An open letter to our secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton:
First of all, I would like to extend my condolences on your loss in the running for presidency back in 2008. Fortunately, you are still in a position where your presence can make a great difference in the lives of many, especially those of other countries. After some research, I have come to a full understanding of your position as secretary of state. My understanding is that your responsibilities are mainly to advise the president on the matter of foreign policies and carry out these policies throughout the state department. Therefore, I believe your success is determined by the success of these countries involved in our foreign policies. Now, I am not in any position to judge since I am only a freshman college student beginning my journey to become a politician. However, based on pictures like these…
I believe it is pretty safe to say, your policies are not very effective; which is not entirely your fault, I mean this with the utmost respect. However, the foreign policy which you advise to the president is mainly structured around our past foreign policies. In my research, I examined our nation’s past secretaries of state and their ideas of foreign policy. I came across this video which I support because I believe it elucidates the true purpose of foreign policies.
Looking into our history, I have found one common mistake committed by almost all of our past secretaries of state. This mistake in my opinion is the main reason why our foreign aid has not had a significant affect on these developing countries. It is simply that these few funds are not allocated efficiently. In my research, I came across a great book that exemplifies how our foreign aid policies should be. Within Smart Aid for African Development, Carol Lancaster lucidly addresses this issue; she sees our foreign aid to be aid that is not smart. She goes on to blame this issue upon those in office by stating “those politics are very evident in US aid programs where the allocation and use of aid are heavily constrained by the influence of domestic intrest groups and congressional earmarks as well as by the diplomatic imperatives of the administration.” In her opinion, we are allocating these funds based on our selfishness, we are looking to what benefits us rather than what benefits the developing country. However, as we saw in the “Foreign aid 101” video, these funds are investments that will eventually be beneficial to our country’s economy.
This is the method of allocating these funds for as far as we have providing funds. Thus, I think its unfair to blame you for this issue in our government. I believe it is a tradition that we have had throughout our history, and one that will be very difficult to change. But the fact of the matter is we cannot continue to commit the mistakes that we have made in the past. I strongly suggest that you no longer advise the president to allocate these funds in the same useless ways we have throughout our history.
I am a current college undergraduate, beginning my journey to understand the political science in my pursuit to become a politician. My dream to become part of our political system has mainly shaped by my previous experiences and circumstances.
I am an Egyptian American citizen, from a family of full Egyptians making a living here in the United States. At the age of seven, my family made a life-changing decision in packing up our lives and moving to the United States, the country of freedom and opportunities. Now both my parents are hard working citizens who provide to our economy and pay a respectful amount of taxes. Taxes that we would assume goes to a good cause. Whether it’s to keep us safe, build our roads, or helping other less fortunate countries.
However, after seeing all the uprisings and all the issues going on in these countries that we “support”, I began to suspect if all of our money is doing anything. So after much research, I found the unfortunate truth about our foreign funds. I discovered that we don’t even send the amount of money that should be sent. Which came as a great surprise for me because many Americans had me convinced that we invest too much on philanthropy of other countries. However, within my research I came across this Global Issue blog about foreign aid funds. It revealed to me the truth about our foreign aid, I learned that we along with the richest nations are obligated to donate about 0.7% of the nation’s gross national income. Unfortunately, our donation to these countries falls far below this amount, to a sad 0.21% of our gross national income! After reading this, I was still not moved by how low we contribute, until I stumbled upon this graph.
Its no wonder all of our foreign aid funds is getting no where! However, after further extending my research, I have concluded that it is not the amount of the aid, but rather its methods that affect the countries success. This is an idea that first came across in my research while reading a great journal by Katherine Erbeznik, “Money Can’t Buy You Law: The Effects of Foreign Aid on the Rule of Law in Developing Countries.” In this journal I found that this statement summarizes why our foreign aid is useless and rather hindering: “If the cultural or political elements of the rule of law require political accountability to the rule of law and a commitment to maintaining a well-ordered society, then foreign aid can undermine that by thwarting the emergence of democracy and democratic accountability, decreasing the quality of governance, and encouraging violent conflict or civil war.” The final part of this statement is what stood out to me the most, the idea that our placement of the funds in the other government’s control encourages “violent conflict or civil war.” Because the truth is, this is what has been happening, especially in your time in office, that there have been numerous uprising and “violent conflicts.” The one that greatly affected me was Egypt’s uprising.
Seeing images and videos of violence like this occurring in my beautiful country has really tore my heart and encouraged me to get more politically involved, and even to write you this open letter to share my concerns and suggestions. After seeing my country get torn apart by violence and outrage in the January revolution, I began to wonder why such barbarity took place. And with the help of some of authors on the topic of foreign aid, I was able to conclude that is is all our fault.
One reason I find to be our fault, is our distribution of these funds which seems to be unfair. As we saw in the Mubarak case in Egypt, most of the money we donate to these countries are only received by greedy politicians. In conducting my research I have found that the net worth of Hosni Mubarak and his family sum up to about $7 billion. Which led me to the conclusion that with Egypt receiving nearly $2 billion and his regime for 30 years, the only way to obtain this insane wealth is by stealing it from the country.
To affirm this theory, I researched and stumbled upon a book, The Power of Greed, which explains the philosophy behind why corruption occurs within developing countries even though we are doing what we can to help. In this book Michael Rosberg bluntly states “much of the money that was borrowed was stolen by corrupt government officials, spent on poorly designed economic projects, or used to support military forces that propped up dictatorships and suppressed political dissent.” Connecting the dots in this situation, you can clearly how this explains the riots and unrest in these developing countries.
That being so, I strongly believe that this is a major flaw in our foreign aid policy. We believe our undermined aid support that we send out annually has a great affect on the citizens of these countries but in reality it is only increasing the wealth of the rich, and decreasing that of the poor. Which seems to be the trend reoccurring in all of these developing countries with corrupt political leaders like Hosni Mubarak, Mummar Gaddafi, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and many others.
Maybe now it’s time to take a step forward and make a change. Instead of passively giving this foreign aid, we should enforce this foreign aid. To do so, I think it is best to look to those elites who have enriched out economy before its downfall and seek their professional help in developing these unfortunate countries that we assist. Rather than sending money for the economist of those countries, we should place directors within each country to ensure that the money for development is actually optimized and utilized for the greater good of these developing countries. I recommend sending experienced specialists in the fields of agriculture, housing, medicine, and government to ensure a sustainability is provided within these countries with our tax dollars. By doing so, we would assisting develop opportunities of prosperity for the citizens and job opportunities for our economists as well. Doing this as well as donating the agreed 0.7% of our gross national income, as few of the countries do as we can see below, we will eventually change the world for the better.
The second flaw that I have pinpointed during my research was in my opinion the most dangerous one. Through looking at charts and graphs about what these funds are meant for, I have realized way too much aid is going towards weapons and defense for these countries.
I believe this is a major issue in our foreign policy because the amount we donate is small enough, and the majority of it goes to military support, so the amount the countries receive for development is very minimal. Maybe this is due to our country’s crazed obsession with national defense. As we heard in the “Foreign policy 101” video, the amount of aid we donate annually is equivalent to the amount we spend on our national defense in three months. But the problem is not only do we spend too much of our budget on national defense but we also promote the importance of military use in other countries. In my research, I found this blog about US Military Assistance which included this graph that shows the amount of military supplies the United States exports in comparison to other countries.
I was aware of the United States’ obsession with the military of our country; however, I was shocked to learn that we promote all these weapons which coincidentally influences the use of a military on other countries.
I find this quite ironic, that we are promoting war with these weapons but yet donating philanthropic aid. This is probably due to the fact that we believe that war and military is amongst the most important aspects of a nation. Within “promoting multiple policies to the public”, Obama’s justification of war is “sometimes ‘the use of force [is] not only necessary but morally justified’ despite the humanitarian casualties it causes and war can sometimes help safeguard peace.” To me this seems to be a flawed statement in our attempt to justify our war and our influence of it. I was shocked to find out that not only do we export the most military weapons, but most of the foreign aid we donate is directed towards military use. After research of how exactly the foreign aid is allocated within these countries, I have found this political blog which illustrated these numbers which explained the truth about how our funds are allocated.
|1. Israel||$2.4 billion||Virtually all of this money is used to buy
weapons (up to 75% made in the U.S.).
Beginning in 2009, the U.S. plans to give
$30 billion over 10 years.
|2. Egypt||$1.7 billion||$1.3 billion to buy weapons; $103 million
for education; $74 million for health care;
$45 million to promote civic participation
and human rights.
|3. Pakistan||$798 million||$330 million for security efforts, including
military-equipment upgrades and border
security; $20 million for infrastructure.
|4. Jordan||$688 million||$326 million to fight terrorism and promote
regional stability through equipment upgrades
and training; $163 million cash payment to the
|5. Kenya||$586 million||$501 million to fight HIV/AIDS through drug
treatment and abstinence education and to
combat malaria; $15 million for agricultural
development; $5.4 million for programs that
promote government accountability.
|6. South Africa||$574 million||$557 million to fight TB and HIV/AIDS;
$3 million for education.
There are many issues that arise from our suport of military forces in other countries; however, the biggest issue that it places too much power in the wrong hands. Which we have already seen happen in Egypt. During the uprising of Egypt a total of almost 800 innocent citizens were killed. I find it quite horrific that our funds that are meant to assist the citizens of these countries, are actually used in buying United States military supplies that are used against them, as we can see in this horrid image.
Another instance of this occurring was the killing of innocent Coptic Orthodox Christians for their peaceful protesting of their church being burnt down. Unfortunately this issues has not been brought to the attention of most Americans; I believe this video would sum up the cruelty of this event carried out by the Egyptian military, which is supported by the United States.
This is something that must be changed! If there is one thing that we can change about our foreign policy let it be this. Because truth is, war is back for a country. We have seen that in our past wars; which have left us in trillions of dollars worth of debts. So let us learn from that and ensure that these horrors of war do not continue in countries that can barely afford to eat. I suggest that in addition to sending our talented and experienced economists to direct the usage of our foreign aid, we limit the amount of aid that is utilized for militaries and weapons in all of these countries receiving the support. Yes, a country does need to be defended, however, we are a country that is strong enough to protect our allies. Thus, the money used for military resources may be redirected to effectively developing a stable economy, while the countries are protected by the armed forces of the great United States.
Unfortunately, your time as the United States Secretary of states is coming to a end. While you have accomplished some remarkable achievements; I believe it is time to move towards even stronger ones. I believe it is your time to begin a change in our foreign policy for the better. I understand it not in your power to altar the foreign policies; however, I believe your position as the advisor of the president, you are able to make a push towards a change. With your assistance, I believe our nation can take a leap towards sending “smarter” aid to these developing countries; which are in reality investments for us. Our political elites need to be aware that without proper supervision, our foreign aid is wasted, and it must be directed by some of our finest developing experts. I also hope you take time to express to our president the importance of limiting the military assistance to these countries, for as we have seen that it only leads to caos. If not, I am confident, with all issues that we as Americans have seen in the world, one day a secretary of state will make sure these policies are altared for the better. I dream that one day, our tax dollars will no longer be used in the killing of innocent citizens, but rather to assure that no one ever has to live on less than $2 a day again.