Monday, April 23, 2007
Obama says US aid should be “sustainable” – free of corruption
I had front row seats to Barak Obama’s five-point foreign policy speech today “The American Moment” – hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs। It indicated the presidential hopeful understands the corruption problems surrounding foreign aid. Exactly how he is going to address the problem remain unknown (maybe we should ask Samantha Power, one of his foreign policy advisors). At a talk I gave on Syria with the Council later that day, many in the audience raised the same question. My answer: use the private sector, not just handouts.
Obama outlined 1) a responsible end to the Iraq War, including a phased withdrawal by March 31, 2008, 2) a 21st century military that is better equipped, 3) securing and arresting spread of WMDs, 4) rebuilding US alliances world wide, including use of United Nations, World Bank, etc. (which he added, correctly, are in need of reform) and 5) Investing in a “common humanity” – including a doubling of US foreign aid to $50bn by 2012.
Unexpected and refreshing, Obama called on his experience in his father’s Kenya and openly cited the importance of reigning in corruption surrounding foreign aid – a big problem in Syria today. Under current US sanctions (going back to 1979), none of it will make it to Syria soon – but it could serve as a wake up call to our European allies in Syria to get their act together.
His delivery was confident and convincing, and he brought the house down. But completely missing from the speech was the word “democracy,” or “human rights” (except concerning US treatment of detainees in Guantanamo). This wasn’t unexpected, and puts him in line with other Democrats (and some Republicans) spilling through Damascus’ gates these days.