When you try to explain to liberals that instead of helping the poor, the welfare state has mostly subsidized poverty, most don’t want to hear it. The very idea that we should change our policies is anathema to those who consider the welfare state an entrenched and unalterable facet of American government. To such ideologues, pointing out the obvious damage wrought by welfare does little to dissuade them from defending it at all costs. And so the status quo continues on, generation after generation, dollar after dollar, unexamined, unchallenged, and undisturbed.
The same is true of the welfare we give to other countries in the form of foreign aid. If constant financial intervention by our government has created a dependent class domestically, the dollars we dole out to other nations has produced a similar dependence. Like public assistance, sometimes the welfare we give to other governments does little to actually promote our interests, and, in fact, often hurts those interests.
The current turmoil in Egypt is a primary example of this. According to The American Conservative‘s Michael Brendan Dougherty, “The fact, rarely mentioned this past week, is that the United States sends over $800 million in direct economic aid to Egypt along with $1.3 billion a year in military aid. The guns being used to beat protestors this week were bought with American tax dollars.”
Writing for Commentary, neoconservative Max Boot makes a similar observation. “For decades, Egypt has been one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid, and [Egyptian President] Mubarak has been one of our closest allies in the Middle East,” Boot says. “Egyptian officers have been educated in the United States, its forces are equipped with American weapons, and they regularly conduct exercises with American troops.”
Due to our constant foreign aid and intervention in Egypt’s affairs, Boot adds, “We have a large say, whether we want it or not.”
Whether the United States should want to have a “say,” large or small or nonexistent, in the affairs of other nations is something that has been debated since this country’s inception. Today, America’s presence, whether military, political, financial, or even ideological, is readily recognized and accepted in so many areas of the world that it is rarely questioned. Just like the fact that we’ve had a welfare state for so long that many can’t fathom an America without it, our well-established warfare state, which includes the foreign financial and military aid that accompanies it, simply remains part of an unexamined, unchallenged, and undisturbed foreign policy permanence.
Given this, what exactly can or should the U.S. say about the unrest in Egypt? Should President Obama support Mubarak, a dictator our government has supported since his reign began 30 years ago, despite the fact that Egypt’s citizens now rebel against him? Should we endorse the rebellion? Will this even be possible given that many predict that a new and perhaps radical Islamic regime might arise? When Egyptians or the leaders of any future administrations of that country express anger at the United States for helping prop up Mubarak, are we going to pretend that these people simply “hate our freedom” or recall our complicity in the matter? Will we remember, as Dougherty points out, that “the guns being used to beat protestors this week were bought with American tax dollars?” What, if anything, can we do to prevent or reduce the further possibility of increasing anti-American sentiment in Egypt?
In retrospect, would America have been better off if we had never become so intimately involved with Egypt’s affairs? Would it not have been preferable for Egypt’s troubles to be little more than a blip on the nightly news as opposed to an international crisis laid at our doorstep?
Yet to argue against foreign aid and intervention, whether with liberal internationalists or neoconservative-minded Republicans, invites accusations of isolationism or worse. To such ideologues, pointing out the damage caused by our interventionist policies does little to dissuade them from defending such actions.
Given the events of the past weeks, few would now take a wholly positive view of America’s policies toward Egypt and Mubarak, yet it’s still hard to imagine our leaders offering significantly different policies, while still insisting that anyone who dares question the conventional wisdom is naïve or illogical.
Conservatives understand that government intervention in the form of taxation, regulation, and even public assistance gives rise to unintended consequences and affects citizens’ behavior in multiple ways. Yet we should also understand that the same is true of government intervention abroad. Egypt’s example illustrates the danger and shortsightedness of involving ourselves in every international conflict. That nation’s troubles are now ours, but only because we’ve made them so.
Jack Hunter served as a campaign assistant to Sen. Rand Paul. Southern Avenger commentaries can be heard every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.