Why Doesn’t Aid Win Any Friends?

Noting that the US is decidedly unpopular in most of the countries that receive the largest tranches of aid money, Keating explains why that is and why it might be a problem:

On one level, this makes perfect sense. The U.S. doesn’t give aid to those countries as a reward for good behavior. To put it bluntly, it’s because we’re worried there are people in those countries who will try to kill us, (or kill our friends, or get their hands on nuclear weapons) and we want their governments to do something about it.

The problem is when this aid starts to look like a perverse incentive. An analysis by Navin Bapat of the University of North Carolina found that between 1997 and 2006, U.S. military assistance correlates with a 67 percent increase in the duration of terrorist campaigns in the country receiving the aid. This could suggest that governments like Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan actually need a certain baseline of militant activity to continue in order to keep the U.S. aid money flowing.

Meanwhile, Paul Brinkley thinks it was a mistake to put USAID under the State Department’s purview:

The verdict is now in on this transition. USAID is not effective in carrying out its principal mission: delivering cost-effective outcomes that advance U.S. foreign policy goals. In addition, the agency’s humanitarian mission has been broadened to encompass areas that are incompatible with its culture — including economic development.

The priority of the State Department — from staffing, to allocation of resources, to a forbidding security posture that inhibits local engagement of war-torn populations — is to fulfill a diplomatic mission. Not to run foreign assistance programs. Realigning organizations, like this move of USAID into State’s sphere, is a poor means of carrying out presidential policy.