Williams: Foreign Aid Cuts May Squander US Political, Economic Capital

Slashing the U.S. government’s international affairs budget could put the donor nation’s political and economic gains at risk, an expert says.

“Well-funded diplomacy is crucial to national security,” according to Conor Williams, who won The Washington Post’s 2010 America’s Next Great Pundit contest. “Economic destitution abroad fuels radicalism and threatens international peace.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in September said that “economic development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers,” Williams says. Even British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has made the case for using development funding to help build new trade partners, he adds.

Incoming House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has earlier pledged deep cuts to the budgets of the State Department and foreign aid programs.

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“Our military leaders warn that we need smart diplomatic and development programs to meet our national security challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Maybe it’s time for deficit hawks such as Ros-Lehtinen to get dovish on where they commit the country’s money,” Williams, who is working on a doctorate degree in government at Georgetown University, writes.

He concludes: “Committing a little to diplomacy and development in the short run could help us reduce defense spending in the long run. That would be a real step toward fiscal responsibility - which might be just what we need to get that swagger back.”

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.