Randall Blimes, assistant professor of political science at BYU-Hawaii, said U.S. President Donald Trump’s push to cut foreign aid could result in less diplomatic power with other nations, potential casualties to citizens of other nations who receive medical help, and allies becoming enemies.
Blimes said there are two main goals to foreign aid: humanitarian work and diplomacy. He described diplomatic power as a soft power. He added, “Hard power would be forcing people into motives. Foreign aid obtains a lot of soft power.
“To accomplish this, you have to think of the costs and benefits. So by not sending aid of course you save money, but if you do any kind of reading you realize that we are not really saving that much. All the money our government spends is about $4 trillion. Now most Americans think that on average we spend 26 percent of our budget on foreign aid, but the reality is on average we spend usually less than one percent. So if we cut aid by 30 percent–Trump’s current goal to cut 28 percent–to finance deficit or any other problems, how helpful will that be? Not at all really.
“Now if you don’t lose any benefits that would be fine, but we will on both goals. A significant amount of foreign aid goes towards health for medicine and saving lives. If you look at just how much health spending correlates to saving lives, the facts are astounding. [Our] money goes towards saving millions of lives, and this money is proportional to lives saved.”
Despite foreign aid being small, Blimes said it is larger than what most countries have. He said, “What is a thousand dollars to you? A lot, but to Bill Gate it’s nothing. One percent of our budget is larger than the budgets of some nations entirely. To us it may seem little, but to others those billions of dollars are important and needed.”
Foreign aid can also supply diplomatic power, said Blimes. “The diplomatic power it buys is nothing to sneeze at. The political power we do not buy now will make nations upset with us. It’s like carrying a carrot and a stick when we help nations. Our army is the stick. If we only use the stick, nations can get fed up and become our enemies.
It is also important to note that if we do not invest in these nations, other countries like China will use their carrot–foreign aid–and we will lose this cooperation and allies we have.”
“Foreign aid is the cheapest influence we can buy, a heck of a lot cheaper than military might,” Blimes concluded.