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«American Aid to the Middle East: A Tragedy of Good Intentions By Yuval Levin Aid in U.S. policy American aid to the Middle East is a tragedy of good ...»

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The question then arises: what would happen if the United States ceased to support the regimes in question? The question itself demonstrates the degree to which the current policy has done real damage to America’s geostrategic position. If the U.S. has reached a point at which it appears to have no choice but to fund unfriendly regimes that stand opposed to American interests, then we are truly in great trouble. But of course, this is not the situation. It is simply not true that the traditional balance of power approach to global politics is no longer relevant, and that nations now respond only to financial incentives and the logic of idealist cooperation. The problem is fundamentally an intellectual one. The problem is that some U.S. policymakers assume that America can buy its way out of the balance-of-power approach to international politics and into a new Middle East, and that official Israel, too, shares this notion.

As presently articulated, a number of rationales build upon each other to support the current aid policy. First, aid is essential for Israel’s survival and strength. Second, aid to the Arab states cannot be separated from aid to Israel – the link between them is an important component of America’s role as an arbiter in the peace process. Without aid on par with Israel’s, the Arab states would not come to the table. Third, by coming to the table, the Arab states become more pro-American, and accept the American and Israeli conception of the new Middle East. This, in turn, enhances American power and leverage and is good for the United States.

In reverse order, we find that aid to the Arab states in fact does not make them inherently pro-American, but rather it often allows them to act more freely in opposition to American interests. Next, while it is true that aid to these states cannot easily be cut off without also cutting off aid to Israel, we now see that aid to Israel does more harm than good for Israel, and therefore should be cut off.

In other words, both of the major assumptions that underlie the current policy are in fact false. By recognizing this, the United States could greatly enhance its influence, leverage and prestige. Aid could serve the interests of the U.S., and perhaps those of the peoples in recipient countries, only if it is conceived of in realistic terms. A stick at least as large its carrot would allow the United States to act in support of its interests and to see more clearly the strategic realities that now shape the politics of the Middle East.

Foreign aid will only work to America’s advantage if the nation is willing to use it as a political tool whose function is defined by a realistic conception of international affairs. If it is not, then aid becomes not only a waste of money, but also an outright detriment to American interests and objectives. Currently, it is precisely that.

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