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U.S. Should Invest In, Reform Foreign Aid Into ‘Smart-Power Strategy’ For National, Economic Security

National Interest: Foreign Aid Should Be Part of an “America First” Policy
Gary Edson, principal of Civic Enterprises, LLC, former deputy national security adviser and deputy national economic adviser to President George W. Bush

“…[U.S. Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson now has an opportunity to debunk the zero-sum view of foreign aid, and complete its transformation from what was once derided as an element of soft power into a smart power instrument of national and economic security. … These reforms should translate lessons learned into a smart-power strategy focused on nation enabling, not building. … This smart power strategy … would likely be supported by the Bush-era coalition, as well as others. The faith-based right and activist left would see it as a matter of conscience and an expression of American ideals at a time when those ideals are in doubt or under threat. Businesses … would support it as a matter of economic self-interest, recognizing that healthy, prosperous consumers abroad promote prosperity at home. ‘America Firsters’ would see in this results-oriented approach an end to zero-sum thinking, as the paring back of marginal programs and the leveraging of private capital and G20 resources frees up funds for new local and global investments alike. Isolationists and xenophobes … would see this strategy as a way of ensuring that potential migrants are lifted out of poverty and disease within their own borders, before seeking refuge across our borders. And, finally … the national-security community would see this more muscular approach to foreign assistance as a low-cost alternative to the military for ensuring global peace and stability. … [A]s Secretary of State Tillerson undertakes his ‘deeper analysis’ of foreign assistance, the question he should be asking is not whether we should help both the child in South Dakota and the child in South Sudan, but what happens if we don’t?” (4/11).

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