Over the past 20 years, terrorist attacks have become more common, and groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda have become global enemies. These occurrences raise the question: What is the best way to fight? Exploring how foreign aid builds alliances with a look at recent history may have the answer.

Less than 80 years ago, Germany, Italy and Japan declared war on the U.S. as a part of WWII. In response, the U.S.temporarily ended diplomatic relations with these nations. When the war ended, much of Europe was destroyed, and the continent faced wide-spread famine. In these conditions, the U.S. gave extensive foreign aid to these and other nations, helping to rebuild their communities, economies and daily  lives. Today, these three countries are some of our closest allies, giving evidence that foreign aid helps forge alliances.

The U.S. government feared that the Soviet Union could take advantage of Europe’s frailty and institute communism throughout the continent. In response, the new secretary of state, George Marshall, constructed the European Recovery Program, commonly called the Marshall Plan.

The Marshall plan appropriated $13 billion to 16 European nations. This was aimed at providing food to prevent famine as well as sending other basic necessities and supplies to begin rebuilding. These shipments allowed Europe to reestablish its economy and fueled the coal and steel industries that are so important today. This investment also made a path for the eventual creation of the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO).

Below are three examples of benefits when foreign aid builds alliances.

1. Germany is one of our leading trade partners

As of today, Germany no longer receives U.S. foreign aid and has the largest European economy. Not only do both the U.S. and Germany remain in NATO, but the countries work together to expand global trade. Germany is also a large supplier of goods for the U.S. They exported $125 billion worth of goods, while the U.S. exported $50 billion to Germany.

Beyond economic ties, Germany also works with the U.S. at the U.N. Germany has been integral to fighting the Islamic State and al Qaeda and to maintaining peace in Africa and the Balkans.

2. Italy helps the U.S. agenda on human rights, democracy and disease control

Italy is now a prosperous nation that no longer requires foreign aid.

Italy is a member of the U.N., the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, G8, G20 and many other international organizations. In these roles, Italy works with the U.S. to cultivate democracy throughout the world and reduce conflict and terrorism. Italy also helps the U.S. in human rights, drug trafficking, human trafficking and fighting epidemics such as ebola. Rebuilding Italy after WWII helped create this strong alliance and gave the U.S. a powerful partner when negotiating complex international issues.

3. Japan partners with the U.S. to research innovative technology

The U.S. occupied Japan as a part of the treaty of surrender following WWII. This involved restructuring Japan’s political, social and economic systems. The country was demilitarized as the U.S. promised to protect it from any future conflict.

The beginning of the occupation focused on political and social reforms. Meanwhile, the Japanese economy began to collapse. At this point, the U.S. focused on rebuilding the economy through taxes restructured to reduce inflation. The Korean War soon began, and at the suggestion of occupying forces, the U.N. used Japan as its primary supplier during the war. As a result, Japan’s economy developed back into a healthy, sustainable one.

Japan remains a successful democracy and still has a robust economy. Japan no longer receives foreign aid and now offers aid to other developing nations. Moreover, they echo the voice of the U.S. agenda in East Asia. Japan supports political and military efforts of the U.S. in North Korea.

Japan also works with the U.S. in researching medicine and space travel. Together the two countries form the U.S.-Japan Science and Technology Agreement. For 25 years they have worked on advancing computer and energy technologies.

Less than 80 years ago these three countries were so devastated that their civilizations could have collapsed entirely. They are now world leaders along with the U.S. When foreign aid builds alliances, it creates strong countries and resilient partnerships. Foreign aid is able to turn our most sincere enemies into our friends.

Mary Katherine Crowley

Photo: Flickr