Some Republican presidential candidates have expressed disdain for foreign aid. But slashing or eliminating foreign aid, as some conservatives have suggested, isn’t a wise strategy, say former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Minnesota Sen. Norman Coleman.
“This ‘soft power’ is sometimes dismissed as expensive and expendable. It’s neither,” the Republican duo writes on Politico
. “Foreign aid is less than 1 percent of the federal budget. When it’s spent in a strategic and targeted manner, with transparent accountability, foreign aid makes a substantial contribution to U.S. security and prosperity.”
Former President Ronald Reagan understood the value of foreign aid, Huckabee and Coleman say. “A belief in U.S. leadership — military, economic and moral — was central to the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan. During the Cold War, he increased U.S. military power. But he also showed the power of American values.”
Fighting for human freedom and dignity is important, Huckabee and Coleman contend. “That is Ronald Reagan’s legacy. We must not abandon it.”
Foreign aid helps preserve stability, the two write: “Stability comes hard in nations and regions weakened by AIDS, malaria or starvation. Problems such as terrorism, pandemics and human trafficking take root in failed states and ungoverned territory.”
Foreign aid also can help develop markets for U.S. exports, Huckabee and Coleman write. And it can act as a counterweight against China. The country has stuck to foreign aid even when economic conditions were worse than today’s, “because these actions were necessary and right.”
“Now we are the nation fighting AIDS and malaria in Africa and around the globe. Not long ago, Republican leaders designed and supported these efforts — motivated by a certain view of our national interests and our national character.”
U.S. foreign aid has saved millions of lives, Huckabee and Coleman say. Republicans must realize that such aid fits with conservative philosophy. “True conservatism doesn’t ignore a problem but approaches it with prudence and purpose,” they write.
“Keeping our commitments is a moral imperative and a symbolic test for the GOP. Will our nation remain a moral and strategic leader — or become something less?”
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