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catforclark2004 Donating Member (208 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-07-03 04:04 PM
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Department of International Assistance - The New Republic
Soft Sell
by Robert Lane Greene

One of the more surprising proposals of the Democratic primary campaign has so far been one of the least reported. Wesley Clark, criticizing the Bush administration for being too quick to seek military solutions to the world's problems, has proposed increasing American foreign aid and creating a cabinet-level Department of International Assistance to oversee it. For those who say the general has only a resum and no ideas to help distinguish himself from the Democratic pack, the plan, laid out in his book Winning Modern Wars, should stand as a corrective. Right or wrong, Clark seems to be staking out a position as the candidate who is most likely to turn American foreign policy in a less aggressive direction, focusing both on unruffling allied feathers and on placating those who actively seek to do us ill.

The proposal is certain to come in for mockery from the right. Most conservatives are hostile to foreign aid, both as a waste of money and on the principle that aid undercuts poor countries' incentives to fight corruption, achieve better governance, and manage their own development. And the idea of a cabinet-level department will surely inspire extra derision from those who don't think there should even be a Department of Education or Homeland Security. A Department of Giving Money Away--with a Secretary of Giving Money Away? Please.

As easy as the idea is to mock, let's hope the general sticks with it. The idea behind the department is one accepted not just by soft, lefty types: George W. Bush himself has intermittently conceded that, in the long-run war against terror, American "soft power" is a necessary complement to smoking terrorists out of their caves and blowing them apart. The United States has launched Arabic-language radio stations and magazines to sell American culture to the Arab world. Bush announced an increase in overall aid--on the condition that poor countries reform themselves before they receive it--with the Millennium Challenge Account program, launched in Monterrey in March 2002. And in the 2003 State of the Union address, he announced an increase in funding for fighting AIDS in the developing world, in a speech mainly given over to making the case for war. The juxtaposition was not haphazard. It was, however, all too rare.

The American government gives far less aid as a share of gross national income (GNI) than any other major developed country: 0.11 percent, with middle-income Egypt and Israel getting the largest share as part of the Camp David accords. This compares with 0.23 percent for Japan and 0.27 percent for Germany, the other two biggest donors by volume. The small, rich European countries devote the greatest share of their income to aid: 1.03 percent from Denmark, 0.83 percent from Norway, 0.82 percent from the Netherlands.

There's far more to national generosity than money, of course. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently published an innovative "Commitment to Development Index" that combined raw aid levels with indicators like openness to immigration, trade policy, environmental policy, and participation in peacekeeping. But here, still, America ranks 21 out of 22 (only Japan ranks lower), thanks to low aid levels, high farm subsidies, damaging environmental policies, and distaste for peacekeeping. Not included in the Carnegie Endowment survey, but every bit as damaging to the poor world, are the Bush administration's policies on birth control, abortion, and women and children's rights, which consistently line America up alongside fundamentalist Islamic countries like Sudan and Iran to oppose any policy that even indirectly endorses abortion or condoms.

The impact of these policies on poor countries' chances for growth is huge. Rich countries spend $350 billion a year--seven times their development aid budgets--subsidizing their own farmers. Just letting poor countries compete in developed-world markets would be a huge boost. And it would encourage them to open their own markets. A recent World Bank study found that 24 of the most "globalized" poor countries grew by an average of 5 percent per year in the 1990s; the least globalized shrunk by around 1 percent per year.

Critics of Clark's idea will point out that there's no need for a cabinet-level department to do what USAID already does from within the State Department. But given the chaotic state of America's development policies taken in toto, this is exactly where a cabinet-level department can make a difference. Just to take a few important policy areas, USAID distributes aid money, the EPA handles global environmental issues, the Department of Agriculture administers farm subsidies, the U.S. Trade Representative (part of the Executive Office of the President) negotiates trade, Homeland Security oversees immigration, Defense runs peacekeeping, and so on. A single department could eliminate the inefficiency that arises when, say, USAID helps foreign farmers cultivate crops for which there is no foreign market, thanks to lavish U.S. subsidies.

If Clark is serious about the idea, he should make it crystal clear that his new department wouldn't be a boondoggle, but a top-level player in foreign policy, charged with synchronizing the policies designed to help the world's poorest. There is no quick fix, but there are compelling strategies: The new department could, for example, combine policies that develop education infrastructure (with special emphasis on access for women and girls), assist with adoption of modern technology, provide cheap therapies for the manageable ailments (like diarrhea and malaria) that devastate poor countries, assist with family planning, and, most importantly, give countries economic incentives to develop rather than rely on charity. A high-profile department might also encourage more economists and area experts to consider working in the U.S. government rather than the private sector or NGOs.

There's only one thing that needs to be changed: the name. A Department of International Assistance not only sounds too much like charity for domestic consumption, it also sounds patronizing to the countries it would seek to help. Britain and Germany, among others, have a cabinet-level minister for International Development, a more serious and optimistic-sounding moniker.

Beyond the practical benefit of creating a high-level department dedicated to development and policy coordination, putting development on the same symbolic level as other arms of foreign policy like Defense and Treasury would send a political signal: America is not only interested in the rest of the world when it's time to shoot someone or prop up the economy. Sometimes, yes, people need to be shot, but Clark's point is that this shouldn't be our only instinct. With the "modern wars" Clark alludes to in his book title being so different from the set-piece battles of history, America should commit itself to modern tools--sophisticated weapons and sophisticated soft policy--to fight them.

Robert Lane Greene is countries editor at
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mhr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-07-03 04:08 PM
Response to Original message
1. Fine, But What About Jobs
Until Clark states publicly that he will do the following he does not get my vote.

Outlaw overseas job outsourcing,
Elimination of all L-1 and H-1b visas,
Promote "hire them here," and "make it here" policies,
Renegotiate NAFTA and WTO accords to promote Fair Trade vs Free Trade.

'nuff said!
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catforclark2004 Donating Member (208 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-07-03 04:23 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Clark already said he would renegotiate NAFTA...
Iowa Town Hall.....was one of the first questions asked of him.

Also said that no other trade agreement could be implemented unless it had trade and enviromnental standards......he said close to those of the U.S., but did concede that "at-par" may be impossible early on. I'll try to get the stream video link and try to find what frame that question is answered.
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