The money the United States gives out in foreign aid is usually focused in areas of direct impact, such as food to famine-stricken countries or in disaster relief efforts. Some of the lesser-known impacts are in the field of education. In particular, scholarships in foreign aid have allowed students to attend universities throughout the United States which provide more opportunities than would schools in their home countries.
This form of foreign aid is, however, not unique in the Western world. In fact, just as the United States lags behind in the overall standings for foreign aid, it falls behind its Western allies in funding for foreign scholarships as well. France leads all nations in foreign scholarship aid with 18% ($1.36 billion) of its foreign aid going to education, with Germany ranking second, at 13% ($1.05 billion), according to University World News. The U.S., on the other hand, only gives about 3.5% ($805 million) of its own foreign aid to scholarships.
U.S. foreign aid is directed to a number of other areas, but the one area that outshines all others is foreign military assistance. As it stands, roughly 38% ($14 billion) of the U.S. foreign aid budget goes to foreign military assistance. Comparing this to the budget given to foreign scholarships shows where the aims of U.S. foreign policy lie, as they push their military agendas overseas.
The military agenda of the United States looks toward the promotion of friendly democracies in places that the United States does not currently have allies. This can be seen in the United States invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as support given to rebels in Syria and Libya. In hopes of achieving these goals, the United States pumps dollars towards friendly foreign militaries in hopes that they will create functioning democracies, with informed and supportive citizens.
In a recent Seattle Times Article, columnist Thomas L. Friedman took aim at this disparity by comparing the figures of foreign military aid for Egypt ($1.3 billion) and foreign scholarships for Jordan ($13.5 million). Friedman wrote that, “merit-based college scholarship program promote(s) tolerance, gender and social equality and critical thinking.”
These qualities of ideal democratic citizens that the United States is hoping to instill in foreigners would be much better fostered through foreign education aid, according to the first-hand observer, Friedman. While Egypt remained in a state of flux during 2013, Jordan has dedicated itself to working towards a state of democracy. The comparison put forward by Friedman is an informative one for a casual observer, as one can see the benefits that current education aid gives and the potential of what the United States could do.
– Eric Gustafsson