Saturday, March 18, 2006

Stephen Lewis on Races - ARMS and AID(S)

"In 2005, the world will pass the trillion-dollar mark in the expenditure, annually, on arms. We're fighting for $50 billion annually for foreign aid for Africa: the military total outstrips human need by 20 to 1. Can someone please explain to me our contemporary balance of values?"
-- Stephen Lewis, in Race Against Time, 2005

Unless aid is given that will actually change the political and economic situation of the African nations (or any other country in need of aid) it is just wasting the aid. What causes most of the poverty in the world are corrupt goverments and the denial of basic freedoms for the people.

Giving aid to aleviate the immediate needs (hunger, housing, etc) is fine, but what does this do to start a path toward economic freedom and a non-dependence on aid?
Supplying aid that contributes to fast economic growth is a better solution.

As the famous conservative economist Frederick Bastiat said “When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will”.

And this leads us to your suggestion of spending less on arms and more on aid. I do not agree with you.

The UN as set a goal of development assistance equal to 0.7 per cent of GDP. Right now, Canada has ODA spending of .3%, well below. But, during the 1990’s Canadian Military spending dropped 14% and ODA spending fell 31%. Spending less on arms does not mean more money for aid.

I think the US spends .2% GDP on aid. But the dollar volume is trememdously greater than that of any country.

There are extreme risks in not having a military force capable of handling serious problems that are arising in the world today, and in past problems.

In 1936 Hilter sent the Reichswehr into the DMZ along the Rhine. France, still weary from WWI, had cut back drastically on military spending, and had an army that was worth very little compared to Hitler’s. There are many historians who believe that if the world, and France in particular had moved against Hitler at that time, the events leading to WWII would have been changed, perhaps Hitler even losing power. In this fight against Islamofascism, I do not want the US to make the same mistake against Iran.

One other thing comes to mind. In another thread Miia enumerated the countless problems encountered as a social worker in Canada.

I am reminded of Mrs. Jellyby in ‘Bleak House’, who neglects her own children’s problems while being fanatical about projects designed to benefit Africa. I would think, with the problems in Canada, as pointed out by Miia, that Canadian funds would best be spent in Canada.

Many Canadian lefties would also argue that we need more focus on the problems at home. Conservative and Liberal governments here have been promising for decades to eradicate child poverty in Canada. They have focused very heavily on eliminating our foreign debt and growing our GDP, to enhance homeland prosperity, which I supposed was expected to trickle down upon the heads of the poor, thank you Mr. Reagon's advisors.

It hasn't worked. The disparity between rich and poor has only grown. The GDP has gone up and up. The deficit has gone down. The poor have become more poor. Social problems have worsened. The unemployment rate has been up and down but most people without jobs have remained unable to access the safety net that is supposed to protect them. The rate of child poverty has remained fairly constant throughout. Homelessness has increased. This in a country recognized for having one of the lowest rates of corruption in the world (despite recent Liberal party scandals).

So, we've gone down the 'free trade' river and found ourselves paddleless in a big butt-smacking competition with our elephant-sized neighbours (who have their own domestic problems to deal with while their government ignores them and attempts to police the world).

You are right that throwing money at a problem overseas doesn't solve it. But throwing bombs at it doesn't work either. The US is not just prepared to militarily defend itself. It has the means and, as demonstrated in Iraq already, the will to start a war somewhere else, just in case. This is not the same as France defending itself (or not) from invasion. America has been the aggressor, not Iraq, and not Iran.

We do have the means in Canada to support a vibrant local economy with full employment for those able to work and a social safety net for those who can't, and to still meet our .7% commitment.

Better yet, we could forgive the debts of third-world nations, and acknowledge the debt we owe them for having unfairly exploited their resources and people for centuries. The people and organizations (non-profits, businesses, and in some cases even governments) in these nations have the intellectual, creative, and physical resources to take care of themselves without our interference. But they are playing on an unlevel field against powerful opposition (i.e. first-world countries). We should be supporting them, not fighting them.

Unfortunately, as Mr. Lewis and others have pointed out, helping other people is not a priority of the world's most powerful people. They are too busy helping themselves, and convincing the rest of us that evil is lurking and perpetual warfare is the only answer.

It is interesting to note how those calling for more aid to the worlds needy seem to forget that there are people who need aid in Iraq.

Iraqis are being terrorized daily by “aggression” from Iran. But, they say, only the US is the aggressor.

Iraqis are being killed daily by terrorists from Al Qaeda, who are savagely bombing women, children, innocents, but it is only the US bombs that are of concern.

The same individuals who were so very concerned about the “starving Iraqis” under the sanctions placed on Hussein are indifferent to their suffering now. Starve, and we love you. It makes a great photo op for us to help. Be under attack from terrorists and we will thumb our nose at you, and blame the US for starting it all for oil.

Give more aid to poor counties, forgive everyone’s debt, but forget Iraq. And the US gets blamed on all counts.


vibrant local economy
I caught that…the key word being “local”.
The debate on a vibrant “global” economy will, however, have to wait.
No, Iraq will not be forgotten. Thanks the the actions of the US military it is all we hear about in the news. There was a time, in the late 50's when Iraq's future looked brighter. The West took care of that by orchestrating an end to a popular democratic gov't. Iraq is a pawn in our game, unfortunately. I find it interesting that the Bush regime is so obsessed with 'liberating' the people it deprived of the global trade you advocate, and bombed weekly for over a decade.

Can the people of Iraq benefit from aid, trade, and friendship with the international community? I think so. Have they benefited from being bombed and having their country torn to shreds? Obviously they have not. The Bush approach is counterproductive, to say the least.
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