Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Red and blue waves: Setting up the 2020 presidential elections

Wednesday, 7 November 2018 on Alarabiya.net

The much-touted Democrat Blue wave many pundits were foreshadowing was held off by a Republican dam. The unprecedented voters’ turnout made the typically unimpressive and much-ignored midterm elections more impressive than any other in recent history. Yesterday’s Election Day was of proportions similar to a presidential election.
The results proved the depth of the struggle between a divided America; Democrats regained control of the US House of Representatives, while Republicans expanded their majority in the US Senate. An impressive final result with many foretelling and extraordinary local races.
Some winners in hotly contested races triumphed in exciting fashion. Many survived the fiercest battles of their political lives. New faces and old names made for gripping races in battles of hope versus fear.
Although the most recognized name, Donald J. Trump, was never listed on any of the ballots, it was in fact a Trump election. The American people understood it for what it was: a referendum on his Presidency. So, did he win? The answer is yes.
The simple reason being that he defined the parameters of the game and won it. Trump decided to focus his campaigning time and energy on Senate races. His calculation paid off: his Republican Party went beyond holding on to its Senate majority by expanding its lead with a comfortable margin.
Republicans had a slim majority with 51 of the 100 legislative Senate seats coming into this election. Once the dust settles, they are looking to increase their advantage to as many as 55. Trump emerged victorious delivering a loyal constituency for his Republican party.
The tide was in the Republicans favor with gerrymandered districts making it all but impossible for the Democrats to overcome Trump’s cult of personality in solidly Republican districts. Getting out the vote makes or breaks an election. Trump was successful in energizing his base winning big Senate races.
A different dynamic existed in House races. As expected, suburbia delivered a decisive victory to the Democrats. Women and other groups won big last night. Voters confirmed their support for equity and justice affirming a hopeful trajectory for the nation to combat the politics of fear that has been plaguing the country.
The American people understood it for what it was: a referendum on his Presidency. So, did he win? The answer is yes
Walid Jawad

An election of firsts

Rashida Tlaib, a female-Palestinian-Muslim candidate, won her race to the House of Representatives unopposed making her one of two Muslim-women candidates voted into Congress.
Along with Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American, they have shattered a once thought impenetrable political glass ceiling. The list of races worthy of recognition is long, even the ones where Arabs didn’t win.
As of yet, Ammar Campa-Najjar’s race has yet to be called, although he is predicted to lose. His loss is not a defeat. He has been a formidable challenger to a safe incumbent, Duncan Hunter. Hunter’s legal issues combined with Ammar’s vigor and appeal turned this race from a long shot to a narrowly contested election.
Hunter used ad hominem attacks attempting to link Ammar to terrorism. Voters have shown a higher degree of sophistication giving Ammar a chance to make a case for himself. Despite the mudslinging tactics, Ammar has gained name recognition and a reputation as an effective campaigner. 

Impressively, of the reported races with Arab-American candidates, two-thirds have secured their bids. According to the Arab American Institute’s website, Arab candidates won 16 of the 21 reported races up to the time of writing of this column. While many of the Arab names have gained recent recognition, such as Rashid, Elhan, and Ammar, others have been in the limelight for years.
Donna Shalala is one of those who has been in the public eye for many years. She was the Secretary to Health and Human Services in the Bill Clinton administration. Shalala’s win last night is significant for many reasons including her age, as one of the oldest at 77, and more importantly, as a Democrat who flipped a Republican district in the highly contested state of Florida.

But which party won?

Neither party won yesterday’s elections outright. The only clear result is the country’s growing division. The next two years, leading up to the presidential elections of 2020, are poised to be bitterly contested.
The nation will fight political battles for immediate gains along party lines in the name of saving America’s soul. Unfortunately, these political battles are expected to be vicious and ugly. America’s future will become dark as both Republicans and Democrats don their armors and sharpen their proverbial knives. 

The new year, 2019 will bring a new Congressional dynamic as the newly elected cohort of candidates assume their seats. The Democrats are expected to aggressively move ahead with hearings into Trump’s Russia connections and investigations into Russian collusion with his 2016 presidential campaign.
Calls for impeachment proceedings will become louder and might gain traction. A possible constitutional crisis will appear on the horizon if Trump takes measures against the Robert Mueller Russia investigation.
Trump’s personality of confrontation and political jousting will exacerbate the adverse effects of the political war between the two parties. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Politicians are myopically focused on advancing their personal gains losing sight of the damaging outcome befalling the nation.
Americans will be nudged to choose sides increasing their divisions. The next two years will create a new social and political norm that will take decades to overcome. Divisions of fear and hate will take generations to heals.
Yet, there is a silver lining. Americans have proven a much higher level of electoral discernment in yesterday’s midterm elections. They voted for candidates going beyond simplistic one-dimensional labels. Being Muslim is no longer a devastating accusation, being Arab is not an impediment to running and winning elections.
One can only hope that the resiliency of the American people can see the nation through the next cycle of devastating political wars.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The curious case of a US government shutdown

Sunday, 23 December 2018
Shutting down the government is not an option considered anywhere in the world, except in the US. It is mind-boggling to have the US government decide to shut itself down. Yes, it is a conscious decision not to fund the government.
Typically, this happens when Congress fails to pass a federal funding bill or when the US president decides not to sign the Congressional bill. This latest government shutdown was triggered by the inability of Congress to come together to pass a spending bill both Republicans and Democrats can agree to. As a result, the federal government is forced to shutter its non-essential operations.
Over the past few decades, elected officials in the White House and Congress have forced the government to suspend its operations many times over. The economic losses are far-reaching and inexcusable.
Government employees go without pay, the whole system of government is further fractured inciting the ire of the American people who typically punish the “responsible” party in the next election cycle.

Why decide to shutdown the government?

The Republican and Democratic parties were bickering over the border wall slated to be built along the US-Mexico border. President Trump has announced his willingness to shutdown the government unless the Democrats agree to fund the border wall.
Two weeks ago he said in this Oval Office meeting with the Congressional Democratic leadership that he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t fund the wall. The latest polls show that 51 percent of Americans blame the president for this partial government shutdown, while 37 percent blame Democrats.
Trump demanded Congress include a $5 billion earmarked to building the border wall to fulfill a campaign promise he made to his constituency. During the presidential elections leading to him winning the presidency in 2016, he made building the wall a cornerstone of his campaign.
Trump’s proposed wall is the singular item on his agenda to guarantee border security against illegal immigration. Although the Democrats dispute the effectiveness of the wall, they agree with Trump on the need for border security.
For no other reason but to score political points the two political parties have turned this aspect of the greater immigration failure into a fiscal policy dispute to shutdown the government
Walid Jawad
The projected cost for a border wall will run anywhere from $10 to $25 billion. The primary point of disagreement is not the project cost, but president promise to make Mexico pay for it.
In its early days, the White House attempted to pressure Mexico to build the wall but failed. Trump quickly turned to the American people demanding Congress fund his wall. According to Trump, there are two issues at hand: criminal elements illegally coming into the country to commit violent acts and smuggle drugs, and second, illegal immigrants burdening the US economy.
American taxpayers suddenly found themselves on the hook for an untold budget. Die-hard Trump supporters believe the answer lies in building the wall, but not all Republicans do. Within Congress, upwards of 25 percent of Republican members are not in favor of funding the wall according to a USA Today poll taken during the last funding battle.
Border security can be achieved by a combination of surveillance and barriers according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), a trusted non-partisan government agency. What is surprising is the already built combination of walls and fences covering 580 miles (930km) of the 1,989 miles (3,201km) US-Mexico border.
The wall Trump wants to build is part of an immigration reform challenge, which consecutive US administrations have failed to address. For no other reason but to score political points the two political parties, Republicans and Democrats, have turned this aspect of the greater immigration failure into a fiscal policy dispute to shutdown the government.

What happens when the US government turns off the lights?

The US government ran out of money to fund a number of US agencies on midnight last Friday. Government workers in the Departments of State, Interior, Justice, and Transportation among others have asked their non-essential workers to stay home; i.e. be furloughed, unless they are deemed essential.
Essential employees, on the other hand, will have to report to work but would not get paid for the work they perform during a shutdown, at least not until a spending bill is passed. Essential and critical functions of government, those operations pertaining to the safety of human life and the protection of property, are the only functions to continue through a shutdown.

How will this affect others around the world?

US Embassies around the world will continue to function as normal. Entry points to the US would continue to welcome travelers. TSA and customs officers will report to work although none of them will be paid for the duration of the shutdown.
Government to government diplomatic and economic will not cease. The outside world will not notice any change in US functions particularly if the shutdown is short. Longer suspension of government operations will force affected agencies to halt different parts of their operations in a controlled fashion.
Yet internally the effects are felt, during the Obama 16 day shutdown in October of 2013 around two million government employees were furloughed or required to work without pay and the economy lost $24 billion. This is a similar number of employees who are affected by the current shutdown.
ALSO READ: Trump’s ‘Russiagate’ and the looming Iran war 

A political battle on this scale presumes a winner and a loser. In this case, there are only losers, bigger losers, and ultimate losers. The Republican Party is already perceived to have lost by the majority of the American people, but government workers are losing as they pay in lost wages, while the ultimate loser is the American people as a whole.
They are losing financially by forgoing gains the nation’s GDP would accumulate. Worse, the people are becoming less trusting in their government institutions. 

Whenever the idea of shutting down the government is kicked around, elected officials must recall why they were sent to Washington in the first place: to find solutions, not manufacture issues for political reasons.
If failed states do all that they can to avoid disruption in governance, US politicians must never consider a government shutdown. When they do, as they’ve chosen on Friday, they are reneging on another promise: to make America Great Again.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

US Arabs and Muslims for Jewish-Americans

Monday, 5 November 2018 on Alarabiya.net

The Arab and Muslim American communities have been resolute in their condemnation of the Pittsburg synagogue shooting. Not only in words, but also in action.
The Muslim-American community has raised $150,000 for the victims of the terrorist attack, while many Arab-Americans reached out to the Jewish community to offer a helping hand.
The question is why? Why would these communities come together in the US while their members feud around the world?
The US has been plagued with a history of chronic social imbalance starting with the first settlers, and their animosity toward the natives; otherwise known as Native Americans or Indians as they were mistakenly were thought to be by Christopher Columbus.
Not to be dismissive of Columbus’s daring voyage, the natives of the land have already discovered America before Columbus, which makes the claim of “discovering” a new world mute.
Moreover, naming this “New World’ after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer, who explored the new continents in the following years after Columbus, was unjustified and, undoubtedly, an offense to the natives.
After the natives were marginalized through violent means, new dynamics arouse pitting the dominant white population against other minorities, chief among them the black slaves.
The overt structural imbalance ended with freeing the slaves, yet a subtle and covert prejudice continues. Although the discrimination is clear to see, it is not exclusively against African-Americans, it’s against all minorities.
This reality makes all members of minority communities gravitate toward each other for self-preservation. These minorities are well aware that their ability to push against any structural inequality lies in effective collaboration between them.
The Muslim and Jewish communities are but two of those communities that have been on the receiving end of some of the structural prejudice. Over the years Muslims and Jewish Americans have come together in solidarity knowing that together they are much better able to defend their own communities while apart they are more vulnerable.
The latest influx of Arab refugees settling in the US over the past 30 years has balanced out the Arab-American community to be equal parts Christian as much as it is Muslim
Walid Jawad

A minority-majority nation

Throughout, White America was the majority; now the “minority-majority” is turning the paradigm onto its head – this midterm election is a testament to that. As it stands today, whites are a minority in five states.
California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas is composed of a minority population surpassing 50 percent of the total number of its residents and by definition, these minority groups together are more in numbers than white residents; i.e. forming a minority-majority.
Further, the white population in another seven states is dwindling to 6 in ten people. Among eight; Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, the state of Maryland is at the cusp of becoming a minority dominant state as of 2017.
In total, a quarter of the 50 US States is becoming a minority-majority states while it is predicted that by 2045 no one group will form a majority. Accepting more migrants might speed up the process, but it will happen nevertheless.
If white politicians are concerned with their dominant status, then they should move on establishing a more equitable society rather than quell the flow of migrants. The outcome of a minority-majority is inevitable!
US territories are all minority-majority as they never were dominated by whites. Let us be clear, the distinction of white majority is even more complex than it sounds. One of the most interesting aspects of this distinction is that Arabs and Jews are officially considered whites, creating a subset within the white classification.
It would have been probably a better distinction to use the geographical identifier of “Caucasian” than that of the color “white.” Caucasian referred to people who hailed from Europe, the greater Middle East, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.
In the 1990s, the courts ruled against re-designating an Arab-American plaintiff from “white” to “black” invoking his dark colored skin. This person, who is originally from Sudan, argued that because the distinction is made on a spectrum of color, he should be considered black due to his dark skin pigmentation. The courts relied on an ethnic distinction that defines Arabs as “white.”

Race politics

The reason why anyone would be concerned with the distinction is because minorities in the US enjoy varying degrees of social and/or financial advantages based on their specific designation.
It must be considered that, although the word minority is not exclusively based on ethnicity, color is a primary identifier. The US should synchronize its government benefit programs targeting disadvantaged minorities to be defined based on the type of benefit it offers.
If the benefit is financial, then the group should be defined in economic terms to meet income and purchasing power criteria. Such should be the case for the different programs that advance gender equality or people with medical maladies.
Even ethnic groups fleeing war should not be designated based on their ethnicity or national origin. Instead, they should be identified based on their status as “refugees.” Words do matter, in this case using the words white or black, Hispanic or any other non-white, frames the equation along ethnic and racial lines.
The benefits of having race-based dichotomy is less beneficial than one that describes a group’s practical status for the purpose of acknowledging and correcting an injustice or disadvantage befalling them.
Ethnic distinctions are flawed social constructs that lead to consequential political outcomes. Tuesday’s midterm elections has already offered insights for us to extrapolate a tide of changing social and political dynamics; color, gender, and ethnicity are some of the examples.
A possible blue wave, where Democratic candidates are expected to win enough races to regain control of the US House of Representatives, might be a reality. But relying only on race dynamic is not the best predictor. The “white majority,” which is deemed to be in support of Trump, in reality, is more fractured than it appears.
For Arabs and Jews to be considered white, suggest that the larger group is much weaker as a voting block and much more diverse than otherwise expected, limiting its political effectiveness at the ballot boxes.

Electoral finish line

Arab Americans, as well as Muslim Americans, have been enjoying a strong showing this election year. Not only as voting blocs but in the increasing number of promising candidates. There is an overlap between the two communities, specifically in that group that happens to be both Muslim and Arabs.
It is worth noting that the majority of the Muslim-American community is composed of non-Arab Muslims, while historically Arab-Americans have been predominantly Christian.
The latest influx of Arab refugees settling in the US over the past 30 years has balanced out the Arab-American community to be equal parts Christian as much as it is Muslim. The community’s Arabic heritage is a stronger denominator bringing the group together allowing them to overcome their religious differences.
This election result and the next presidential elections of 2020 will be revealing as to how the dynamic of race, ethnicity, and religion will shape the outcome. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Rise of white supremacy and forgotten Arab-American victims

Sunday, 28 October 2018 on Alarabiya.net

This morning’s terrorist attack on a Pittsburgh, PA synagogue comes less than 24hrs after apprehending the mail bomber, Cesar Altieri Sayoc, who sent multiple mail packages to Democrats and liberal personalities. Years ago, I would have been holding my breath hoping the shooter wasn’t Muslim or of Arab descent.
As the news anchor said the shooter has been arrested, I suspected the shooter to be a white male motivated by anti-Semitism. Sure enough, initial news reports suggest the terrorist to be Rob Bowers, a white anti semite.
My expectation was informed by a history of homegrown terrorism. Contrary to the popular narrative, Arabs and Muslims do not constitute the largest threat within the US.

On the receiving end

Arabs and Muslims have a reputation for violence. It is true that any number of terrorist attacks have been carried out by, and attributed to, Arabs and/or Muslims. Media discussions over religious indoctrination have cast an unfair shadow of repulsion toward Islam.
Over the years, the evolving media narrative started making a distinction between Islam as a religion and the people who kill and maim in its name.
If a group of puritans should abide by the words in the book of Leviticus, Judaism and Christianity would be tainted by the blood of those who are punished under its extreme code of punishment. Religion is never to be blamed if violent and sadistic men choose to translate scripture to satisfy their twisted fetishes.
While the media enumerates lists of terrorist attacks committed in the name of Islam, coverage doesn’t zoom out enough to show the structural violence perpetrated against those Arabs and Muslims
Walid Jawad
While the media enumerates lists of terrorist attacks committed in the name of Islam, coverage doesn’t zoom out enough to show the structural violence perpetrated against those Arabs and Muslims. Neither of the two vantage points are justified or excused.
We don’t need to go back to the Crusades to highlight this fact, or attempt to draw indefensible claims of a clash of civilization. In fact, reflecting on the recent history of the Arab world over the last Century points the finger to the British and French as occupiers. In addition to the Ottoman occupiers who have oppressed Arabs throughout centuries under the banner of Islam.
The current state is more complex with multiple parties committing different types of structural violence throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. The desensitized global response to violent acts is sure to prompt terrorist to use more magnificent violent tactics.
The spillover cannot be avoided. Terrorism is the tactic of choice for weak parties targeting easy noncombatant targets not abiding by any geographic boundaries. We’ve seen it in the US on 9-11, and throughout Europe since committed by foreign agents, and domestic terrorists.

Domestic terrorism

The increasing number of pipe bombs mailed to political and activists opposing President Trump, since Monday, is the latest case of homegrown terrorism. President Donald Trump sent out a 3 am tweet on Friday blaming CNN for inciting hatred leading to the “spate of Bombs” mailed to his Democratic opponents.
“Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, ‘it’s just not Presidential!’” Trump tweeted.
Debating the sequence of events for the purpose of placing blame on one side or another is utterly futile. The responsibility for ensuring peace and stability will always lie at the feet of the President of the United States regardless if he is personally a party to the debate.
Trump has been inserting himself in this debate, the end result is a fractured country where some of its elements are willing to confuse acts of violence for patriotism. Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr. was arrested Friday evening and charged for sending explosive packaged to at least a dozen critics of the president. Sayoc became the latest homegrown terrorist.
Homegrown terrorism is a phenomenon that has been lurking under the surface. A powder keg, of sorts, waiting for a spark of hatred and anger to destroy a nation. But this is not new; the US has continuously dealt with domestic terrorism.
The Oklahoma City bombing by Tim McVeigh, the Beltway snipers by John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, and the Congressional baseball shooting by James Hodgkinson last year are among a slew of other violent attacks carried out by Americans of diverging backgrounds seeking to induce change social or political changes.
This has been going on since the inception of the US, garnering varying levels of interest and coverage by the media. Among those who received limited coverage is a group of Jewish-Americans who, in the late 1960s, formed an organization called the Jewish Defense League (JDL).

Arab-American targets

American terrorist organization, the JDL, carried out 15 terrorist attacks leaving behind a trail of destruction and maiming. At the height of their terrorist activities, 1980 to 1985, the JDL targeted Arab-Americans including the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee. In October of 1985, the group planted a bomb in the ADC regional office in Santa Ana, CA leading to the killing of the regional director, Alex Odeh. Despite the US government designating the JDL as a terrorist group it has yet to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Odeh at the time of his assassination, at age 41, was entering the regional office of the ADC in Santa Ana when a bomb attached to the door detonated upon opening. After a few weeks of the assassination, the FBI identified three suspects with ties to the JDL; Robert Manning, Keith Fuchs, and Andy Green. The three prime suspects escaped to Israel to live in Kiryat Aba. Months later the FBI classified the killing of Odeh as a terrorist act.
In 1994 a memorial statue of Odeh was erected in front of the Santa Ana Central Library and was vandalized in 1996, the same year the FBI announced a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Odeh’s killers. The decade-long pursuit of justice for Odeh might drag longer without being fulfilled. The prime suspect, Manning, has been in a US prison serving time for another terrorist attack after he was extradited to the US in 1993.
Being an Arab-American or a Muslim-American can be challenging, but that’s not unique to them. Today Arab and Muslim Americans are only another group in the current race dynamics in the US. Yet, they remain of interest to law enforcement due to a history of some inspired al-Qaeda and ISIS terrorist attempts. Despite that unflattering distinction, they are not the primary source of domestic threat.
Although the FBI doesn’t officially designate domestic terrorist organizations, it openly delineates domestic terrorist threats including individuals who commit crimes in the name of ideologies supporting animal rights, environmental rights, anarchism, white supremacy, anti-government ideals, black separatism, and abortion - a broad range of violent activities.
Homegrown terrorism is the most threatening source of ongoing violence facing the US including lone-wolves. This accounts for many of the violent attacks of late. Knowing that terrorists don’t operate in a vacuum, we can surmise the persuasive influence of the narrative of hatred and victimization.
Potential violent people gravitate to discourse packaged in good versus evil, whereby they justify their barbaric acts. Religious, nationalist, or ethnic stories keep specific historical traumas alive in the minds of its people creating an unbreakable cohesion of purpose.
Although religion is not the cause of violence, the people who chose to advance its narrative for violent ends must be convinced or offered other more effective and peaceful alternatives. This goes for political discourse even when that person is well-meaning or is the president of the United States.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Balancing development dollars with humanitarian assistance

Wednesday, 24 October 2018 on Alarabiya.net

For the fiscal year 2017, the US reportedly spent $38.2 billion on International Development and Humanitarian Assistance. This bucket of obligated funds includes diverging categories with the majority of the funds earmarked to HIV/AIDS, disaster assistance, and conflict, peace and security programs.
There are many problems with the US approach starting with confusion over defining what constitutes development; is it a proactive strategy, a reactive tactic or a political tool, as it is currently being applied.
Within the US, discussions have been fraught with contempt for the disproportionate US financial commitment versus the abysmal track-record of economic growth, stability and resilience to future shocks recipient nations are experiencing.
Is the Trump administration trying to figure out a way to overcome the disconnect? In what appears to be an evolution in development approach, just this month President Trump signed a bill forming the US International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC).
Although this announcement conjures thoughts stemming from America’s commitment to underprivileged nations’ needs, it is not an altruistic exercise but a shift of development focus towards broad-based economic growth and high standards of transparency.
ALSO READ: What Kavanaugh nomination tells us about American politics 

Development and humanitarian needs were never high on Trump’s agenda. Humanitarian responses garnered his attention only when lack of response would adversely affect him politically. We’ve seen him in action in the aftermath of hurricane Maria in 2017 as a first test of his presidency.
He visited affected areas for photo-ops, activated FEMA, and tweeted response updates. Perhaps the administration’s response was adequate in Texas and Florida, but it was a failure in Puerto Rico.
Despite that, Trump assigned his administration an “A-Plus” grade for its response. Comparing this to International humanitarian responses, Trump does not pay any political price for lack of response.
Trump’s new approach, including the creation of the USIDFC, is shifting international aid paradigm form traditional humanitarian objectives to national security concerns to counter China’s growing global influence
Walid Jawad

The development equation

Trump has been in a competition with former US presidents; Democratic Obama firstly and Republican Bush second, in general terms. This was the case in his response to domestic humanitarian needs. But when it comes to global needs, he prides himself on saving American taxpayers dollars deemed to be wasted on such aid.
In fact, his announced position leading up to his presidency confirms his dislike for such programs. Delivering on his campaign promise to slash development budgets, he gutted the US Agency for International Development (USAID) rendering it a shell of its old self.
Up to date, FY 2018 the USAID reported obligated amount of $6.8 billion is a fraction of the FY 2017 obligated amount of 20.5 billion according to USAID’s Foreign Aid Dashboard.
No longer would Washington use aid as a soft power tool in its public diplomacy toolbox. The White House trend toward development is confirmed on an individual level. A slice of American citizens, federal employees, are giving less over the years.
The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), went from $280 million in 2009 to around $180 million in 2015 (the most recent data available on OPM.gov). This declining amount of donation by this group signals the general mood of the American people.
Americans are becoming more cynical about the effectiveness of their country’s aid spending. Donor fatigue is a nation-wide phenomenon prompting many to question the effectiveness of US aid strategy.
The convoluted rules and regulations international recipients must abide by has created a parallel environment whereby a whole industry is created within the receiving nation. Exaggerated costs create micro inflationary effects rendering considerable amount of aid dollars wasted.

Major re-evaluation

US contractors and international aid organizations reaping the benefits instead of the people those dollars are earmarked to serve. A major reevaluation is in order.
Currently, aid is delivered in the form of specific solutions and criteria for success to satisfy a predetermined need assessed by the US government, often with limited input from those most affected in the recipient nation. The US approach of superiority leads to inefficiencies and waste in absence of sustainable results.
The US will be able to stretch its development dollars if it adopts a collaborative approach with recipient nations. Further, it should experiment with infusing private and public sector cash into some localities instead of delivering tangible items and services.
Angelie Petersen, a development expert, explained “the ‘Buy American’ act that governs all US procured goods results in pricey American agricultural and food products being supplied as part of the development package”.
“Beneficiaries access these goods at a highly subsidized rate or provided for free which effectively kills any smallholder market dependent on selling their goods in the local market economy.”
She further said: “when comparing the cost of providing such inputs imported through US development programs versus the cost of the same input in the local market cannot be compared.” While this type of direct aid such as food aid or shelter has a critical role to play post-acute emergency, worthy development aid recipient nations will probably benefit more efficiently if the US injects cash into their market system to stimulate organic economic growth versus dependency.
The experiment where USAID partnered with GiveDirectly in rural Rwanda has proved valuable and revealing. In this experiment, they’ve divided villages into three sets. One set receiving help through the predetermined program of creating village nutrition schools at an average cost of $120 per person.
The second set of villages received only cash in varying amounts by less than the average cost of the program. The third and final group of villages received cash amounts of just over $500. Malnutrition continued to be a problem in the first two sets of villages.
However, the third set of villages, malnutrition was a thing of the past. In the process, this third set organically created a thriving society with a flourishing economic system without any input from the US or program contractors.

USIDFC

According to Mark Green the USAID Administrator, the goals of the new USIDFC are:
“(1) align the United States Government’s development-finance tools with broader foreign-policy and development goals, and enhance their competitiveness; 
(2) minimize risk to the American taxpayer by establishing appropriate risk-management protocols, including for co-investment with the private sector; and
(3) increase efficiency by reducing duplicate efforts in the US Government’s development-finance programs.”
All of which are development jargon for the mission; to “catalyze market-based, private-sector development, spur economic growth in less-developed countries, and advance the foreign-policy interests of the United States,” according to Green. The foreign-policy interest of the US being the operative concept.
ALSO READ: The Arab wave in US Congress 

Trump’s new approach, including the creation of the USIDFC, is shifting international aid paradigm form traditional humanitarian objectives to national security concerns to counter China’s growing global influence. Beijing came out of the blue to rival the US in generosity. Up until last year, China’s foreign aid expenditure was a mystery treated as a state secret.
Once revealed, in late 2017, the expenditure shows a pattern of creating long-lasting patrons depended on China through its Belt and Road Initiative. The White House is going on the offensive to quell China’s expanding sphere of influence around the world. Countries in Africa and Latin America being the priority.
Development should not be co-opted to function as a tactical security tool. Similarly, development must be separated from international humanitarian assistance ending the current classification of joining these two independent approaches under one budgetary umbrella.
Disaster relief and other humanitarian efforts are altruistic, short-term actions that should never be pegged to any gains or beneficial outcome. For development to be effective, the US must trust and relinquish priority setting to recipient nations.
Whereby, the US limits its scope to providing advice and infusing equitable mechanisms for distributing cash or facilities to worthy localities. Patience and sustained economic resilience is the key to a successful long-term development strategy.