Modernizing U.S. Foreign Assistance in the Next Presidency

During its recent conference, “The CAMPAIGN”, the French-American Foundation – France took an in-depth look at the issues, affecting the U.S. Presidential Elections, with an eminent field of experts from both sides of the Atlantic. As the French National Assembly debates its military presence in Afghanistan, it would appear that the subject of the panel on U.S. Foreign Assistance, headed by former U.S. Congressman Jim Kolbe of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, has strong implications not only for the U.S. but also for its transatlantic partners.

Each US Presidential candidate claims to have a distinctive foreign policy solution to fragile and post-conflict states. But, they agree on one thing: the U.S. must help build institutions, rule of law, and economic development in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa. They both understand, to varying degrees, that addressing these troubled regions will require a multifaceted approach – including military might but also civilian expertise. Unfortunately, the U.S. foreign policy apparatus does not reflect such aspirations. It is in many ways a vestige of the Cold War when long-term economic development was secondary to the goal of fighting communism. Job creation has taken a back seat to other geo-strategic priorities in these theaters. The provision of health and education systems, an accountable and legitimate government, and access to trade and capital for entrepreneurs will ultimately be required to boost incomes and break the poverty-insecurity nexus. As one veteran from the Battle of Fallujah put it, we need the Peace Corps on steroids. How do we help create jobs and build indigenous institutions and at the same time effectively fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda?

What can the next U.S. President do to enhance U.S. foreign assistance, improve transatlantic cooperation, and achieve long-term economic growth in fragile states?

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