Monday, December 26, 2005
previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)
The reorganization of U.S. foreign aid
Over the past few weeks there have been a trickle of stories coming out about a reorganization of U.S. foreign aid policies.
For example, there's Caroline Daniel and Guy Dinmore's Financial Times piece from December 11th:
President George W. Bush on Wednesday announced that the State Department would lead all US post-conflict reconstruction, a move that supersedes the controversial decision to give that task to the Pentagon in Iraq following the 2003 invasion....
Then there's this write-up of an FT interview with outgoing USAID head Andrew Natsios:
The US Agency for International Development will unveil early next year a comprehensive strategy for improving democracy and governance in developing countries.I'm not sure how far the Bush administation is going to get in its reorganization, but the proposals raise an interesting question -- should the primary focus of U.S. foreign aid be on reconstruction and democratization? One could argue that this leaves out a whole lot of other aims -- literacy, disease prevention, and economic development, for starters. One could also argue, however, that reconstruction and democratization are prerequisites for the other stated aims of foreign aid. One could also argue, however, that democratization is the result and not the cause of those other goals.
Whenever you have a chicken-egg problem like achieving multiple development goals, it strikes me as wrong-headed to put all of your resources in one half of the equation. If the administration's proposal is to create such a balance, fine with me. If the idea is to make reconstruction and democratization the sole aim of foreign aid, though, then I'm not sure it's such a hot idea.
One final bureaucratic thought. The attempt to create logistical capabilities for aid and reconstruction within the State Department would have a significant effect on the traditional rivalry between State and Defense. The latter has always had an edge in terms of capabilities and resources. If State develops its own parallel means to deliver man and material somewhere, one of DoD's unspoken advantages in bureaucratic politics will be dented just a little bit.posted by Dan on 12.26.05 at 09:09 AM
A civilian version of the Transportation Command is not going to happen - too expensive, too little need. Most of the civilian efforts are being taken care of by the private market - efficiently so. But the idea of better coordination also in terms of logistics is definitely central to the necessary improvements of the whole reconstruction and relief sector.posted by: Henrik on 12.26.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
The very little I've actually seen directly regarding foreign aid suggests to me that this measure may actually be too little.
Humanitarian aid -- that is, food, help in purchasing food, medicine, and the like -- and economic development projects seem, to a casual observer, to have had the perverse effect of strengthening tyrannies and encouraging random fractionalization. When the money isn't immediately redirected into the elite subeconomy, it serves to relieve the Powers that Be from actually doing their jobs, most especially from properly allocating resources. Since the resources to keep the most intractable problems quiescent come from elsewhere, there's no reason for the oligarchs to defer their vacations in Cannes.
I don't know what the solution is. But (e.g.) if we feed Mugabe's people, he has no incentive to modify the disastrous measures he's taken. The end result is to subsidize bad governance, and that isn't good for anyone but the oligarchs who benefit directly.
Oh, and --
Additional force for the State Department could probably be best done in cooperation with our allies, especially the French, who have great expertise in that area.
We could call the result Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne.
Post a Comment: