Foreign aid as a national security strategy

John Quiggin posted on the opportunity cost of the Iraq war recently which stimulated a fair bit of discussion.

Among the comments was one from Stewart Kelly who mused over why spending US$100bn on a war seemingly presents no problem yet there is far less enthusiasm for expenditure that might help a country to develop and attain reasonable living standards. It has often occurred to me that if the US devoted the equivalent of the military budget to foreign aid they might not have nearly as many enemies around the world and the terrorist threat may never raise its ugly head. A favourite article of mine on this subject appeared in The Economist last October entitled Weapons of mass salvation by Jeffrey Sachs. It is well worth a read. The opening paragraph reads as follows:
If George Bush spent more time and money on mobilising Weapons of Mass Salvation (WMS) in addition to combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), we might actually get somewhere in making this planet a safer and more hospitable home. WMD can kill millions and their spread to dangerous hands needs to be opposed resolutely. WMS, in contrast, are the arsenal of life-saving vaccines, medicines and health interventions, emergency food aid and farming technologies that could avert literally millions of deaths each year in the wars against epidemic disease, drought and famine. Yet while the Bush administration is prepared to spend $100 billion to rid Iraq of WMD, it has been unwilling to spend more than 0.2% of that sum ($200m) this year on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Sachs continues: If we were to send teams of “UN development inspectors” into the United States, the results would not be pretty. First, they would discover a nearly total disconnect between global commitments and domestic politics … Second, they would find complete disarray with regard to the organisation, budgeting, and staffing necessary to fulfil the commitments. White House and State Department foreign-policy experts are overwhelmingly directed towards military and diplomatic issues, not development issues. Senior development specialists in the Treasury can be counted on one hand. America’s government is not even aware of the gap between its commitments and action, because almost nobody in authority understands the actions that would be needed to meet the commitments.