Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
December 9, 2023
The US has benefitted from foreign wars and has been generous in providing foreign aid to the world. Especially, when the US was the dominating power around the world, the US foreign policy was backed by foreign aid and military aid. As of now, the US is the world dominating military powerhouse with the world largest defense budget and maintains military bases around the world. There is no match, but unfortunately the US has been humiliated by directly engaged foreign wars including the costly “forever war” in Afghanistan.
But on economics, China is now only behind the US and the gap is narrowing. The US has run up the national debt with deficit spending for years. The harsh reality is that the US domestic needs have to compete with foreign aid, as a result the US infrastructure has decayed, social programs have been neglected. An urgent crisis is the loose US southern border, where illegal immigrants are pouring in everyday, it is creating a national crisis of humanity as well as social instabilities in the US. It is a complex issue; money alone will not resolve it because it is also a foreign policy issue. But the US administration has not been able to develop an effective foreign policy with a reasonable budget plan. It is an explosive crisis!
Unfortunately, the US politics consider potential foreign threats (from China etc.) as the ultimate top priority and devoted majority of the limited resources to counter the China threat:
- Initiated a broad and on-going trade war that rocked the global economy. Because “sanctions” are counterproductive, over all the global economy shrinks.
- The second tool for the US is “guns,” military build ups for “deterrence” a future war. Military competition is also costly and does not contribute to the general economy.
Further, the war-like posture creates tensions deterring global trade, again constricting global economic expansion.
The proxy war in Ukraine was stoked by the US and allies: the proxy war was hyped to a holy purpose of defending global democracy. The real objective is to degrade Russia and/or replace Putin. “War” makes supporting Ukraine with top urgencies, so without any public discussion on the planning, execution, cost-benefits etc. the US has provided billions of dollars, along with allies, of military aid and financial aid to Ukraine. While all the unprecedented “sanctions against Russia” have not been that effective but gutted European economy. The most egregious mistake for starting the war in Ukraine is that there has no exit strategy. Even now, the US, who is paying the big chunk of the war, states:
- We will standby “Ukraine as long as it takes.”
- It is Zelenskyy’s call for when to negotiate with Russia and with what terms.
That means US tax dollars are completely accessible for supporting Zelenskyy’s war, without accountability or supervision.
While the proxy war in Ukraine is in full swing, the White House and DoD insisted that “We are a big nation, we can walk and chew at the same time.” We are committed to challenging China in the Indo-Pacific.
Then suddenly, on October 7th, 2023, the Israel-Hamas war broke out. The US again has to provide military aid to Israel and maintains that “we will support Israel as long as it takes.” But it is impossible for the US not to recognize the hardships of Plasteline civilians, so we also have to provide hundreds of millions of US dollars as humanitarian aids to Gaza civilians. We are paying for the bills, but it is Israel’s call when to stop.
Now the White House and the Congress are fighting for big buck military aids to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, along with some funding for protecting the US southern border.
The US government take the following responsibility seriously:
Where is all the foreign aid money going to come from, and what for?
It’s Time to Reconsider U.S. Military Aid
As Congress stalls, the U.S. public has good reason to demand more transparency
on Biden’s funding for Ukraine and Israel.
ARGUMENT An expert’s point of view on a current event.
By Howard W. French, a columnist at Foreign Policy.
DECEMBER 8, 2023, 11:58 AM
On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden issued what sounded like a desperate call in his bid to help Ukraine sustain its all but stalemated war effort against invading forces from Russia. “This cannot wait,” Biden said in televised remarks. “Congress needs to pass supplemental funding for Ukraine before they break for the holiday recess. Simple as that.”
In fact, there has been nothing simple about the Biden administration’s most recent supplemental budget requests for Ukraine. From the outset, Biden seems to have calculated that by pairing a call to Congress for money for Ukraine with a request for additional funds for Israel, Republican skeptics of the U.S. role in containing Russian expansionism under President Vladimir Putin would be brought along by a sense of urgency about combating Hamas. In fact, with U.S. public opinion reeling with outrage in the immediate aftermath of the militant organization’s attack on southern Israel, Biden’s conventional-seeming calculation may have almost seemed like a no-brainer.
The Republican-led House of Representatives, though, had other thoughts. We’ll see your Israel/Ukraine request and raise the stakes with a big cut to the Internal Revenue Service, came their poker-style reply. They won’t say so this clearly, but the IRS funding cut request is fundamentally about weakening tax collection enforcement on high-income people and businesses. And when that effort went nowhere, congressional Republicans switched to another gambit, trading their approval for some new supplemental war funding for radically conservative changes to immigration law.
The result, thus far, has been a stalemate.
Yet the delay caused by this wrangling is providing more time for badly needed critical discussion. Continuing support to Ukraine against clear Russian aggression seems like sensible policy for the United States. Indeed, a strong new rationale for checking Russia’s war to annex Ukrainian territory has come from an unlikely quarter in recent days, with Venezuela’s threats to seize a large, oil-rich portion of the territory of neighboring Guyana, despite a long-standing international court ruling in the latter’s favor. This is a reminder that Putin-style behavior is a threat not just to Europe, but also to peace everywhere.
But after ponying up nearly $76.95 billion already, the U.S. public has good reasons to ask where this money going in the medium to longer term, what it will help achieve, and at what ultimate costs. In the midst of a war, it is hard to achieve complete operational and strategic candor, because revealing one’s bottom line is ultimately helpful to one’s adversary. But Biden’s support for Ukraine thus far has come with too little discussion whatsoever of parameters and realistic objectives, and the time for such things is rapidly approaching.
The problems with Biden’s funding request for Israel run much deeper and have gone almost wholly unaddressed. Israel has been the United States’ largest aid recipient for decades; from 1948 to March 2023, the U.S. gave Israel a total of $158 billion, with the vast majority of it going to military assistance to strengthen the country’s security. By all accounts, Israel has one of the most capable armed forces not just in the Middle East but in the entire world.
That’s why it should have raised more eyebrows in the United States when Biden rushed up an offer of an additional military aid within days of the Hamas attack.
Almost no effort has been expended in publicly explaining why a muscle-bound and militarily fearsome Israel needs orders of magnitude more money for its defense establishment to fight a militant organization, no matter how loathsome and determined as Hamas is. Washington has deployed major warfighting assets of its own, including aircraft carrier groups, to the immediate region to deter more direct conventional involvement against Israel by Iran or any other actor amid the ongoing crisis.
So what exactly will all of this additional U.S. aid buy?
Enhancing Israel’s existing capability for “flattening” the Gaza Strip, as recent statements by current and former senior Israeli officials have suggested, cannot be the answer. The devastation that Israel has already wreaked on Gaza with military might designed to fight and defeat competing standing armies has already surpassed unacceptable levels, according to international humanitarian relief agencies and steadily higher levels of disapproval in U.S. public opinion surveys.
As U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin himself recently warned, by continuing on the present path, Israel risks “strategic defeat” through nominal victory. By killing Palestinians, the majority of them women and children, in extraordinary numbers, Israel is positioning itself to look out over the endless rubble of Gaza and proclaim victory without having truly uprooted Hamas, while simultaneously guaranteeing hatred and attempts at vengeance from new generations of Palestinians.
Voices have begun to emerge, belatedly and somewhat tentatively still, from the U.S. Democratic Party coalition to warn that a major change of course is necessary. They have included statements from Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Chris Murphy of Connecticut. And part of that change in course, as these two senators have begun to hint, must involve an end to unconditional U.S. military assistance to Israel.
But because Biden continues to act as if he believes that permitting little to no public distance between the United States and Israel is the best way to steer that country onto a smarter and more humane approach to the challenge of Hamas, this remains a steep uphill fight.
This is not a call to cut Israel off altogether. This is not an argument that Israel has no right to defend itself, which would be grotesque and absurd. And this is not, least of all, as some defenders of Israel pretend that much criticism of that country is, a defense of Hamas. Hamas is an abomination and its murderous tactics against Israeli civilians, including the revolting weapon of rape and alleged sexual mutilation, are the proximate cause of both the bloodlust that has swept Israel and the vast wave of death under Israeli bombs, missiles, and gunfire that has washed over Gaza.
The Gaza crisis offers more than just an opportunity for the United States to think carefully about the nature of its military support for Israel and the guilt by association that may redound to it for continued large-scale death in Gaza, especially if Israel’s tactics are deemed more widely to amount to war crimes. This is also a good moment for Washington to think afresh about the nature and purpose of U.S. power in the world.
Far too often when dealing with crises, the U.S. toolbox has been shrunken down to a mere two implements: guns and sanctions. Washington gives or sells weapons to its friends and allies on a scale so vast as to be almost unimaginable to the broad U.S. public. And Washington slaps sanctions, from restrictions on accessing the international financial system to travel bans, on those it regards as offensive.
These reflexes have become so strong that they have atrophied almost every other response to crisis, most of all traditional diplomacy. The United States needs to get back in the business of making peace between enemies—and there is no place better to start than with Israel and the Palestinians. For years, rotelike statements about the need for a two-state solution have been mouthed like pious vows, but where has the diplomatic will and fiber needed to help bring this about been for all of this time? Absent.
Biden and other U.S. presidents have pretended that arming Israel to the hilt and providing it with security guarantees would somehow give Washington the influence or leverage to help bring Israel around to working with determination toward a lasting settlement with the Palestinians. The weapons keep getting delivered, but the persistent and resourceful diplomacy needed to accomplish that always remains over the horizon.
Any discussion about more money for weapons for Israel above its routine funding is an opportunity not just to reduce the ongoing atrocities, but also to change this flawed dynamic.