This article in Foreign Affairs reminded me of something that is easily forgotten in our exploration of the ethics of aid and related efforts — that the Marshall Plan (now 50 years since its enactment) was a monumental foreign aid program — and, dare I say, a worthwhile effort. This fact reminds me to be cautious, that it’s rather easy to pile on the myriad aid organizations and U.S. foreign aid strategy without considering the necessity of many forms of aid, even if there are issues that develop with growth.
The three co-authors of this piece all headed the USAID organization during the last 15 years. One of them is J. Brian Atwood, who is now the dean of the Humphrey Institute, which is in our own back yard at the University of Minnesota. Although the authors advocate the U.S. continuing and increasing its role in foreign aid, they are challenging its structure and implementation. Perhaps one of these authors could be interviewed for a follow-up program to our upcoming show with Binyavanga Wainaina.
Nevertheless, what I find intriguing is the struggle that’s occurred after the 2001 terrorist attacks, in which USAID, as the authors see it, and, in broader terms, American foreign aid has been overtaken or assimilated by the Department of Defense and, to a lesser degree, the U.S. State Department. The objectives and skill sets of personnel are so different that it must lead to some dysfunction.
I know there a lot of you readers who have experience in these areas. Care to add some more complexity to the discussion?