Professor Easterly writes for the Guardian Poverty Matters blog on November 21, 2011:
US foreign aid programmes should be for poverty relief and should not be taken over by national security interests, abetted by delusions of nation-building.
As the US government budget wars continue, everyone agrees that among the most vulnerable programmes is foreign aid. What is now forgotten is that foreign aid enjoyed strong bipartisan support until quite recently. On 16 March 2002, President George W Bush announced large funding increases for aid, which have indeed been realised across two administrations since. Even former opponents such as Jesse Helms became aid boosters. What happened to destroy that support?
The answer is that the US aid programme was taken over by national security interests, abetted by delusions of nation-building. The US Agency for International Development (USAid) wound up in the most self-destructive position – the unsuccessful cover-up. USAid arguably had little choice, but development intellectuals and celebrity aid advocates did have a choice – and most chose to stay inexcusably silent during the national security takeover of aid. The resultant failures overshadowed notable successes in more traditional aid programmes like health. These disasters and the neglect of more feasible poverty relief failed to sustain the compassionate constituency evident earlier in the decade. Aid can still be saved politically if it now forswears the undoable nation-building dictated by the defence department, and returns to its original mission of poverty relief – a mission both cheaper and more likely to succeed.