America’s less carrot and more stick approach

Published: May 5, 2017
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The writer is a development anthropologist currently based in Fairfax, Virginia, and teaches at Georgetown and George Washington universities

The writer is a development anthropologist currently based in Fairfax, Virginia, and teaches at Georgetown and George Washington universities

Besides the domestic turmoil caused by the plethora of executive orders passed during the first 100 days of the new US presidency, the Trump administration’s intention to slashing its international aid by over 30pc has also stirred consternation amongst development stakeholders, and across the developing world.

The so-called ‘carrot and stick approach’ is an idiom often applied in international relations to refer to the inducements and the potential threats used by powerful countries to exert their influence around the world. The US has long utilised this dual-sided approach, by retaining the largest military force on earth, as well as providing the most amount of money to other countries in absolute terms. However, the incumbent US administration with its ‘America First’ budget blueprint is insisting on billions in reductions to non-defence programmes, whereby signalling the intention of investing more in hard rather than soft power.

Foreign Policy recently cited sources claiming that the new presidential team even wants to fold United States Agency for International Development (USAID) into the State Department. USAID is reportedly anticipating that the budget proposal will eliminate 30 to 35 of its field missions and cut down its regional bureaus by nearly 65pc. This would undoubtedly impact their current outreach which extends across a hundred countries.

USAID is surely not without problems. It has often worked in tandem with agencies, such as the World Bank to perpetuate the market mechanism, which may help stimulate growth but can often bypass poorer people in developing countries. However, instead of making USAID rethink some of its existing strategies, drastically slashing its outreach is hardly a positive step.

Most Democrats and even some Republicans have declared opposition to the Trump administration’s budget plans. The US Congress, thus, unlikely will not consent to the entire aid reduction proposal. Yet, aid experts still fear that the next budget passed by Congress will be a compromise, which will probably end up lowering spending on international aid and assistance.

Development experts within the US realise that reduction in international aid would eviscerate the most important tool of American influence in the developing world. Back in February, over 120 retired generals and admirals had sent an open letter to the White House and Congress cautioning against cuts to foreign aid, which they acknowledged as being vital for maintaining global stability, confronting extremism and curbing refugee flows.

USAID reduction would also adversely impact relief and development efforts in many poorer countries in the world. These proposed cuts come at a time of a major humanitarian crisis, such as the famine affecting millions of people in South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia. Cutting aid would also undermine longer termed development goals and commitments, of improving health and education facilities, and enabling vulnerable countries to cope with the effects of climate change.

As things stand, it seems that significant cuts to US foreign aid will probably take place soon, alongside a hike in defence spending. Such moves are being justified in the name of making the US government leaner and more focused on ensuring the security and well-being of Americans. Yet, the ability of the evident shift in US policies to achieve the goal of making America ‘safe and great’, remains fiercely contested. Moreover, how other world powers will choose to respond to the opportunity of diminishing US influence in setting international aid agendas is an issue that is not getting much attention, even though its implications could be significant.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2017.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Feroz
    May 5, 2017 - 2:46PM

    The US should not waste its money by giving Aid to any country where anti American sentiments are fanned and supported. Such countries can never embrace liberal ideas or ever show gratitude for the munificence. Recommend

  • cuban
    May 6, 2017 - 12:01AM

    Countries like Pakistan have spoiled the well for the rest of the World. USA should use a more targeted approach and deny aid to those countries who don’t appreciate it +/or abuse it. Recommend

  • Parvez
    May 7, 2017 - 12:27PM

    In the beginning Pakistan never needed aid…..but in Ayub’s days he was badgered repeatedly to take a small aid package and the ‘ fix ‘ was in. The bureaucrat who managed this was rewarded….. the heavy price for this is being paid by the people of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Sajid Ansari
    May 7, 2017 - 2:20PM

    @Parvez:
    Totally agree, Ayub Khan did a blunder by accepting the small AID Package from the USA about which he repented a lot and wrote a small book,” Friends, not Masters”, expressing his sentiments in it. That very mistake made a way, for the USA/CIA, into our bureaucracy, armed forces to corrupt, totally, all the Pillars of the government.
    This is the ‘strategy’ of US/CIA to take the 3rd world countries into its net and then rule.
    If an elected leader of a country of the Third World in Afro-Asia or in South America, doesn’t accept dictations from the US he/she is overthrown by the armed forces and if the ‘Dictator’ refuses to accept USA’s dictations, the CIA gets him overthrown in the name of ‘democracy’, financing the political parties to come out on the streets. That is what happened in many other countries and in Pakistan in 1977, and happening in Venezuela these days as the US/CIA is at work there.Recommend

  • Parvez
    May 8, 2017 - 2:46PM

    @Sajid Ansari: Thank you Sir……There’s an excellent book ‘ The Confessions of an Economic Hit Man ‘ by John Perkins…..IT IS NON FICTION ……. and it’s the author’s story and very believable, because you see what he describes in the book happening in countries like Pakistan and especially in South American countries, where America has vast interests. Recommend

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