Thursday, March 25, 2004

Compassionate Conservatism meets Warmongering .. who wins?

According to the CSM President Bush has a good track record of increasing foreign development aid:

One of the great surprises of the Bush presidency has been the push for more aid. After all, many conservative Republicans call it a waste - pouring money down the drain.

But the new fear of terror and the spread of AIDS has changed all that. The administration now calculates that by making the foreign-aid system more effective, it can reduce world poverty and thereby boost US security. The effort breathes new life into a program that's lost credibility - and has become Bush's boldest foray into liberal territory.
[emphasis added]

This is correct. Endemic poverty weakens states. Failed states become havens for terrorism. Percieved injustice as well as actual injustice detracts from American credibility and moral authority. This becomes justification for promoting popular support for anti-US movements and international terrorism.

In one sense, that $23 billion in the latest Bush budget exaggerates the aid increase. That's because it includes $7 billion for Iraq's reconstruction. Even ignoring Iraq, however, aid has risen under Bush, after declining since the 1980s.

"Foreign assistance funding has gone through the roof under this president," says a Republican congressional staffer.

US official development assistance amounted to $11.4 billion in 2001 and $13.2 billion in 2002, as measured by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based club of mostly rich nations. And if Congress provides all the money sought by Bush for his Millennium Challenge Accounts (MCA), his HIV/AIDs initiative, and other smaller programs, the total could about double by 2008.
[emphasis added]

The problem with that is that the PEW Research Center has found that the war in Iraq has undermined US support abroad:

A year after the war in Iraq, discontent with America and its policies has intensified rather than diminished. Opinion of the United States in France and Germany is at least as negative now as at the war’s conclusion, and British views are decidedly more critical. Perceptions of American unilateralism remain widespread in European and Muslim nations, and the war in Iraq has undermined America’s credibility abroad. Doubts about the motives behind the U.S.-led war on terrorism abound, and a growing percentage of Europeans want foreign policy and security arrangements independent from the United States. Across Europe, there is considerable support for the European Union to become as powerful as the United States.

In the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, anger toward the United States remains pervasive, although the level of hatred has eased somewhat and support for the war on terrorism has inched up. Osama bin Laden, however, is viewed favorably by large percentages in Pakistan (65%), Jordan (55%) and Morocco (45%). Even in Turkey, where bin Laden is highly unpopular, as many as 31% say that suicide attacks against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq are justifiable. Majorities in all four Muslim nations surveyed doubt the sincerity of the war on terrorism. Instead, most say it is an effort to control Mideast oil and to dominate the world.
[emphasis added]

So the net result of our occupation of Iraq and our support of Ariel Sharon (Juan Cole's Blog) has been to undermine our position in Iraq, undermine American credibility and moral authority, and to promote the popularity of suicide bombing as a "justified" tactic in terrorism.

Gee, that's so ... yeah.

The foreign aid thing is a good idea. However, it's been more than compensated for by the setbacks in American interests regarding the war of ideas in the middle-east:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in an interview last week with The Washington Times that the United States is not doing enough to counter extremist ideas, and polls have shown that public support for America has declined sharply in the Middle East since 2000.

"We are in a war of ideas, as well as a global war on terror,"
Mr. Rumsfeld said, noting that "ideas are important, and they need to be marshaled, and they need to be communicated in ways that are persuasive to the listeners."

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