New York Times Examines How U.S. Aid Can Shape Recipients’ Perspectives About America

The New York Times looks at the relationship between U.S. foreign aid’s ability to shape aid recipients’ attitudes toward the U.S. The article includes the perspectives of former USAID administrators J. Brian Atwood, who led the agency under President Bill Clinton, and Andrew Natsios, who was the director under President George W. Bush.

Atwood said that “[d]isaster relief as geopolitical valentine ‘has an unseemly aspect,'” and said, “We shouldn’t be using it to proselytize. Helping others has always been an American value.” But he acknowledged that politics plays a role in disaster relief. On the other hand, Natsios said, “To suggest people won’t have a reaction when they see us feeding our enemies and our friends at the same time is silly.” He pointed to the 2004 Asian tsunami aid effort, noting that it led more Indonesians to see the U.S. in a positive light, the New York Times notes.

The article also includes discussion about the current situation in Pakistan, some historical examples of American aid’s impact on attitudes abroad and how U.S. aid packages are labeled.

“Overall, the Pew polls tend to bear out what aid officials believe: that help wins friends. Countries that steadily get lots of American aid with few strings attached – African nations, South Korea, Israel – tend to top the charts of pro-American feelings. And one nation really stands out. Ever since Barack Obama was elected, Kenyans have loved the U.S. In fact, they like it even better than Americans do,” the New York Times writes (McNeil, 8/21).

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