July 16, 1998 | Commentary on International Organizations

Curing Dependicitis

Ever lend money to a friend? If you did, in addition to being paid back, you probably expected at least a word of thanks. I'm not saying all good deeds need strings attached, just that generosity sometimes should be a two-way street.

Consider our "friends" at the United Nations. The United States generously gives $19 billion a year in foreign aid to nations that routinely vote against us at the world body. In fact, during the 1997 U.N. session, 74 percent of these foreign-aid recipients voted against the United States a majority of the time.

Every one of the 10 countries that voted most frequently against the United States receives U.S. aid. Even Cuba, a country that voted against us 87 percent of the time in 1997, gets $2 million in U.S. aid. Combined, these top 10 "friends" of the United States will receive $230 million in U.S. economic assistance this year.

In a true display of ingratitude, Haiti-to which President Clinton sent U.S. troops to restore democracy in 1994-will receive more than $101 million from the United States this year. Yet, in 1997, the island nation voted against us 57 percent of the time at the United Nations.

According to J. Brian Atwood, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the goal of foreign aid is to "significantly contribute to achieving the administration's foreign policy objectives." If that's the case, it isn't working.

For example, much has been made of the arms race between Pakistan and India and how the United States should have prevented both countries from conducting nuclear tests. Although there was certainly a failure of U.S. intelligence, there was no shortage of U.S. "assistance" given to either country. India ranks as the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. aid and was to take in $144 million from U.S. taxpayers in fiscal year 1998, while Pakistan was slated to receive $6.7 million.

This money prevented neither country from defying U.S. wishes and bursting through the door of the nuclear club before President Clinton cut off their aid. It also hasn't stopped either country from thumbing its nose at the United States during U.N. voting sessions: India 80 percent of the time in 1997, and Pakistan 69 percent of the time.

Next year, Congress wants to "limit" foreign aid to $18.9 billion, a figure Secretary of State Madeleine Albright calls "unacceptably low." Secretary Albright is correct that the figure is unacceptable. It's unacceptably high.

If foreign aid fails to promote American interests, perhaps it at least helps those countries receiving it.

Alas, of the 67 countries that have been receiving U.S. economic assistance for decades, 37 have experienced less than 1 percent annual growth while on the dole. Of these, more than half-19-are poorer than before they started receiving U.S. aid. The reason: a disease I call Dependicitis.

Dependicitis is a crippling disorder that strikes those addicted to hand-outs. Indifference, apathy and a satisfaction with the status quo are the most visible symptoms. Dependicitis is also hereditary-passing from generation to generation and regime to regime.

Just as social workers are finally trying to wean welfare recipients from dependency on government, the United States should phase out foreign aid as a means of breaking the welfare addiction that afflicts too many countries.

As for those countries that continue to take our money and routinely vote against us at the United Nations, they should be the first to get the ax.

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. is president of The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based public policy research institute.

About the Author

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. Founder, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow
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