The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

16 MARCH 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL sional firms and NGOs capable of provid- ing specialized expertise in areas from health to agriculture, tax policy, demo- cratic elections and financial intermedia- tion has been noteworthy in the last 50 years, and this is more to be praised than condemned. Delivering foreign assistance—which is often just sharing knowledge through technical advice, training, exchanges and long-term education—is not to be compared with manufacturing cars, as the article would have us believe. Refer- ring to “pulling names from consultant databases,” Dichter implies that there is something wrong with building teams of qualified individuals capable of sharing world-class information on Ebola, irriga- tion, new seed varieties, mobile banking or a modern judicial system. Too Many Straw Men The article sets up too many straw men—the hubris, the short-term think- ing, the over-focus on “saving lives and extreme poverty”—for which it offers too little evidence. There’s plenty of hubris; but some would argue that the crises are so complex and development is so com- plicated that without hubris, we wouldn’t have the gall to attack the problems involved. A.O. Hirschman described the phe- nomenon of the “hidden hand” years ago. If we knew how hard a project was going to be ahead of time, we wouldn’t have the courage to undertake it. But there’s plenty of humility, as well. No one experienced in wrestling with devel- opment’s challenges can escape it. And those in the development busi- ness know well just how long it can take to get change. Development people are usually the ones arguing for more time and longer-term projects and programs in order to reach a point of sustainability, while officials in the Department of State and Defense, not to mention Congress, are pressed for time and more interested in quick results. Debate Needed The article raises a number of good points—the rise of development firms and large NGOs, the need for account- ability, the extent to which programs are built around indicators rather than need (a flip side of the accountability issue), the importance of a long-term commit- ment and local ownership. But the good points are nearly lost among a welter of generalities and propositions put forward as if there were evidence to support them. The result is a set of jerry-rigged recommendations of little use in constructing a foreign assis- tance strategy for the future. Far better would be a call for debate over the objectives of foreign aid, the tools at hand and agencies to reach those objectives: what we should be doing and how we might better do it. But that would be a different article. Terry Myers, a retired Foreign Service officer, began his USAID career with an assignment to Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1969. He went on to serve in Washington, D.C., Senegal, India and Burma, and as mission director in Indonesia (1998-2003) and Rus- sia (2003-2007). He moved to the National Defense University in 2007, as USAID Chair at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and retired from USAID in 2010 to join the National War College, where he was professor of national security studies until 2016. He is the author of three books and numerous articles and chapters; the most recent, “USAID: More Operator than Policy Maker,” appeared in The National Security Enterprise (Georgetown University Press, 2017). Foreign Assistance Realities BY RAYMOND MAL L EY The broadside criticisms of foreign eco- nomic assistance in the article (“When Criticism Falls on Deaf Ears”) by Thoma s Dichter in the November Journal beg for reactions. Here are some. Foreign economic assistance in the broadest sense is a tool of diplomacy. It is soft power. It assists in the negotiation, containment and solution of problems. Major examples of success are legion. The Marshall Plan helped rebuild Western Europe and ward off commu- nism. Assistance to numerous coun- tries supported the containment policy and victory in the Cold War. It is a key component of the Camp David accords, which have kept peace between Egypt and Israel. It helped former Soviet Bloc countries become market economies and democracies. China today uses economic assistance to advance its Silk Road com- plex. And the European Union uses it to ease refugee problems. Such assistance also has commercial objectives. France uses it to spread cul- ture and support trade and investment. The Danes have used it to spread their dairy expertise, the Finns to promote their forestry industry, and the Japanese to support heavy industry and construction projects abroad. We Americans export massive amounts of agricultural products as part of our assistance programs. I know of no experienced person who claims that economic assistance alone can develop a country. But it can help coun- tries that are determined to improve and