Foreign Aid: a Declining Commitment

September 23, 1988

Report Outline
Special Focus


American spending on foreign aid is at its lowest level in the postwar era, and it's likely to sink even lower. Which programs should be jettisoned, which should be kept? Hard choices await the next administration and Congress.

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In 1988, one theme seems to dominate every debate over foreign aid: America can no longer afford to keep doing all the things it has been doing in the world. The difficult and controversial choices facing the next administration and the next Congress are likely to involve discarding commitments to some countries and reducing others. “We've got to look at what's working, what's not working and set some priorities,” says Rep. Dante B. Fascell, D-Fla., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

From its inception more than four decades ago, at the close of World War II, America's foreign aid program has served dual purposes—containing communism and helping needy countries. Sometimes the aims coincided, sometimes not. Public opinion divided over which goal should be supreme. “We became confused, in short, by our own rhetoric,” say Stanley J. Heginbotham and Larry Q. Nowels, authors of a recent Congressional Research Service study on foreign aid. And that confusion over goals, they observe, often resulted in disillusionment with the results of foreign aid.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Foreign Aid
Feb. 18, 2022  Fragile States
Apr. 23, 2021  U.S. Foreign Aid
Mar. 29, 2019  U.S. Foreign Policy in Transition
Apr. 14, 2017  Rethinking Foreign Aid
May 16, 2014  U.S. Global Engagement
Oct. 02, 2012  Rebuilding Haiti
Mar. 23, 2012  U.S.-Europe Relations
Jun. 17, 2011  Foreign Aid and National Security
Apr. 26, 2002  Foreign Aid After Sept. 11
Sep. 27, 1996  Reassessing Foreign Aid
Sep. 23, 1988  Foreign Aid: a Declining Commitment
Dec. 01, 1965  Development Aid for Poor Nations
Dec. 19, 1962  Foreign Aid Overhaul
Jun. 19, 1957  Population Growth and Foreign Aid
Dec. 12, 1956  Extension of Foreign Aid
Jan. 26, 1955  Aid to Asia
Feb. 04, 1953  Trade Policy and Foreign Aid
May 03, 1951  Future of Foreign Aid
Feb. 09, 1949  American Aid to Greece
Oct. 17, 1947  Conditions for American Aid
Jun. 11, 1947  Financial Aid to Foreign Countries
Aug. 06, 1940  American Relief of Famine in Europe
Feb. 16, 1940  Loans and Credits to Foreign Countries
International Economic Development
Military Bases