- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Paying off dictators and feckless allies does not pay off in the long-run. So why bother?

Case in point: Egypt and Syria. We’ve given Egypt tens of billions in aid to make peace with Israel and given Syria nothing. Yet neither nation has gone to war with Israel again. All our taxpayer money accomplished was to prop up former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for decades.

U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority has been an equal waste of money. Fatah has partnered with Hamas, a designated terrorist organization whose leaders mourned the passing of Osama bin Laden.

Don’t even start talking about aid to Pakistan.

Of course, not all foreign aid goes in the form of payoffs. Much is advertised as economic development assistance or humanitarian aid. Yet all too often these well-intended programs are of spurious value. Foreign assistance often winds up merely enriching corrupt powers that created the conditions for market failure which have trapped the general population in poverty and despair.

That’s not to say that we should eliminate all foreign aid. But it does mean that we should be skeptical of all the liberal voices calling for Congress to gut defense and boost spending on “soft power.” At the very least, those urging the nation to put its security money on soft power projects should be required to demonstrate that the favored initiatives return value for the tax dollars invested. After all, the Pentagon isn’t the only outfit subject to problems of “waste, fraud and abuse.”

In the field of security assistance, Congress should have drawn an important lesson from “the Arab Spring”: It’s time these assistance programs put freedom first.

The U.S. needs new foreign policy instruments - those that help build security and freedom at the same time. This approach will add to the ranks of nations willing to stand for justice side-by-side with America and add to their capacity to stand with strength. Current foreign military sales and foreign military financing programs are insufficient, impeded by a tangle of restrictions and bureaucratic delays that often render U.S. security assistance tardy or ineffective. We need to revamp our entire foreign military assistance program.

Military assistance should steal a page from the innovative approach used in the already-successful U.S. Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) initiated in 2002. The program consists of a pool of funds for economic development. Countries applying for those funds are evaluated according to quite specific criteria, including adherence to basic standards of human rights and good governance, fiscal responsibility and a commitment to the kinds of development projects that have proved effective in promoting economic growth.

By demanding that countries demonstrate a commitment to freedom and economic development, the MCA greatly improves the likelihood that its aid is not squandered on wasteful and unproductive projects. And by placing emphasis on good governance and democratic norms, the MCA has lessened the potential that the aid will be siphoned off to prop up corrupt regimes rather than help people on the ground.

A “Security for Freedom Fund” should apply the basic MCA model to security-assistance grants. The fund should dedicate its resources to financing foreign military sales that fulfill specific criteria including: a demonstrated commitment to freedom and human rights; a commitment to the rule of law and governance; mutual bilateral security interests with the U.S. and its allies; and a demonstrated need for U.S. military assistance.

It is time to stop dumping money into countries such as Pakistan that do to little to help themselves let alone partner for a more free, prosperous and secure alliance of nations in league with the United States. The United States also needs to send a message to countries such as Egypt that Washington has no intention to go back to the days of buying off foreign militaries.

A Security for Freedom Fund would ensure that U.S. military aid goes hand in hand with America’s abiding desire to strengthen free institutions and promote liberty worldwide.

James Jay Carafano is director of the Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.