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Foreign Aid Should Be Part of an "America First" Policy

Foreign Aid Should Be Part of an "America First" Policy

Americans do not have to choose between nation-building at home and nation-building abroad.

“America Firsters” would see in this results-oriented approach an end to zero-sum thinking, as the paring back of marginal programs and the leveraging of private capital and G20 resources frees up funds for new local and global investments alike.

Isolationists and xenophobes, in turn, would see this strategy as a way of ensuring that potential migrants are lifted out of poverty and disease within their own borders, before seeking refuge across our borders.

And, finally, with impoverished nations increasingly falling prey to conflict from within and terror from without, the national-security community would see this more muscular approach to foreign assistance as a low-cost alternative to the military for ensuring global peace and stability. As Gen. James Mattis put it before becoming secretary of defense, “If you don’t fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

In short, as Secretary of State Tillerson undertakes his “deeper analysis” of foreign assistance, the question he should be asking is not whether we should help both the child in South Dakota and the child in South Sudan, but what happens if we don’t?

Gary Edson served as deputy national security advisor and deputy national economic advisor to President George W. Bush. He also was the president’s chief negotiator for the G8 and other summits of world leaders. He is currently a Principal of Civic Enterprises, LLC.

Image: U.S. soldier on an aid mission in Baladiyat, eastern Baghdad. Flickr/DVIDSHUB