By Anna Jensen-Clem
In an editorial published in Politico on Tuesday, General David Petraeus and Michael O’Hanlon make a strong case for maintaining current levels of foreign aid spending. General Petraeus argues that aid and development assistance, still only 0.19% of the United States’ GDP, “need not break the bank,” but would provide for long-term, effective projects across the globe. So-called soft power, which is relatively unpopular in the United States, is frequently presented as an unnecessary expense, especially in the face of sequestration cuts and growing deficits. Petraeus and O’Hanlon note that these programs have been extremely effective; PEPFAR, development assistance programs, and global health funding have reduced childhood and maternal mortality by one third and one half, respectively.
Both authors advocate for a reasonable budget solution—repeal sequestration and reduce the deficit through cuts to other spending. They make sure to note that “lawmakers should avoid the temptation to gut foreign aid just because it generally lacks a strong constituency in the United States.” Maintaining foreign aid saves lives and ensures a better future for our children; cutting it now would make little headway in debt reduction.