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Mr. COATS. Madam President, I rise today to address the legislation that has been offered as an amendment that would cut off all foreign aid to Egypt, Pakistan, and Libya.
As I watched our flag being shredded by a gloating mob at the walls of the American Embassy in Cairo, I shared with fellow Hoosiers and Americans a sense of sadness and deep anger. That mob, and the one that led to the death of four American diplomats in Libya, including our Ambassador, or those who stormed our Embassy throughout the Muslim world, showed us again how much contempt and disrespect those people have for the United States and for Americans.
Many in those countries clearly still hate us. As displayed on our televisions this past week, the Arab spring is evolving into a very bleak winter. Events this past year, and especially this past week in the Middle East and North Africa, continue to present us with enormous challenges. We have mishandled them badly. No one should be deluded enough to see it in any other way.
The best judge of a policy is the results. By that measure our report card is found among the ashes of the consulate in Benghazi.
The questions the administration and this body must answer soon is how best to react to this failure and what steps offer the greatest chances of making things right--or, at the very least, making things somewhat better. The search for answers must involve a complete reevaluation of the full range of American policy tools, including military actions, diplomatic dialogue, economic measures, multilateral efforts, and, simply, better leadership--not leadership that leads from behind.
Now, it is understandable to ask: Why on Earth should we send one more dime to these people who hate us so much? We will soon be voting on an amendment that codifies the instinct to cut off all assistance programs to, yes, problematic countries including Libya, Egypt, and Pakistan.
Based on recent events, I agree we need to reassess the foreign aid we do send to these countries. However, I also believe we need to avoid a shortsighted reaction and consider a broader review of the purposes and the costs of foreign aid. I wish to address those two issues.
First of all, the costs. Foreign aid, as many do not know, is just a fraction of our Federal budget so we need to understand how much foreign aid costs taxpayers. Our foreign aid programs are less than 1 percent of the Federal budget and, put even more vividly, according to the OECD, just 0.12 percent of our gross national income is devoted to foreign aid.
Not only is that figure about a tenth of the number of Sweden or Norway, but it is only a third of the figure for France and half as much as the United Kingdom. We even devote a smaller share of our national wealth for foreign assistance than, of all countries, Greece.
I have been on this floor several times calling for Washington to get
control of excessive spending and I take a back seat to no one in that effort. I have repeatedly said that in order to address our $16 trillion national debt everything must be on the table, including foreign aid. But we must assess and reassess all foreign aid to determine if it is still effective and even necessary. We should cut where it makes sense to cut. But when there is a discussion about eliminating all aid to Pakistan, Libya, and Egypt, let's be honest with the American people about the true cost of all that. Together, this aid only constitutes a fraction of a single percent of our Federal budget, and cutting it would be nothing but a gesture toward the real austerity required to deal with our $16 trillion deficit.
But that is not the primary reason and that is not the real question before us. The real question before us is, aside from the cost argument, which is minuscule, the national security reasons for why we should pause and consider our next step very carefully ought to drive us to think this through.
We must keep a clear eye and recognize that sending American taxpayer dollars overseas is, first and foremost, a matter of strategic purposes and national security.
I want to repeat that. We must remember that the money we send overseas is, first and foremost, a matter of strategic purpose and national security. Without that component, then we do have to reassess the value and what we receive in return for foreign aid.
We can be sure that foreign assistance plays a role in the struggle for the hearts and minds of the world's poor. Today it is also central to the contest for political power.
Other rivalries are apparent as well. China plays in the contest for political influence and access to natural resources by engaging in foreign assistance as defined by their own standards. Chinese assistance activities in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia grew from $1.5 billion in 2003 to $27.5 billion in 2006, a nearly twentyfold increase in 3 years, and it continues to grow and their influence continues to grow in those countries around the world as China expands its reach and exerts its influence.
None of this means that we in the Senate should support wasteful foreign aid programs with little regard to solid purpose, good design, proper accountability, and visible standards of positive result.
I want to see our foreign aid program reassessed. I believe we need to reevaluate the way we make our foreign aid determinations. But rather than cutting off all foreign aid in an instinctual way after these horrific scenes we have seen on television, it is important to step back and assess how we go about reassessing our distribution of foreign aid, what our strategic purposes are, and the other criteria that ought to be applied before we make a knee-jerk or too quick decision.
To achieve our support I think these programs need to achieve three guidelines. First, which programs most clearly achieve our national security interests? If they do, it is money well spent. Second, which best reflect American values and encourage foreign countries to support and adopt those values? We need to support our friends first. And, third, which programs are most effective at the least cost? We need clear, unambiguous standards of what effective means.
The consequence of no aid, though, is far greater now to the immediate question before us, which is the question of how we serve national security interests while at the same time ignoring the fact that the recipient may not be our best friend and may not support our broader purpose. In those cases--and Libya, Pakistan, and Egypt recently are among them--our broader strategic interest linked to our national security must have priority.
Let's look at Pakistan. In the case of Pakistan, I and some of my colleagues are profoundly skeptical. In the State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill markup this year, I joined with my colleague Senator Graham to cut a portion of our assistance to Pakistan because of the outrageous conviction and imprisonment of Dr. Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped us locate Osama bin Laden. The cut was a gesture of our dissatisfaction with the regime's behavior and a signal more cuts could come should that behavior not improve.
Yesterday I met with the Pakistan Foreign Minister and Ambassador to America from Pakistan. Earlier, Senator Graham and I had a lengthy discussion with the Ambassador. We conveyed our dissatisfaction with this decision and a number of other things that we have differences about with that country. At the time, Senator Graham said at the hearing that it may become necessary to cut aid off altogether but that time has not yet come. In my view, that time is not yet here, because what is at stake in Pakistan is so vast as to defy a brief description.
A radicalized and hostile Muslim country with a potent, fully developed nuclear arsenal is the most dreadful global nightmare. We must continue to employ every single tool available to us to make sure that does not come to pass, despite how skeptical and pessimistic we might be about the future of that country.
I am not arguing that our assistance packages to Pakistan have been well used, or even resulted in the support we seek or that the regime there has even shown much gratitude or respect in return. I am simply noting in this case the stakes are huge; the assistance programs do give us some leverage; and anger and despair are not a proper basis for us to make policy judgments, particularly when it comes to the security of the American people and our national interests.
Let's look at Egypt. Similarly, we cannot abandon Egypt
despite how we have come to judge the results of their elections. Those elections have shown us that once again a democratic vote does not ensure democracy or stability. Elections are a necessary condition for modern enlightened government, but much more is required. We must be there to help the political and security environment evolve in the right direction. Cutting off aid to the Egyptian military, arguably an essential element in Egypt's future political evolution, is bound to make it far harder to achieve our strategic objectives in the entire region. I believe even the Israeli Government would oppose an end to U.S. assistance because such a step could further radicalize the new government, the military, and even the population itself. Aid is one of the few tools we have that requires Egypt to maintain observance of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.
Let's look at Libya. The issue of aid to Libya is even clearer. It is no coincidence that the attack on our diplomat occurred on September 11. This attack was almost certainly generated by radical elements connected to al-Qaida or similar terrorist organizations active in this country. We have seen ample confirmation that neither the Libyan Government nor the vast majority of the Libyan people supported that violence in any way. What we have seen is Libya is in a fragile state of transition that simply must be supported and encouraged by us and our allies. We have seen a Libya that wants to support us, wants to go forward with democracy, but has yet to gain control of certain parts of its country and certain elements, infiltrated by terrorists and al-Qaida, certain elements that need to be addressed in terms of Libya's future and in terms of our own national interests.
If we cut off aid to Libya, we risk losing the gains of that revolution to the radical elements that are active there and everywhere else in the region. It is impossible to see how ending our assistance programs would be a responsible move for our country and for our allies.
Most of us in this body have just come from a lengthy discussion with our Director of National Intelligence, with Secretary Clinton, our Secretary of State, with top representatives from our military, from the FBI, and from the administration, discussing this very question, gathering all the information we possibly can, making sure we have the facts before we make a quick judgment about the role of Libya and the role of terrorists, and what we have seen to date is the response by the Libyan Government, even the firing of one of their top officials who made an inappropriate remark relative to this attack.
In conclusion, I encourage my colleagues to pause and look at the larger picture when it comes to foreign aid. Cutting off aid and disengaging from these countries is exactly what the perpetrators of these attacks and protesters are trying to achieve. I do not know if supporting the government in this volatile region and this revolutionary movement will bring the results we so urgently need, but if we are to review the tools available to us, and I am convinced we must, we should not begin by throwing out the tools we have. We need to sharpen those tools, better define their use, but not discard them prematurely.
I yield the floor.
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