The United States has long been a beneficent nation. U.S. aid programs fight HIV/AIDS in Africa, help alleviate poverty, and assist efforts to build civil society and promote good governance in transitional countries. U.S. assistance has helped pull millions of people out of poverty; by improving institutions and capabilities of countries that otherwise might be breeding grounds for instability, these programs have helped keep Americans safe.
This is an important point that some in Washington often forget — we don’t provide foreign assistance solely out of the goodness of our heart, we do so because it furthers our national interest.
That is why Secretary Kerry’s announcement of $250 million in aid to Egypt on Sunday was so unfortunate. We have significant interests in ensuring that Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and that the Morsi government does not undermine the democratic process and the human and political rights of all Egyptians, including religious minorities and women. That does not mean, however, that we should just continue to dole out aid to Egypt, whether it be economic or security assistance.
U.S. foreign assistance should reflect our values and should be a tool to influence policy. Unfortunately, in the case of Egypt, the administration’s approach does neither. Instead of granting hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for little more than promises on economic reform, we need to fundamentally reexamine our assistance to Egypt. This includes reevaluating our military assistance to make sure it addresses Egypt’s real security needs and ensuring that our economic and other aid helps Egypt stay on the path of democratic reform.
Stability in Egypt, including a flourishing economy based on free-market principles, is paramount to U.S. interests and to the security and prosperity of the Egyptian people and their neighbors. But this will require real economic reforms, not just vague pledges from Cairo. It also will require consensus and cooperation between various political groups in Egypt, which the current government has not been willing to facilitate.
I intend to work with my colleagues to raise these concerns before the administration’s second tranche of $260 million in economic aid to Egypt is released. I also plan to examine all of our assistance programs to ensure that proper monitoring and evaluation of these programs occurs and that our aid reflects our values as well as our interests.