It is not widely known how much foreign aid is being spent as a part of the national budget, especially because statistics and figures can change dramatically under different administrations and eras. The policies of former presidents on foreign aid can reflect the national and international priorities of the nation itself and what the presidents themselves valued more compared to other factors within the federal budget.
5 Former Presidents on Foreign Aid: Who Spent What?
- Harry S. Truman is well-known for the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. While the Truman Doctrine was to extend economic and military aid to Greece, the Marshall Plan was more inclusive as it was designed to help Western European countries rebuild after World War II, consisting of $13 billion. Other goals achieved through these means were building markets for U.S. businesses and earning allies during the Cold War.
- Ronald Reagan believed in budget cuts domestically, but he was a strong advocate for non-military foreign assistance. He promoted the “0.6% of GDP” minimum to be spent on foreign aid, as he believed that such aid plays a large role in foreign policy strategies. Such strategies were to create stronger U.S. allies and to promote economic growth and democracy globally. Reagan also emphasized that it is an American value to provide foreign assistance based on the U.S. founding beliefs that “all men are created equal.”
- Jimmy Carter was an advocate for making human rights a priority of the U.S. foreign policy. Not only did he sustain foreign aid, he also made sure to redirect the routes of such aid away from brutal regimes, such as that of Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile-Mariam. He also ensured that foreign aid was an instrument used for luring in more American allies during the Cold War. For instance, by 1980, 75 percent of the total aid designed for Africa were redirected towards the Horn of Africa, as Mengistu was Soviet-backed.
- During Barack Obama’s presidency in 2011, figures on foreign aid were reported as being increased by 80 percent when compared to the reports in 2008. Foreign assistance kept increasing from $11.427 billion in 2008 to $20.038 billion in 2010 to $20.599 billion in 2011. During 2011, the aid was split into Economic Support Fund, Foreign Military Financing Program, multilateral assistance, Agency for International Development, Peace Corps and international monetary programs.
- In 2002, George W. Bush planned an expansion of 50 percent over the next three years through the Millennium Challenge Account which would provide $5 billion every year to countries where that governed unjustly. Additionally, Bush called for $10 billion to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean over the following five years. There were also emergency funds put aside, consisting of $200 million for famine and $100 million for other complex emergencies.
The policies of former presidents on foreign aid widely reflect their intents and objectives, such as wishing to create more U.S. allies during the Cold War or to stop health epidemics from spreading, like HIV. International assistance can be employed in differing areas of focus that all eventually reach out to help an individual or a community climb out of poverty.
– Nergis Sefer