U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham on Monday called on the U.S. government to send more money to Middle East countries in turmoil to push them toward democracy.
“Foreign aid is a very complicated, controversial topic, particularly when you’re broke. But … it is good for the American people and the American government to reach out and help those who live in peace with us.
“Find me an example where two democracies went to war,” he added. “Democracies have a way, through the rule of law, of working out their problems.”
Immediately after World War II, “the Defense Department, the CIA, the State Department, and USAID provided assistance to police and internal security forces in key strategic regions,” said a 2006 RAND Corporation report. The flow of aid to successive regimes in the Middle East has been consistent ever since.
In a June 2010 report for the Congressional Research Service, Jeremy Sharp writes that, in addition counterterrorism, aid to Middle East regimes is an attempt to “encourage peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors,” and serves for “the protection of vital petroleum supplies.” This latter justification was, of course, understood by early post-war national security planners. As a Top Secret National Security Council briefing put it in 1954, “the Near East is of great strategic, political, and economic importance,” as it “contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world” as well as “essential locations for strategic military bases in any world conflict.”
Continued and in some cases increased foreign assistance after the September 11th attacks had the benefit of giving “the United States leverage on key foreign policy issues, since it can make assistance contingent on cooperation,” says the RAND report. But these assistance programs “can have a negative effect on democratic development by strengthening a state’s capacity for repression” and, as one study concluded “the more foreign police aid given [to repressive states], the more brutal and less democratic the police institutions and their governments become.”