aid and security
Since the end of World War II, foreign aid and national security have evolved in close proximity. Indeed, in the decade that followed, United States foreign assistance would range between 1.5 percent and 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP.)

Since then, foreign aid has played an important role in advancing national security through several of its components: “bilateral development aid, economic assistance supporting U.S. political and security goals, humanitarian aid, multilateral economic contributions and military aid and assistance.”

However, during the Cold War, this relation began to change. As the U.S. refocused its foreign policy toward containing the Soviet Union, foreign assistance began to drop as a percentage of GDP. But still many development programs remained in place, working toward bringing about political reform and democratization. The dominant logic that political reform and development would create stable and open regimes that could resist communist ideology.

The purpose of many programs did not changed since then: expanding access to healthcare services and education, reducing infant mortality rates, reducing hunger and even protecting the environment. Following the end of the Cold War, the main purpose was refracted; by then, the main target was no longer to contain the Soviet Union but to foment development and economic growth in poor countries.

This also meant that the share of military assistance versus aid also changed. During the Cold War, almost 50 percent of the foreign aid’s budget was allocated to military assistance. By 2001, it had dropped to 24 percent. While the humanitarian and development aid budget increased from 33 percent to 46 percent. The period between the end of the Cold War and the September 11 attacks is characterized by a shift toward prioritizing economic development and opening access to healthcare and education in poor countries. Although no imminent threat existed at the time, national security consideration always remained at the heart of foreign aid.

After the attacks of September 11, this relation between national security and foreign aid changed once more. By 2005, the war on terror had the U.S. engaged in providing foreign assistance to almost 150 countries. Once more the shift was toward containment, but this time of jihadists and extremist activities. Since September 11, the region that has received the bulk of U.S. aid is the Middle East.

Despite the many ups and downs in the road of U.S. foreign aid, the world still looks to U.S. to provide leadership in response to erupting crises around the world. If we are to take a few lessons from this close relationship between aid and security, they are that no matter what the threats are, a key component of national security is a stable world and the best way to achieve is by bringing people out poverty and giving them access to healthcare and education.

Responding to crisis world wide does not have to entail military might. While development and economic aid results can be longer term than military intervention, the long history of the U.S. as a major aid contributor shows that it certainly pays off.

Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: Foreign Aid and Foreign Policy: Lessons for the Next Half-Century, The Foreign Policy Initiative
Photo: ForeignPolicy

Egypt ended its flirtation with democracy and completed its turn back towards a military-dominated political order this week, as the country’s armed forces chief resigned and announced that he would stand for president. The move by Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s defense minister and military chief, came in the same week that a court sentenced 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the recently outlawed Islamist movement, to death in a case that underscored the governments authoritarian nature since the coup that ousted Mohammad Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically president.

Sisi, who spearheaded the coup that toppled Morsi, announced in his resignation as armed forces chief in a nationally televised speech Wednesday, saying that he, “will always be proud of wearing the uniform of defending my country.” Moments later, Sisi announced his presidential bid, characterizing his decision to run for Egypt’s highest offices as, “answering the demand of a wide range of Egyptians who have called on me to run for president, to attain this honor.”

After leaving his post as armed forces commander-in-chief on Wednesday, Sisi tendered his resignation as defense minister during a Thursday cabinet meeting in which General Sedki Sobhi was named as Sisi’s replacement for both the military chief and defense minister posts.

Sisi’s widely expected announcement that he would stand for president in an election he is expected to easily win seemed to complete Egypt’s turn back toward the military-led political order that characterized the six decades of Egyptian governance after King Farouk was toppled in a 1952 coup spearheaded by Mohammad Naguib and Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Nasser would go on to serve as president from 1956 until his death in 1970, only to be replaced by another military man, Anwar el-Sadat. After Sadat was assassinated by radical Islamists in October 1981, Hosni Mubarak, the former commander of the air force, became president, continuing the post-1952 trend of presidents drawn from the armed forces. Mubarak went on to serve as president for close to three decades, ruling until massive demonstrations forced him from power in February 2011.

After 16 months of military rule following Mubarak’s removal, Morsi, an Islamist backed by the Brotherhood, was elected president, becoming Egypt’s first freely elected leader and the only president in the country’s history who did not serve in the military. Morsi, who was a member of the Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist group, at the time of his election, was also modern Egypt’s first Islamist president.

In the lead up to the July 3 popularly-backed coup that ousted Morsi, severe fuel shortages caused long lines at gas stations across Egypt, enraging motorists, as a sharp decline in the Egyptian Pound led to skyrocketing domestic prices. Meanwhile, Egypt’s foreign exchange reserves, which the country’s central bank uses to prop up the pound, had fallen to about $15 billion, down from $36 billion when Mubarak was toppled.

Massive demonstrations in late June and early July led the military to step in and seize power. Since the July coup, the military has unleashed a brutal crackdown targeting the Brotherhood, which has now been outlawed and designated as a terrorist organization. The Islamist groups’ assets have been seized, while its leaders, including Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie, have been imprisoned.

Egypt’s post-Morsi authoritarian state began to take shape in late November, when the country’s military-backed government promulgated a new law imposing draconian restrictions on demonstrations, including giving the Interior Ministry, an institution known for its aversion to civil liberties, blanket authority to ban, postpone or move protests. And then in January, Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that grants the military wide-ranging powers, including the authority to appoint the defense minister for the next eight years. The new charter, drafted by a constituent assembly whose composition the military helped to shape, mandates that the defense minister must be an active member of the armed forces and creates a legal framework for trying civilians in military courts.

With the announcement that the country’s now former military chief will run for president in an election that he is likely to easily win, Egypt’s turn towards authoritarianism seems to have transformed into a headfirst leap.

-Eric Erdahl

Photo: Ed Week
BBC News 1, BBC News 2, BBC News 3, BBC News 4, BBC News 5, Carnegie Endowment for Internatinal Peace

Guns are more of a threat mechanism for Boko Haram. It is knives they use to kill.

Known for attacking Christians, government officials and schools in an effort to halt anything it considers to be Westernization, Boko Haram is an Islamic jihad terrorist organization that aims to form an Islamic state in northeast Nigeria. Their violent campaign, which began in 2002 under Mohammed Yusuf, is increasing in intensity and inciting fear throughout the region. This past year alone saw hundreds of deaths at the hands of Boko Haram and the group’s official recognition as a terrorist organization by the United States.

Many innocent Nigerians have been severely affected by the horrors around them. One young woman was held captive for three months and ordered to slit the throats of newcomers brought to her camp. Orders such as this, in addition to the slaughter of numerous people in front of captives, are not uncommon circumstances in the presence of Boko Haram.

Attacks on schools have resulted in an unfortunate educational hiatus. Borno state, for example, closed down all of its schools prior to the normal end of term in order to keep children and educators safe. And the conflict is spreading.

Thousands of refugees have run away from the region, taking refuge over international borders. Navanethem “Navi” Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has recommended a regional effort in order to take on the tumultuous issue of Boko Haram’s terrorist activity.

Nigeria’s national security advisor, Sambo Dasuki, also offers a new path to solve the problem. Claiming that corruption, injustice and a lack of opportunity have led many young Nigerians to support or even join Boko Haram, Dasuki proposes a plan quite different from the military campaign currently attacking Boko Haram camps that is failing to make much progress toward peace.

Dasuki calls it a “soft approach” and purports to enroll past Boko Haram members in vocational schools while local imams deliver different, more pacifist, interpretations of the Quran. The primary issue, however, is that a great many Nigerians, alienated in the northeastern section of the country where Boko Haram runs rampant, harbor a deep distrust for President Goodluck Jonathan’s counterinsurgency program in the area. This military action is expected to continue even through Dasuki’s new approach.

The hope is that a mobilization of “family, cultural, religious and national values” can turn the tide of the situation in northeast Nigeria. With enough energy behind these new initiatives, perhaps the number of people terrorizing civilians will subside and a feeling of safety and security will form as a replacement for fear.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: The Economist, BBC, Al Jazeera, All Africa
Photo: Daily Post