America’s foreign policy part two… foreign aid.


I wasn’t going to do another blog about the United States. I felt like I had said all I had to say on the matter. Then, a heartfelt comment on my last entry prompted me to change my mind. You should know something about me. I find it impossible not to respond to statements of fact that are not entirely factual and I am addicted to research. I would like to begin this post with apologies to Erika, the blogger upon whose comment this entry is based. I enjoy your blog and respect your point of view.

Erika’s comment challenged my assertion that America’s foreign policy was faulty at best by pointing out that America does so much good in the world with their foreign aid. To read her comment in its entirety click here

Because of my aforementioned personality traits I must respond thusly.

As my last post dealt with the American government, I will continue to keep my focus on America’s foreign aid on government aid. In her comment Erika stated “In 2012 American emergency foreign aid budget exceeded 1.6 Billion (with a B) and that does not include regular, planned aid contributions, this was just the “acts of God” stuff.” I’d like to start here because her quote of 1.6 billion dollars (with a B) is the exact amount that America owes the United Nations. Since 1985 the U.S. Congress has refused to authorize payment of the U.S. dues, in order to force UN compliance with U.S. wishes, as well as a reduction in the U.S. assessment. The following chart shows U.S. debt to the UN from 1995 through 2005.

U.S. debt to the United Nations, from 1995 to 2005
Year Regular budget Peacekeeping Total
31 December 1995 $414 million (73%) $816 million (47%) $1.231 billion (56%)
31 December 1996 $376 million (74%) $926 million (57%) $1.303 billion (61%)
31 December 1997 $373 million (79%) $940 million (60%) $1.313 billion (64%)
31 December 1998 $316 million (76%) $976 million (61%) $1.294 billion (64%)
31 December 1999 $167 million (68%) $995 million (67%) $1.170 billion (67%)
31 December 2000 $165 million (74%) $1.144 billion (56%) $1.321 billion (58%)
31 December 2001 $165 million (69%) $691 million (38%) $871 million (41%)
31 December 2002 $190 million (62%) $536 million (40%) $738 million (44%)
31 December 2003 $268 million (61%) $482 million (45%) $762 million (48%)
31 December 2004 $241 million (68%) $722 million (28%) $975 million (33%)
30 September 2005 $607 million (82%) $607 million (28%) $1.246 billion (41%)

As of 2012 the amount owed is 1.6 billion dollars. Oh, in case you were wondering, Canada’s yearly foreign aid budget is 5.16 billion dollars (with a B) and we are paid up.

The comment also stated that, ” we are the first to run to aid when famine, natural disaster or disease strikes both as individual donors and from the government.” and specifically mentioned the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan as examples of this. The country that responded first in 2004 was Australia. The country that responded first in 2010 was the Dominican Republic. The first country to respond in 2011 was, again, Australia. The United States government was generous in their commitment of not only military aid, but financial aid in those situations, they just weren’t first. It should also be noted that the U.S. spends 19 times more on defence that it does on foreign aid.

The word commitment is important here. The United States commits billions of dollars annually to foreign aid, both in emergency aid and planned aid, however, from 2000 to 2011, only 40% of those committed dollars reached their destination, leaving a 60% shortfall. This is not new behavior. In 1970, the world’s wealthiest nations (United States included) agreed to spend 0.7% of their GNP on Official Development Assistance (ODA or Foreign Aid) with a target deadline by the mid 1970’s. To be fair, almost all of the nations who signed into this agreement failed to reach this target (United States included). So, then another agreement was signed stating that these nations agree to spend 0.56% of the GNI on ODA by 2010 increasing to 0.7% by 2015. USA’s aid, in terms of percentage of their GNP has almost always been lower than any other industrialized nation in the world, though to be fair, their dollar amount, since the year 2000 was the highest.

America is constantly whining that they are the country that the whole world turns to in time of crisis for military and financial aid. They seem to forget that other countries exist and are helping out as well. In fact, here’s a chart showing the per capita dollars donated to the 2004 Indian Ocean (Boxing Day) Earthquake/Tsunami.

Country Population (July 2004 or earlier) See [72] Aid (total) (USD millions) per capita (USD) Aid by government (USD millions) per capita (USD) Aid by public (USD millions) per capita (USD)
Australia 19,913,144 1,322 66.38 1,099 55.19 223.4 11.22
Norway 4,574,560 265.1 57.95 175.3 38.32 89.8 19.63
Kuwait 2,257,549 100 44.3
Liechtenstein 32,528 1.2 36.89
Netherlands 16,318,199 509.1 31.20 300.5 18.42 208.6 12.78
Ireland 3,939,558 117.94 29.94 20 5.08 97.94 24.86
Qatar 840,290 20 23.80
Canada 32,507,874 743.68 22.88 531.2 16.34 212.48 6.54
Switzerland 7,450,867 157.9 21.19
Sweden 9,010,627 230.9 25.63 71.9 7.97 159 17.64
Finland 5,214,512 89.5 17.16
Denmark 5,413,392 87.5 16.16
United Kingdom 60,270,708 795.7 13.20 140.3 2.33 654.9 10.87
Hong Kong 6,855,125 85.89 12.529 6.41 0.935 79.48 11.594
Germany 82,424,609 992 12.04
United States 293,027,571 2,875 9.81
Iceland 293,966 2.5 8.50
United Arab Emirates 2,523,915 20 7.92
Taiwan (ROC) 22,191,087 110 4.96 50 2.25 60 2.71
Japan 127,333,002 580 4.55 500 3.93 80 0.63
Singapore 4,353,893 15 3.45
Belgium 10,348,276 24.9 2.41
Italy 58,057,477 125 2.15
Greece 10,647,529 21.6 2.03
Czech Republic 10,246,178 19 1.85
Spain 40,280,780 73.1 1.81
Saudi Arabia 25,795,938 30 1.16
Portugal 10,524,145 10.9 1.04
France 60,424,213 57 0.94
Mainland China 1,298,847,624 63 0.05
India 1,065,070,607 23 0.02

Then there was the Haiti earthquake. In this case the United States pledged the most amount in dollars, however,if you take into account that Canada’s population is one tenth the size of America’s population, and you see the America’s donation is only three times what Canada gave it looks like Canada was a tad more generous here.

Country/organisation ISO country code Funding, committed and uncommitted,
Others 639,381,379
Private (individuals & organisations) 593,639,219
United States US 466,879,506
Canada CA 130,733,775
World Bank (emergency grant) 82,107,356
Japan JP 70,744,798
Saudi Arabia SA 50,000,000
Spain ES 47,664,745
European Commission 43,290,043
France FR 33,844,153
United Kingdom GB 33,070,138
Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) 27,976,462
Norway NO 25,298,044
Sweden SE 25,039,684
Germany DE 21,645,022
Brazil BR 16,884,782
Denmark DK 16,288,032
Australia AU 13,489,209
China CN 10,813,535
Italy IT 9,302,037
Switzerland CH 8,932,039
Finland FI 8,005,607
Russian Federation RU 5,700,000
Netherlands NL 5,050,504
India IN 5,000,000
United Arab Emirates AE 3,209,113
Ghana GH 3,000,000
Ireland IE 2,886,002
Donors not specified 2,219,169
Indonesia ID 1,700,000
Czech Republic CZ 1,154,401
Belgium BE 1,151,876
Poland PL 1,089,466
New Zealand NZ 1,000,000
Morocco MA 1,000,000
Guyana GY 1,000,000
Estonia EE 1,000,000
Inter-American Development Bank 200,000

Aid to Japan for the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami was given by governments from around the world. To take a closer look at who donated and what they donated click here .

Yes the United States government does donate a LOT of money in emergency aid funding, however they are often the last country to pay up. In fact, the United Nations had to ask the United States to pay their pledges to Japan as they had not been received a year after the fact. *Note, as of this posting the U.S. government still has not made good on all of the funds it has committed to Japan to aid in this disaster.

As you can see, the United States is not the only country on the planet that helps out in times of need. In fact, during Hurricane Katrina the United States found it self on the receiving end of foreign aid. Even without being asked, the list of countries that offered and gave aid to the United States during this time of crisis is as long as my arm (and then some). As expected, allies of the U.S. gave generously. Australia gave 7.5 million USD, New Zealand gave $2,000,000, Canada was the highest international donor nation (the province of Alberta, alone, gave $5,000,000), and with Mexico was one of the two countries in the world to supply direct military assistance in addition to civilian donations and supplies. But then help also came from some very unexpected places. Countries that couldn’t afford much offered help like Greece, who gave $85,000 and two cruise ships to help house those left homeless by the disaster, Iraq gave $1,000,000 to the Red Cross via the red Crescent, Mongolia gave $50,000 and Nigeria gave $1,000,000. To read more about which nations gave what click here

That, of course is not the only instance in which America has received international aid, there was also the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the current effort due to Hurricane Sandy.

Getting back to the original comment that sparked this post, I was accused of painting the United States as being all bad and that was both unfair and inaccurate. Firstly, I am not sure how one could infer from my last post that I was painting the country as all bad, when I was only discussing the American government with regard to its foreign policy and not the people of the country. But in the interest of fairness, I will concede that the American people are a very generous bunch… but my point here is that you are not the only ones giving.

My issue in the last post was really about how America thinks it is put upon to protect the world from the (as George W. Bush would say) evildoers. That pervasive opinion is so widespread because that is what your government tells you is the case. That is actually not the case. Often times, when America uses its military might to butt into a situation that is none of its business (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libia, Syria), they only serve to unite two warring factions against a common enemy… the United States. Then when the dust settles, those factions get back to fighting each other and nothing has changed except the number of people doing the fighting is now lessened. America could have saved itself some cash and just stayed home. In the case of Afghanistan, the Russian government actually warned the U.S. not to get involved in what would be a military quagmire, but the American government refused to learn from history only to be doomed to repeat it. If the United States government would only learn from both the mistakes (for example the Russian invasion of Afghanistan) and the successes (for example the use of wind power in the Netherlands) of other countries then perhaps they would not be in the financial mud slide under which they are now buried. And perhaps they would stop viewing the rest of the world like this.

I can tell you that the rest of the world would be grateful if you would only acknowledge that we do our part too.

American foreign policy, a foreign perspective


Canada and the United States have long had what, from the outside, can be seen as a symbiotic relationship. We used to have (until recently) the world’s longest undefended border. We signed on to NAFTA even though it benefitted us far less than it did our neighbours to the south. On the world stage, America is the cartoon Bulldog and Canada is the Jack Russell terrier jumping around asking, “what are we doing today, Spike?”

The USA is the one on the left.

MILITARY

America has long gotten their power through military might, which is why military spending is the sacred cow when it comes to America’s budget. Neither Republicans, nor Democrats will significantly slash funding for America’s military no matter the fiscal consequence. America’s military budget is larger than that of China, Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, and Australia combined. A strong military has been too large a part of the American identity for far too long but it’s the only thing keeping them in a position of any real international power, so they are doomed to keep the funding bloated. Americans are so wrapped up in this identity that they actually think that the rest of the world wants them in the position of protector. In this link, from Aljazeera, the Americans on the panel are all of the opinion that America HAS to defend the entire world, that they have been placed in that position by their allies. (The foreign policy conversation begins at the 24:15 mark.) It seems this opinion is a pervasive one in the U.S. However, if you ask the leaders, or even the people of countries around the world, you get a very different opinion. Most other countries see America as a corrupt and greedy bully that has taken the role of warmonger (not protector) upon itself, without ever being asked to do so, because they have been able to convince themselves that they own the moral high ground. That being said, there is no denying that America’s military might has served them well since the country’s inception. Unfortunately for America, their military (among other things) is bankrupting them, so they seem to be between a rock and a hard place. President Obama ran (the first time) on diplomacy over war. He seemed genuinely concerned about how America was perceived on the world stage. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, he has not lived up to his promise. Just ask any country who has been on the receiving end of one of his drone attacks.

MORAL HIGH GROUND

A big part of what angers other countries about America is the fact that Americans smugly go around the world claiming the moral high ground. America is, “the greatest nation in the world”. Meanwhile, America has tortured, murdered and raped its way through wars just as much, if not more than the rest of us. America should be called out on human rights violations as much as countries like China, Iran and Pakistan are, if only because of their for profit healthcare, prisons, and their drug war that only serves to keep the minorities and the poor from achieving any level of success. The hypocrisy of the moral high ground in this case would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous. If you look at the countries causing the most conflict in the world right now they all have one thing in common… they all  think that they have God on their side and that they are the good guys doing God’s work by fighting the forces of evil. In fact, this has been a huge part of America’s brand since the American Revolution. This religious ideology is dangerous because it excuses all sorts of atrocities without actually having to have any kind of well thought out reason for killing, torturing or raping innocent (and not so innocent) people in countries around the world. They are so wrapped up in thinking they are the best, that they constantly act against their own best interests. In this last election there was quite a bit of China bashing going on. Do they not know that China holds the vast majority of their debt and makes most of their products? Yes, Americans are so smug that they think it’s okay to bite the hand that (literally) feeds them. It’s not easy being America’s enemy.

DEADBEAT NATION

It’s no picnic being America’s friend either. In 2011, when the United States Congress was busy bickering about whether or not to raise the debt ceiling, quite a few Americans seemed shocked that their country was not paying its bills. This is nothing new. America hasn’t been paying their bills for years. Even when court ordered to do so, America continues to be a deadbeat nation. Take a look at the Canada USA softwood dispute for an example of this behavior. Apparently NAFTA wasn’t good enough for the USA when it came to charging whatever they wanted to for a Canadian product, so they decided to impose a tariff on Canada’s softwood. Canada took them to international court, several times and won. America still has yet to pay the agreed upon amount in its entirety. (that is a nutshell version, to get the whole story, I encourage you to click the link.) I could cite may more examples, but we’d be here all day. When it comes to paying back what they owe, America reminds me of Dean in the following sketch from Kids In The Hall.

I’d be very wary of signing a deal with America.

THE BLAME GAME

One thing the U.S. government is good at, is blaming other countries for things that are (at least partially) America’s fault. Take, for example the Gulf Oil Spill. America was very quick to blame the entire thing on BP, so as to get out of having to pay for the lion’s share of the clean up costs. Halliburton was just as much, if not, more to blame, but they got off relatively scott free. Even the financial crisis in Greece, which was a major contributor to the Euro Zone crisis, falls onto America’s shoulders, via Goldman Sachs, a bank that received a government bail out.

WAKING UP

Slowly, other countries are waking up to the fact that America’s purchasing power is a bit like the Emperor’s new clothes. Sure, they buy stuff with the zeal of a kid at Christmas, but if they defer payment, or just plain, don’t pay at all, why would you sell to them? Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper (whose actions are hit and miss in my book) has cleverly been travelling the world, making deals with burgeoning economic powerhouses like China, Japan, Brazil and, most recently, India to offset Canada’s reliance on American trade. In fact, this chart, from the International Monetary Fund shows that the world economic stage is yet another place where America is no longer number one .

The Twenty Largest Economies By Incremental Nominal GDP From 2007 to 2012
Economy Nominal GDP (billions in USD)
(01) China

4,756.006

(02) Japan

1,628.043

(03) United States

1,624.691

(04) Brazil

1,058.832

(05) India

794.189

(06) Russia

653.852

(07) Australia

596.361

(08) Indonesia

462.684

(09) Canada

346.017

(10) Saudi Arabia

272.107

(11) Argentina

214.741

(12) Iran

176.425

(13) Switzerland

172.325

(14) Colombia

154.837

(15) Turkey

133.939

(16) Thailand

130.012

(17) Mexico

127.588

(18) Egypt

124.655

(19) Malaysia

113.564

(20) Venezuela

107.936

The twenty largest economies contributing to global nominal GDP growth (2007 – 2012)[

Many other countries are following suit, making deals with each other to offset their dependence on the weakening American economy.

I have long been saying that the only thing at which America can still rightfully claim the number one spot is branding. They are very good at perpetuating an image, just not so good at living up to that image. Unfortunately, for America, everyone but the American public can see behind the curtain.