A dangerously simplistic view of foreign affairs

Just got a very strange release, considering that it comes from a state senator (albeit one with national ambitions):

BEAUFORT, S.C. – South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis today released the following statement regarding the vote tomorrow in the United States Senate on Sen. Rand Paul’s amendment to end U.S. aid to Pakistan, Egypt and Libya, pending the satisfaction of certain conditions.

“Today I call on South Carolina’s senators, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, to cast their vote in support of Sen. Paul’s amendment,” Davis said. “If these countries want to be our allies and receive our money, then they should act like it.”

“The conditions to receiving foreign aid set forth in Sen. Paul’s amendment are reasonable: the Libyan police must hand over to U.S. officials the suspects in the recent attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi; the Egyptian government must vow to protect our embassy; and the Pakistani government must release from custody Dr. Shakil Afridi, a man who risked his life to provide us with information that confirmed the location of Osama bin Laden.

“Simply put, bad behavior should not be rewarded. America currently gives approximately $4 billion a year to Pakistan, Libya and Egypt, and all we get in return is disrespect and violence. Sen. Paul put it exactly right: ‘American taxpayer dollars should not go to Libya until the murderers are delivered to justice. Nor should they go to Egypt until the Egyptians prove that they are willing and able to protect our embassy. Finally, not one more penny of American taxpayer dollars should go to Pakistan until the doctor who helped us get bin Laden is freed.’”

Really? That’s your view of it? That “all we get in return is disrespect and violence”? Do you really suppose that we have close ties to Pakistan just because Pakistan wants it? We have that relationship because, despite all the godawful aggravation we get out of the relationship, we need it. As maddening as the many factions of that nation, many of them openly hostile, can be, that’s a door we need propped open, at least a little. Just whom are punishing if we cut off that relationship entirely? Is that what it’s actually about to you — the lousy $4 billion?

And you’re going to blame the new, Libyan government, a thing largely of our creation, for what some bad actors — people they have arrested — did? Do we so little value the fact that we have a friendly regime there after more than a generation of Gaddafi (a cause to which ambassador Stevens devoted the end of his life) that we’ll just throw it away because Sen. Paul is peeved and wants to save the money?

And Egypt — is it your plan to say, now that Mubarak is gone, we don’t want to be close to you anymore, Egypt? Is that our response to the Arab Spring? Sure, it’s problematic the role the Muslim Brotherhood is playing, but isn’t that a reason to hold the new regime closer, rather than pushing it away? Do you want to return to the days of Nasser? You sure about that?

Of all of these, the one I’d like to get tough with is Pakistan, because I’ve had it with their playing footsie with terrorists. But I know that’s an emotional, rather than a coldly rational, response. And that adolescent emotional urge on my part was quite satisfied for the time being by the raid on Abbottabad, and the many strikes in the lawless northwest before that.

This isn’t a foreign policy proposal; it’s domestic posturing. And I’m sorry to see my friend Tom Davis reaching outside the purview of his office to engage in it.

19 thoughts on “A dangerously simplistic view of foreign affairs

  1. Brad

    Oh, and by the way: Two of those three things the bill seeks — “the Egyptian government must vow to protect our embassy; and the Pakistani government must release from custody Dr. Shakil Afridi” — are completely reasonable (and the other isn’t outrageous; I’m just not certain that’s what we need right now). In fact, the protection of our embassy is simply the least that one expects of a host nation.

    Those are things we should continue to seek from those governments. But the U.S. Senate holding its breath until it turns blue is not the proper channel for pursuing those goals.

  2. Barry

    I wouldn’t vote for Davis – but I have no problem with cutting their aid.

    In fact, I have no real problem just leaving the entire area alone totally. We have enough problems at home.

    Israel has nukes. They can take care of themselves too.

  3. Philllip

    I couldn’t agree more with you on this. One additional point maybe worth refining: while we had a hand in helping the Libyans overthrow Qaddafi, their government isn’t exactly “a thing largely of our creation,” and certainly the Morsi government in Egypt is not “of our creation,” though again we supported the transition from Mubarak’s regime. The distinction is important: these governments are only going to be able to lay claim to legitimacy among their peoples to the extent they are seen as independent actors on the world stage and NOT specifically as “largely of [American] creation.” That doesn’t have to equate to hostility, the safety of embassy personnel is of utmost importance, and certainly Obama was right to be blunt in his 20-minute phone call to Morsi (basically saying the same things Tom Davis et al are saying). But it also means that we have to understand that our foreign aid and investment in those fledgling democracies (leaving Pakistan aside for the moment, that’s such a sui generis situation) is aimed at a larger, more long-range purpose and will not always automatically be accompanied by policies that we like all the time.

    The unrest especially in Libya and Egypt, Yemen to some extent, is less about America than it is about those countries’ domestic political situations and the quest by extremists to grab power and influence within those still-fluid political conditions. We see that now even among the competing factions of anti-Assad Syrian rebels.

  4. bud

    How does the old saying go, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Sure we need to stop all this meddling all over the world. It’s a losing proposition. But as long we’re determined to bow down to every demand Israel makes of us we have to bribe the other countries to act responsibly, or at least sort of responsibly we probably need to keep the money flowing. At some point we need to call all of them off, including Israel. But now is probably not the time.

    But Brad you do need to understand one thing, $4 billion dollars is hardly “lousy”. Maybe it’s well spent but you shouldn’t downplay that. If there’s one thing we know about Brad he’s a collosal spendthrift when it comes to tax dollars.

  5. Ralph Hightower

    It appears that Tom Davis is an acolyte of Ron Paul with his “disengage us from the world” ideas.

  6. Brad

    Ohmygosh, you’re absolutely right. I read that WAY too fast.

    What’s really inexcusable is that, as I was posting it, I wondered why the Senate was voting on a House member’s bill… but didn’t wonder enough to read it again.

    Something that would NEVER have happened in print, because of the more deliberate editing process — but something bound to happen now and then on a blog.

    I’m going to go fix it now…

  7. Brad

    Tom is demanding Sen. Graham’s support. Here’s what Lindsey had to say about the Pakistan part, which is getting most of the coverage that I’ve seen:

    ‘”Pakistan is a country with nuclear weapons that is hanging by a thread. I think it would be a very bad idea,” Graham said of cutting off aid.
    ‘He added that aid should have some conditions but said he was “worried about the possibility of a nuclear-armed Pakistan falling into extremist hands. … Now is not the time to disengage.”‘

    Sen. Graham’s office says he opposes the whole proposal. I may have a clip of him speaking on the subject later…

  8. bud

    Funny thing about Graham. He’s very vocal in accussing the administration spending waaay too much money. But whenever ANY proposal is presented to a specific government program he’s the loudest senator on the floor in rejecting the proposal.

  9. Brad

    I don’t think that’s true, unless you’re talking about foreign aid. Graham is one of the few senators with the guts to stand up for one of the least popular, and most important, forms of federal spending.

    Public attitudes toward foreign aid provide one the greatest examples of how ill-informed the average person is on an important issue. If you ask people in a poll if we spend too much on foreign aid, they’ll emphatically say yes. Then, if you ask them how much we SHOULD spend on that, they’ll say it’s OK to spend about 10 times what we DO spend…

  10. Brad

    I meant that in terms of percentage of the federal budget, which is the way the question tends to be asked. From a WashPost item last year headlined “Five myths about foreign aid“:

    “In poll after poll, Americans overwhelmingly say they believe that foreign aid makes up a larger portion of the federal budget than defense spending, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, or spending on roads and other infrastructure. In a November World Public Opinion poll, the average American believed that a whopping 25 percent of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. The average respondent also thought that the appropriate level of foreign aid would be about 10 percent of the budget — 10 times the current level.”

    Just one of those things that sort of undermines one’s faith in democracy…

  11. bud

    Just one of those things that sort of undermines one’s faith in democracy…

    As long as we have the electoral college we don’t have democracy. Maybe we have some sort of clumsy republic but democracy, no.

  12. Phillip

    If Tom Davis or anybody wants to talk about an investment (not just of money, but of lives, of blood) that may not be getting the US what it would like, they should be focusing on Afghanistan. Especially in light of the fact that NATO now estimates that only 10% of the recent “insider attacks” were by Taliban infiltrators, leaving 90% committed by Afghans stemming from “personal disputes, stress, or cultural clashes”.

  13. Steve Gordy

    When the voting public displays ignorance about government spending and taxation, it is the responsibility of our elected leaders to educate us. Not many of today’s generation of leaders are up to that task. It’s much easier to go with the demagogic flow.

  14. Barry

    and our very involvement and spending money in those countries to prop those governments up generates hate from terrorists

    so we keep spending money to prop them up, and create more terrorists in the process.

    Now that’s an investment any terrorist would love.

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