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Further Cutting U.S. Foreign Aid Would Undermine America’s ‘Soft Power’

“America’s ability to protect itself and advance its global interests often depends as much on its ‘softer’ power as it does on our nation’s armed forces,” Gen. David Petraeus, former director of the CIA, and Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, write in a Politico opinion piece. “That is part of why we have supported a budget deal that would repeal sequestration and achieve most further deficit reduction through savings in entitlement spending with similar increases in revenue generation,” they continue, adding, “Implicit in our approach was the thinking that lawmakers should avoid the temptation to gut foreign aid just because it generally lacks a strong constituency in the United States.”

Petraeus and O’Hanlon briefly discuss recent history with regard to U.S. foreign aid spending, noting aid “was not always as productive as it might have been.” However, they continue, “America’s spending on development and diplomacy and security aid — the so-called 150 account — has strengthened under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.” They note PEPFAR, “a major initiative of Presidents Bush and Bill Clinton and now President Obama, has played a significant role in helping to turn the tide against the HIV/AIDS epidemic — even if more work remains to be done.” They state, “Given our military contributions to international stability and the global economic growth that results from that stability in various areas, American foreign aid doesn’t need to grow substantially. But it should not be cut further” (4/30).