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December 17, 2006
Guilty Of Acting In Our Own Interest

Easily one of the most amusing articles of this year appears in today's Observer regarding a pattern that analysts have discovered in our foreign-aid allocations. It seems that the US allocates more aid to nations when they serve on the UN Security Council for two-year terms than at other times, and the Observer isn't happy about that at all:

The US uses its aid budget to bribe those countries which have a vote in the United Nations security council, giving them 59 per cent more cash in years when they have a seat, according to research by economists.

Kofi Annan, the outgoing UN Secretary-General, expressed his frustration at the power the US wields over the UN in his parting speech last week. In a detailed analysis of 50 years of data, Harvard University's Ilyana Kuziemko and Eric Werker provide the clearest evidence yet that money is used by the council's richest member to grease the wheels of diplomacy.

Anti-poverty campaigners reacted angrily to the findings. 'Aid should go to the people who need it, not as a political sweetener,' said Duncan Green of Oxfam. 'In recent years most rich countries have been making progress on this, but showering bribes on developing countries just because they sit on the UN security council is clearly a step backwards.'

Charities often complain that the US uses its aid as a political tool, and this new evidence of what the authors call 'vote-buying' will raise fears about whether the surge of aid money that was promised at last year's Gleneagles G8 summit will be fairly spent.

Ten of the 15 seats on the security council are filled for two years at a time, by rotation. Kuziemko and Werker found that, in years when they have a seat, countries get an average of more than £8m extra in foreign aid from the US.

Well, what a shock! America acts in its own interest, and we use our foreign aid to advance our foreign policy. It must be the first time that's ever happened in world history! Or, perhaps, I only imagined the calls from organizations like the Guardian/Observer to withhold aid and trade from places like apartheid South Africa, among others.

People can't have it both ways. The United Nations has emerged as the preffered method to tie down America in order to control our foreign-policy impulses, a strategy that had been successful of late. The vast majority of that body consists of autocracies and dictatorships whose goals are diametrically opposed to ours, but the US has played along with the UN in order to bolster our standing with allies more enamored with people like Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro.

Given all of that, the same people who hold this debauched and corrupt organization as the pinnacle of human government cannot complain when we decided to direct our foreign aid to those Lilliputians who make up part of that effort to tie use down that might be in a position to keep the ties at a minimum. In the first place, the Observer fails to recognize that our foreign aid is our money, and it belongs to the American taxpayer. It should get spent in ways which benefit Americans as well as people abroad, and the outrage of the analysts at that simple truth speaks volumes about their political agenda.

To the larger point, the same people who try to stack the deck against the US at the UN seem particularly incensed that we have decided to respond in kind. The nations that make it to the Security Council play hardball with the US, expecting us to cut deals to garner their support. The Non-Aligned Nations made this into an art form during the Cold War, and extorted both us and the Soviets in that manner. The French explicitly did the same thing when it came time to debate the invasion of Iraq in January and February of 2003, threatening to cut off aid to nations which supported us.

The Observer should spare us the moral outrage. Their analysts apparently expect us to use no discretion in our foreign aid allocations and just allow the UN to run roughshod over our interests without us raising a single objection to it. When the UN becomes the paragon of moral virtue, then maybe we'll take them seriously enough to consider it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 17, 2006 9:23 AM

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» US accused of using aid to sway votes in UN secur from Don Singleton
It is US Taxpayer money. I am very happy to hear it is being spent to help achieve US interests. [Read More]

Tracked on December 17, 2006 3:59 PM


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