Buying Friends with Foreign Aid
With an American invasion of Iraq imminent, nations in the region are increasingly worried about the political, social, and economic consequences of a second Gulf war. Not surprisingly, Jordan, Israel, Kuwait, and Turkey are demanding more money from the U.S. to offset the costs, economic and otherwise, of such a war. Other Middle East countries are sure to follow. Yet the more foreign aid we send to the Middle East, the more hopelessly entangled we become in the intractable conflicts that define it. Worse yet, the practice of buying friends casts very serious doubt on the lofty claims that we are promoting democracy. If our plans for Iraq will bring peace and stability to the region, why do we have to buy off the Middle East governments that stand to benefit? The truth is that those governments, even our ostensible allies, have very serious doubts about the wisdom of our proposed invasion of Iraq. Money- lots of it- makes them more amenable to our cause.
Turkey in particular has shown incredible gall in demanding billions for its cooperation with our war efforts. Turkey shares a border with northern Iraq, and its air bases could serve as an important staging area for American forces. Yet Turkey is demanding a whopping $30 billion in exchange for its support of the war and use of its airfields. Unfortunately, the administration appears ready to accept this blackmail if a slightly lower dollar amount can be negotiated.
This blatant shakedown gives new meaning to the term “ally.” In World War II, our allies were just that- nations willing to share the costs and risks, even the lives of their soldiers- to fight a war against common enemies. Today, our phony allies are bought and paid for with billions of your tax dollars, but prove less than trustworthy when trouble arises.
Turkey wants more than our money, however. It also wants to control the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. The Kurds in both Iraq and Turkey desire an independent Kurdish state, which the Turkish government fiercely resists. Turkish officials want an agreement that will allow thousands of their soldiers to advance into Kurdish northern Iraq on the heels of American forces. This would be a shameful insult to the Kurdish people, who at least have been consistent foes of Saddam Hussein.
The billions we will give Turkey are just the tip of the iceberg. The foreign aid feeding frenzy will only intensify as America expands its role as world policeman. Already it is routine for some nations to send negotiating teams to Washington during the appropriations process, intent on securing the foreign aid loot to which they feel so entitled. Just as hordes of domestic lobbyists roam the halls of Congress seeking federal money for every conceivable special interest, we should expect foreign lobbyists to increasingly look for money from American taxpayers. In the new era of American empire, foreign aid spending serves as the carrot. Iraq will get the stick, at least at first. Once we occupy it, of course, we will spend billions there as well.
Foreign aid is not only unconstitutional, but also exceedingly unwise. It creates the worst kind of entangling alliances that President Washington warned about. It doesn’t buy us any real allies, but instead encourages false friendships, dependency, and a sense of entitlement among the recipients. It also causes resentment among nations that receive none, or less than they feel they deserve. Above all, however, it is simply unconscionable to tax American citizens and send their money overseas. We have enough problems of our own here at home, and those dollars should be returned to taxpayers or spent on legitimate constitutional activities.