There wasn’t much media coverage of President Bush’s speech to the Coast Guard Academy yesterday, but it outlined a completely new vision for US humanitarian policy that could take the US in a new direction in regards to humanitarian policy. A few key pieces of the speech:
America’s national ambition is the spread of free markets, free trade, and free societies. These goals are not achieved at the expense of other nations, they are achieved for the benefit of all nations. America seeks to expand, not the borders of our country, but the realm of liberty.
This sets the tone for Bush’s vision of America in the 21st Century. No doubt the usual anti-globalization groups will be up in arms over this concept, but the values of free markets and individual autonomy are the values that make a healthy society. There is a direct and clear correlation between economic freedom and political freedom, and both lead to a higher standard of living for all. The question at hand is not should we try and support those values abroad, but how should we do so?
The advance of freedom and hope is challenged by the spread of AIDS. Today, on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people are afflicted with HIV/AIDS, including 3 million children under the age of 15. The African continent has lost 7 million agricultural workers. In some countries, almost a third of the teachers are HIV positive. A 15-year old boy living in Botswana has an 80 percent chance of dying of AIDS. It is a desperate struggle for any person, or any nation, to build a better future in the shadow of death.
If a Democrat were leading this charge, the media would have the policy plastered across the front pages. Bush is the first US president to make serious efforts to combat this deadly plague that is ruining Africa and Asia, and spreading across China, Russia, and other nations. The economic, and more importantly human costs of AIDS is immeasurable, and it is time that the United States became a true world leader in combating this plague.
Next, Bush has a nice little slam against Europe:
We can also greatly reduce the long-term problem of hunger in Africa by applying the latest developments of science. I have proposed an Initiative to End Hunger in Africa. By widening the use of new high-yield bio-crops and unleashing the power of markets, we can dramatically increase agricultural productivity and feed more people across the continent.
Yet, our partners in Europe are impeding this effort. They have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears. This has caused many African nations to avoid investing in biotechnologies, for fear their products will be shut out of European markets. European governments should join — not hinder — the great cause of ending hunger in Africa.
Anti-GMO extremists have hijacked common sense in Europe. GMOs are no different than the selectively bred crops that have existed for centuries. They can survive in a wide range of conditions and provide life-giving nutrients to people who need them. The arguments against GMOs have little substance, and the intransigence of Europe towards these crops is unacceptable. The EU must ensure that human life takes precedence over neo-Luddite propaganda. President Bush needs to make this a clarion call to the world to embrace these life-saving crops.
We must also give farmers in Africa, Latin America and Asia and elsewhere a fair chance to compete in world markets. When wealthy nations subsidize their agricultural exports, it prevents poor countries from developing their own agricultural sectors. So I propose that all developed nations, including our partners in Europe, immediately eliminate subsidies on agricultural exports to developing countries so that they can produce more food to export and more food to feed their own people.
This will be controversial in the Midwest, but eliminating farm subsidies is critical towards helping the Third World sell their agricultural products at fair prices. However, it’s fair to be skeptical about this: will Bush really push the politically risky course of removing these barriers to trade or will he flinch as he did with steel tariffs? If he stays the course, he will show principle, but I wouldn’t look for this to take place until after 2004…
For decades, many governments around the world have made sincere and generous efforts to support global development. Far too often, these funds have only enriched corrupt rulers and made little or no difference in the lives of the poor. It’s time for governments of developed nations to stop asking the simplistic question: How much money are we transferring from nations that are rich? The only question that matters is: How much good are we doing to help people that are poor? The only standard worth setting and meeting is the standard of results.
The lesson of our time is clear: when nations embrace free markets, the rule of law and open trade, they prosper, and millions of lives are lifted out of poverty and despair. So I have proposed the creation of a new Millennium Challenge Account — an entirely new approach to development aid. This money will go to developing nations whose governments are committed to three broad standards: they must rule justly; they must invest in the health and education of their people; and they must have policies that encourage economic freedom.
To fund this account, I have proposed a 50 percent increase in America’s core development assistance over the next three years. Under this proposal, our annual development assistance eventually will be $5 billion greater than it is today. I urge the Congress to give its full support to the Millennium Challenge Account. And when I’m in Europe, I will call on America’s partners to join us in moving beyond the broken development policies of the past, and encourage the freedom and reform that lead to prosperity.
Again, another slam against the crowd that charges the US with not pulling its fair share. Yes, it is true that we spend less per capita than most countries on foreign aid. However, in terms of dollar amounts, the US is by far the largest donor to international development agencies. The Millennium Challenge Account is an excellent way of supporting governments that reduce corruption and support economic reform. This will help create a climate in which governments have incentives to remove corruption, which will spur better standards of living and a less exploitive labor market throughout the Third World.
President Bush is essentially playing a game of brinksmanship with Europe. For long Europe has wrapped itself in the mantle of moral superiority claiming that they do far more than the US to help the Third World, while simultaneously supporting trade barriers, protectionist tariffs, and supporting corrupt governments like Zimbabwe. Bush is setting a different course for the United States, one that will hopefully encourage free trade, better standards of living, and increased opportunity for the Third World. If Bush can stick to his plans and make these proposals into policy it will continue to fulfill the promise of the United States as the world’s beacon of freedom and opportunity.