Foreign Aid and Republican Abdication

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– March 26, 2002

With President Bush’s pledge to ratchet up U.S. foreign aid by 50 percent over three years, can someone explain to me again the difference between a compassionate conservative and a Clintonian liberal?

Over 40 years, more than $1 trillion has been extracted from U.S. taxpayers and shipped off in foreign aid, much of it to despots who have wasted or stolen it. Across Africa and the Islamic world, poverty and despotism are more deeply embedded than in the Kennedy-Johnson era, when foreign aid was a new and bold idea.

If U.S. policy is to be based on the wisdom of experience, what is the argument for doubling foreign aid now? Yet, that is exactly what the Monterrey Consensus, signed by 171 nations, commands America to do.

As for those who will dispense this fresh pile of U.S. dollars, they exhibited their love of America in the way they welcomed the Big Enchilada to Monterrey. Writes the Financial Times:

“[Fidel] surged into the conference hall in battle fatigues, timing his arrival to clash directly with a press conference given by … the high priests of the world capitalist order. After a brief handshake with [President] Fox, [Castro] was greeted with thunderous applause as he declared that the prestige of international organizations rates ‘less than zero.’ Seven minutes later, he announced that he had to go straight back to Cuba, and promptly left with a gaggle of reporters in tow.”

Astonishing. At a U.N. conference called to address the crisis of the world’s poor and persecuted, the wildest cheers go to a political criminal under whose 43-year dictatorship thousands of Cuban patriots have perished in prison and the standard of living has fallen from first to last in Latin America.

First runner-up in popularity at Monterrey was Fidel’s Venezuelan comrade Hugo Chavez: “The long-winded leader invoked the spirit of Simon Bolivar … and made a rhetorical call for the IMF to be supplanted by an International Humanitarian Fund, saying the IMF [programs] had been ‘mortal poison’ for the people of the developing world.”

Why would President Bush go to a U.N. conference where Castro and Chavez are celebrated – to announce that the United States will double foreign aid and run much of it through the same people who cheered the two demagogues? Have we lost all of our self-respect?

Surely, the president is not unaware of the character of such U.N. conferences. At the U.N. conclave on racism in Durban, hatred of America was so thick you could slice it with a knife. Yet here we have our new president in Monterrey, using the same old arguments, for the same old policy, to the same old people.

This time, said Bush, we will insist that foreign aid go only to regimes that reform and use it in a hard-headed way. Sorry, sir, been there, done that. The moochers of Monterrey know this is a joke. The West has no credibility because, as the world knows, the West is too guilt-besotted and soft-headed to cut the parasites off.

The award for Western groveling at Monterrey, however, goes to the prime minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, with this bit of self-flagellation: “The collective selfishness of the rich world” has contributed to “the despair of hundred of millions of people – alone, dispossessed, powerless.”

According to Guy, those Arabs and Africans are all suffering not because of the regimes that have misruled them, but because the United States and the West have skimped on their foreign-aid dues.

Are Americans ever going to get sick of this? Are we ever, ever going to stand up, flip these people off and walk out?

What has become of the Party of Reagan? If conservatives believe the road to prosperity for people lies through less government and low taxes, why do they think the road to a rising standard of living in the Third World is through the enlargement of regimes with billions in fresh U.S. foreign aid dollars?

If the Republican Party can end “revenue sharing” with the 50 states as contrary to its philosophy, why does it continue to share tax revenue with foreign regimes that are infinitely more corrupt? It makes no sense, except from the standpoint of the Party’s moral incapacity to stand up for its principles in the face of world opinion and media abuse.

The Republican Party abandoned principle once by signing on to President Bush’s huge expansion of the Department of Education. If it goes along with his 50 percent increase in foreign aid, it will confirm a truth: There is no conservative party in Washington. There is no taxpayers’ party, just two wings of the same Party of Government, the same bird of prey.

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