The president’s new approach isn’t just lacking in compassion; it’s lacking in any common sense
What does it mean to only give foreign aid to “friends”, as Donald Trump just said in his speech to the UN? It’s not the first time the leader of a developed country has discussed the subject, or protested that that’s the way things should be done – but it does have a distinctly un-American feel about it. After all, most of us grew up hearing that the US was the “policeman of the world”; this approach is distinctly more “giver of sweeties” than “defender of justice”.
Most worryingly, in saying that the US would only give money “to people who respect us, who frankly are our friends”, Trump betrayed that he has little understanding of how foreign aid is supposed to work.
Take the UK’s current pattern of spending. Out of the top five recipients of the £13.4bn we give per year, three are Pakistan, Syria and Afghanistan. These are countries which partly rely on aid because of the UK’s actions: drone strikes in all of these regions have created pockets of political instability (it’s the CIA who has led drone strikes in Pakistan in the past, and the UK’s Ministry of Defence refused to say whether UK personnel were involved, but let’s pretend for one crazy second here that we probably were.) Whether or not you believe the ends justify the means, suffice to say drone strikes rarely increase government support in any region – and are often used as propaganda tools by groups like Isis to “prove” their narrative (the West wants Muslims dead, doesn’t care for civilians or soldiers, sees children in mountain villages as “collateral damage” in their war against terrorism, and so on.)