Some in the U.S. ask why we give millions to countries like Pakistan and Egypt where we're unpopular, but winning hearts and minds isn't the point
Protesters at an anti-U.S. rally in Hyperabad, Pakistan / Reuters
Last week's Republican presidential debate had an online video question from a voter asking why "we send billions of dollars overseas to people who hate us." It's not only average Americans who are asking the question. As my colleague Ed Husain points out in his new blog, "The Arab Street," Idaho Republican senator James Risch struck the same note: "Frankly, I'm getting tired of it, and I think Americans are getting tired of it as far as shoveling money in there at people who just flat don't like us."
Here's a chart listing the ten biggest recipients of U.S. aid in 2010
along with how favorably the publics in those countries view the United
It's a mixed bag. The publics in three countries (Israel, Kenya, and Nigeria) like us; the publics in two countries (Afghanistan and Mexico) are ambivalent; the publics in three countries (Egypt, Jordan, and Pakistan) are hostile; and we don't have reliable data on the publics in two countries (Haiti and Iraq).
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Should the United States slash aid to countries that don't like us? No, or at least not because we think they should show more gratitude. Washington doles out aid primarily based on calculations about how to advance U.S. strategic interests rather than assessments of pure need, which is why Afghanistan, Israel, and Pakistan top the list of aid recipients rather than Burundi, Congo, and Mali. Nor are foreign publics necessarily being ingrates when they don't hold favorable views of the United States. They may dislike other aspects of U.S. foreign policy, see the aid propping up an unpopular government or lining the pockets of corrupt elites (common complaints among Americans as well), or not even know that their country receives U.S. aid.