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Save America's foreign policy budget

A choice between a robust US diplomatic program and a healthy federal budget is a false one. As events in the Arab world show, now is not the time to whack the State Department's budget.

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In newly budget-conscious America, here’s a suggestion that is routinely offered on talk shows: End foreign aid; shore up America first. It’s a similar cry on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers want to cut the proposed budget for the State Department in half.

This week, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, framed it this way: Cuts in foreign-affairs funding may be painful, but a bankrupt United States would have even less leverage in the world.

The choice between a robust US diplomatic program and a healthy federal budget is a false one. Foreign aid amounts to about 1 percent of the federal budget – not 25 percent, as is commonly thought by many Americans in a recent poll.

But think beyond that statistic to the concept that active and positive engagement abroad ultimately means a more secure America at home. When US aid and diplomacy prevent international crisis, that’s good for markets, not to mention humanity.

Consider, for instance, what America has to lose or gain in the uprising for democracy in the Arab world. Instability and uncertainty in Libya have caused a spike in world oil prices. That, in turn, affects American consumers.

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