The 1% we spend on aid for the poorest not only saves millions of lives, it has an enormous impact on developing economies – which means it has an impact on our economy."
President George W Bush saw the value of foreign assistance and launched the biggest programme to combat Aids and malaria. The defence secretary, Robert Gates, has also been a champion of foreign assistance, urging Congress to sustain civilian-led aid programmes, particularly in conflict zones like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Gates's message, and that of many of the military brass, is that cutting aid jeopardises US national security. It also creates a greater vacuum in so-called fragile states, which can easily be filled by those who do not have US interests at heart. There is no doubt that foreign assistance helps ward off future military conflicts.