Scacrificing Foreign Aid

Last night, debate moderator Gwen Ifill asked each candidate what priorities and campaign promises his or her ticket would have to abandon due to the $700 billion rescue package. Palin did not answer the question directly, but Biden did. And, to be honest, his answer was somewhat disappointing.

Biden (echoing what Obama told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation last week) said that the Obama plan to double the amount of American foreign development aid (it is currently at $25 billion) would likely have to proceed slower than expected. Right now, if you go to the Obama website, there is a section dedicated to fighting global poverty and promoting global development:

Obama and Joe Biden will double our annual investment in foreign assistance from $25 billion in 2008 to $50 billion by the end of his first term and make the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015, America’s goals. They will fully fund debt cancellation for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries in order to provide sustainable debt relief and invest at least $50 billion by 2013 for the global fight against HIV/AIDS, including our fair share of the Global Fund.

It is important for political leaders to understand the growing consensus among experts is that a 21st century international affairs policy has to balance the 3 “D’s” – Defense, Diplomacy and Development. In a world of asymmetric, transnational threats and challenges we have to use all three. This means not skimping on the third “D.” Whether McCain or Obama wins, the development community and activists will need to marshal effective arguments to make the case that this is a critical long-term investment in our security and prosperity–not an expendable priority.