This year, Republicans have taken the lead in slashing funds for critical international diplomacy and development programs in next year’s budget under the guise of helping reduce the deficit. There are, however, many Republicans who recognize these decisions as short-sighted, and who value the impact US foreign assistance has both here and abroad.
In addition to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who defended the foreign assistance budget in response to a young constituent, senior foreign policy advisor to presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty told the US Global Leadership Council’s conference that Pawlenty supports investing in international development:
“These are difficult economic times and you have a significant part of the Republican Party calling for retrenchment. The governor doesn’t accept that view and believes we ought to maintain defense spending and maintain the international affairs account,” Pawlenty’s senior foreign policy advisor Brian Hook said at yesterday’s U.S. Global Leadership Coalition conference.
“Governor Pawlenty believes very much in projecting an American foreign policy that is very much focused on clarity and strength, with the capabilities to back it up. And that means not cutting the international affairs account and defense spending,” Hook said.
“Leaders need to be honest with voters and admit that we are not going to pay down the deficit with savings in the [international affairs] account…. He believes a strong and effective civilian capacity can help prevent conflicts before they occur.”
While I, and many experts and economists, would take issue with his assertion that we should maintain military spending levels, it’s helpful to have supportive voices on both sides of the aisle and debate amongst the Republican presidential contenders on the importance of foreign assistance. There is already a long line of politicians, development experts, and military officials who are on the record supporting strong investments in diplomacy and development. The next step is to turn that into the political will to protect this funding and improve the way we are distributing aid around the world.