Africa is a continent torn by wars and natural disaster. Every year, the United States gives millions of dollars in foreign aid. The United States also often intervenes militarily. Most recently, troops have been sent to the Congo and Sierra Leone, but U.S. troops have gone to Africa to quell conflicts since the early 1800s. Many people argue that the money and intervention does little good. The money, some say, is better spent at home and the military efforts, some contend, are futile. Should the United States continue to send aid and troops to war-torn African nations?
One of my students has a father working in an African country. His mission for peace is very inspiring to me. I think that Americans cannot ignore what is happening in Africa. No matter what country it is, the slave trade and imperial colonialism made Africa what it is today.
No, as much as it pains me to say it, the United States is no longer in the position to provide as much military or humanitarian aid as we have been in the past. From a government perspective, I truly believe that our military is over-extended as it is right now anyway, without adding other nations to our responsiblities. As for humanitarian aid, I believe that the United States has always had, and will continue to have, a tremendous heart and belief in helping those less fortunate.
Even if the government is over-burdened financially, privately funded organizations, like church groups and benefit concerts, will continue to give and reach out to people in need of aid. Our countries' response in recent disasters like the Japan tsunami or the earthquake in Haiti prove our dedication to service. The bottom line is that we have always been a country of compassion and will continue to be.
The difficulty in answering this knd of question usually lands on our elected officials' shoulders and that's right where I like it. These kinds of decisions involve peoples' lives and nations' destinies. I don't want to be the one to shoulder that responsibility. Yet, the principle behind this question underlies many other questions: endangered owls versus economic development; disability income versus federal budget; minority advancement versus federal spending. Many questions are reduced to this simple formula of life versus economy. Of course, "economy" most assuredly encompasses myriad "lives" as well.
This is what makes these decisions so enormously difficult: they require evaluation of the worth of one life (and sometimes one form of life) over another. I'm of the mind that our resources are to be divided, as far as possible, between ourselves and other lives that need rescuing or saving. I know the mother who gets a bowl of rice to feed her baby, whether in 1882 or 2012, blesses the hand that sent it whether strife continues around her or not. I know that anytime peace or truce is won, husbands and wives and children give thanks and bless the peace even if it might erupt again next month, next year, or next decade. If I were in office and in a position to decide, I would vote to share what we have whether aid or military might.
I do not think that the US can or should continue to send as much aid as we do (whether it be military or humanitarian) to countries in Africa or anywhere else. Economically, it no longer seems feasible for us to do this when we are not as well off as we once were. Morally, there could be an argument that we should be helping these countries. However, it is not at all clear that our aid actually does help them in any meaningful way. If our aid is not going to do any good anyway, then it really doesn't seem that it's so morally worthwhile. If aid isn't morally worthwhile and we can't afford it, why do it?