Foreign Aid Follies

By Steve Matthews

In a recent piece titled The Bible, Blowback and the Bomb, I used the rhetoric from the November 22 Republican foreign policy debate to discuss the dangers inherent in the militarist foreign policy favored by most of the candidates.  But bellicosity was not the only bit of foolishness on display that night.  Another ritual abuse of the US taxpayer, foreign aid or foreign assistance as the State Department likes to call it, was a subject of some debate as well.

Most of the Republican candidates seemed to agree that foreign aid, if used in the service of a good cause and given to the right people, was sound policy.  This, of course, is the same view held by the Democrats.  The difference between the two parties is not over whether foreign aid is a good thing – they both agree that it is – but merely over who should receive it.  For their part, Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton have made clear whose interest they believe should be served at taxpayers’ expense:  the homosexual lobby.

A piece in the New York Times has reported that,

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that the United States would use all the tools of American diplomacy, including the potent enticement of foreign aid, to promote gay rights around the world.

Now that’s what I call your tax dollars at work.  But despite the high profile announcement, the administration was rather vague about how it actually plans to implement this new strategy.  For the article adds,

Neither Mr. Obama nor Mrs. Clinton specified how to give the initiative teeth.  Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council’s deputy spokeswoman, said the administration was ‘not cutting or tying’ foreign aid to changes in other nation’s practices.

Color me cynical, but this strikes me as laughable.  Think of how often the federal government has threatened to withhold highway funds from this or that state unless it goes along with the latest diktat from Washington on some generally unrelated issue.  Do they really expect anyone to believe it will work differently in this case?  The old saying is still applicable, “he who pays the piper calls the tune.”

This initiative is an example of what the Obama administration has termed “smart power,” a policy that emphasizes development and diplomacy as a complement to American military power.  In other words, smart power’s aim is to provide a welfare carrot to go along with the warfare stick.  Or put it still another way, the Obama administration’s policy is if you can’t bomb ’em, bribe ’em.

So just how smart is this “smart power”?  In the eyes of those who wield it, “smart power” appears the very height of wisdom.  But God calls their wisdom foolishness, and he does so for at least two reasons.  In the first place, the Bible nowhere sanctions foreign aid.  The job of governors is to punish evil doers (Rom. 13:4), not take money from citizens and then to give it to foreign governments for the purpose of social engineering (or for any other reason for that matter).  When magistrates go beyond their limited, biblical mandate to punish evil doers and instead seek to use public money to advance pet projects, they are guilty of breaking the eighth commandment, God’s prohibition against theft.

Second, the objective of the administration’s “smart power” initiative – the advancement of the homosexual rights agenda – is sinful in itself regardless of the source of the money, because homosexuality, or sodomy as it is also know, is a sin.  The Bible calls it an abomination.  And those who engage in sodomy, as the Westminster Larger Catechism correctly notes, are guilty of breaking the seventh commandment.

But this is not the whole story, for not only does the Bible consider homosexuality a sin, but also designates it a crime.  Not all sins were crimes in the law of Moses.  Only those sins to which the law also attached civil penalties were crimes in ancient Israel.  This was the case with sodomy, for the law both condemned homosexuality as an abomination and enjoined the death penalty for those convicted of it (Lev. 20:13).  But Mrs. Clinton disagrees, for the article quotes her saying, “it should never be a crime to be gay.”

In addition to the above Biblical considerations, there is also the small matter of the US Constitution, for nowhere does it sanction foreign aid whether in the service of the homosexual agenda or for any other cause.  Perhaps this is one reason why Hillary Clinton decided to announce the administration’s initiative in Geneva at the United Nations Human Rights Council rather than at a domestic venue.  Further, she appealed to the authority of the UN Declaration on Human Rights as a basis for her assertions about homosexual rights rather than to anything in the Constitution.

This is a serious breach of the oath of office sworn by the president and the secretary of state.  When a president is sworn into office, he takes the oath specified in Article 2 of the Constitution,

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.

The oath for secretary of state is similar.  According to Article 3 of the Constitution,

The senators and representatives…and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this constitution.

There is no language in these oaths about upholding a UN declaration.  When presidents and secretaries of state swear to do one thing, and instead do something quite different, they have broken their oaths of office and are guilty before God of bearing false witness, the ninth commandment.

As if it weren’t enough that US foreign aid is without warrant in the Bible, serves political agendas hateful to God, and abuses the US taxpayer, there is a practical problem with it as well:  it generally fails to help the very people who are said to be in need.  Ron Paul gave voice to this problem when he replied to a question about foreign aid by saying,

I think the aid is all worthless.  It doesn’t do any good for most of the people. You take money from poor people in this country and you end up giving it to rich people in poorer countries.

If anyone doubts the truth of this statement, let him read Graham Hancock’s 1994 book, The Lords of Poverty, for an exposé of the foreign aid racket.

At this point I would like to be very clear about one thing, I am not calling for a conservative Republican version of “smart power.” I am not asking Evangelicals to rally to the cause of “moral power” or to take up some modernized version of the now embarrassing “white man’s burden” of yesteryear.  For as John Robbins pointed out in his essay Truth and Foreign Policy, the philosophical justification for the “smart power” initiatives of Obama and Clinton has its roots in the misguided efforts of Christians during the Progressive Era.  According to Robbins, President William McKinley offered that one reason he decided to annex the Philippines was,

there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all [the Philippines], and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God’s grace to do the best we could by them.

There was no justification in the Bible for McKinley’s decision.  Instead basing his policy toward the Philippines on Scripture, McKinley relied on his interpretation of contemporary events to guide him. But events provide no ethical help for decision making, only the propositions of Scripture can do this.  It seems that had McKinley been in king David’s shoes, he would have listened to his men and murdered Saul in the cave rather than obeying God and refusing to lift his hand against the wayward Israelite king(1 Sam.24).

Let there be no mistake about it, the current US foreign policy of bribery and bellicosity will come to an end.  Either the American people will end it at the ballot box, or an economic collapse or military defeat will do the job for them.  The US has no ethical mandate to rule the world.  The Christian and Constitutional position on foreign aid is this:  end it, don’t mend it.  The sooner Americans come to understand and believe this, the sooner our nation can rid itself of its current failed foreign policy and return to a biblical, sane and constitutional approach to international relations.


For further reading see Not Yours to Give by Davy Crockett (yes, that Davy Crockett).

Explore posts in the same categories: Politics

12 Comments on “Foreign Aid Follies”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    The closest thing to a modern-day Davy Crockett? ~

  2. Dewi Says:

    I have included this link so that Steve and others might learn the Truth of this Davy Crockett Fable. Also, counter to all of my childhood beliefs, I’m beginning to suspect that while he may have been born on a mountaintop in Tenessee, he probably did not kill him a bear when he was only three. So sad…

    Here’s a snippet from the above link from Crockett biographer James R. Boylston that refers to the story mentioned & linked in Steve’s article (which I otherwise happen to agree with on most points):

    …Perhaps the most egregious falsehood of the Ellis account is his rendering of Crockett’s explanation of his vote and his encounter with Horatio Bunce. Bunce’s opposition to Congressman Crockett is allegedly based on a vote Crockett made in favor of appropriations to the victims of a Georgetown fire. Crockett never made such a vote. The fire in question was not in Georgetown as stated, but in Alexandria, and the l9th Congress voted on the motion for relief for the victims on January 19, 1827. David Crockett served his first term in the 20th Congress, which convened on December 3, 1827 . In the spring of 1827, David was still on the campaign stump in Tennessee. He won the election in August of 1827.
    …Crockett typically considered petitions for individual relief on a case by case basis, but certainly wasn’t opposed to the government giving its wealth to his constituents despite what many of these websites claim.
    His primary goal in congress was to acquire for his constituents legal title to the lands upon which they’d settled, and he petitioned the government repeatedly to provide this public acreage at little or no cost. Crockett was a tireless advocate for the poor, a populist who knew poverty firsthand, and he saw nothing wrong with government helping the little guy get ahead.

    Thanks for the interesting articles Steve.

  3. Neil Says:

    Good thoughts. I suspect (but cannot prove) that much of our foreign policy is driven by domestic constituency politics. This would certainly explain the current proposal, as well as both parties’ longstanding support for Israel.

    I believe it was Nixon (N.B., a Progressive) who broke the ice on the latter. His aid during the Yom Kippur War provoked the Arab oil embargo.

  4. Dewi Says:

    “…much of our foreign policy is driven by domestic constituency politics.”

    I agree Neil. The American Jewish constituency has, for obvious reasons, lobbied both parties – particularly the Democratic Party. On the other hand, I’ve always been surprised by the tenacity with which dispensational ideas permeate the religious right – the so-called Evangelicals. What claim they have to that title I’ve never understood, but it nonetheless leads them to “rescue” Israel for the part they expect her to play in the “last Days”.

    Either way, or for whichever constituency, the result is the same – fawning over Israel for all the wrong reasons, by both parties.

    We may have allies on this globe, and Israel may even be one, upon whom for legitimate reasons we may be inclined to bestow some aid. If we can afford it. And if it would in some way assist the Civil Magistrate in protecting the people by punishing wrongdoers. For instance, Yeah to war against the Taliban & Al Qaeda (in the early days after 9/11 – now, not so much) & Nay to war against Iraq. In the former, the constituency was us; in the latter, I’ve no idea.

    Thanks, Neil, for an interesting slant.

  5. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Dewi. I added the link to the Crockett piece, or whoever wrote it.

  6. Dewi Says:

    Thanks, Sean. Great site as always.

  7. Steve Matthews Says:

    @ Dewi
    You’re welcome.

  8. LJ Says:

    I apologize if this is in the wrong spot. From my iPad:

    What’s wrong with Plantinga? Not so many wise …


  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    For starters: “Mr. Plantinga says he accepts the scientific theory of evolution, as all Christians should. ”

    FWIW Robbins had a very low opinion of Pantinga and so-called “Reformed Epistemology.”

    Here are a few selected quotes from the old Yahoo Clark list:


    I want to re-emphasize two points that some seem to have forgotten:

    1. Scripturalism is not just another philosophical system to be developed willy-nilly, but a system that is found in the propositions of Scripture itself.

    2. The attack on “giving an account” of one’s claimed knowledge is a direct attack on epistemology itself, for the epistemological question is “How do you know?” Any attempt to stamp the feet and yell “I just know,” no matter how famous (Plantinga) or how clever (Sudduth) deserves no hearing.


    Concerning Peter’s profession that Jesus is the Christ:

    In a message dated 12/13/2001 5:39:40 PM Eastern Standard Time, mcananjmc@… writes:

    Please notice:
    > *Having the correct answer* is different from *having the account >of why one has the correct answer*.

    Jim, certainly you recall that I have long distinguished having a true belief from having the account plus the true belief, which constitutes knowledge. Surely you are not suggesting that this distinction is something I have overlooked? In fact, I thought it was your idea that the distinction between true belief and knowledge is illegitimate.

    But I must also point out, you have smuggled an idea into your “reworded” version of my question, an idea to which you are not entitled. Peter had an answer for Christ, Jim. But you say it was the “correct answer.” How do you know it was correct, Jim? Where did the idea of correctness come from?

    > Ok, they’re different – but is *having the account of why one has the
    > correct answer* a necessary ingredient of *Having the correct
    > answer*?

    Well, we seem to be making some progress. They are indeed different. And no, to answer your question (the same question) again, “knowing an answer is correct” is not the same as, nor “a necessary ingredient” of, “having an answer.” Whoever said it was a necessary ingredient? Certainly not I. To repeat, I have maintained that a belief may in fact be true (or false), but without an account we cannot know it to be true. I have long made the distinction that you are here accusing me of failing to make.

    Furthermore, Peter had an answer. He gave it to Christ. It was in fact the true answer. And Peter (and we) know it was the true answer because and only because Christ said so (in person for Peter, in Scripture for us). Without that account, there is only Peter’s answer, which may or may not be true. You cannot even claim that Peter’s answer was true, Jim, without appealing to the account of it given in Scripture.

    > No. Peter had (by the Father’s activity) the correct answer even
    > before he had the *account of* why he had the correct answer
    > (Christ’s account about the Father’s activity).

    Peter’s answer was in fact correct–as you say again. But, again, who has denied that there may be true beliefs, Jim? Certainly not I. But Peter knew his answer was correct, only when the Word told him so. And we know Peter’s answer was correct only because the Word tells us so. Without the account, we do not know.

    > The above can also be said for the distinction between
    > *what makes an answer correct* and *an account of what makes the
    > answer correct*

    Well, I have just shown that “the above” is some sort of RE mumbo-jumbo.

    In a message dated 8/24/2002 12:29:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, mcananjmc@… writes:

    > Both you and Clark, when
    > citing Scripture, implicitly rely on your perceptual skills to get it
    > right –“ to get the right props. But Clark’s jump from undermining
    > theories to undermining the epistemic reliability of perception
    > itself undermines his own ability to know what’s written

    This, of course, is false, Jim. Not only false, it is the very petitio that Clark addressed in his reply to Mavrodes. Until you can provide an account of how this epistemological magic happens, no one has any reason or any obligation to believe you. Simply asserting it to be the case may be good enough for RE, but it is not good enough for serious thought.

    (As an aside, let me remind you of what GHC thought of one of RE’s parents: “How could [Charles] Hodge have forgotten so much Scripture? The answer to this question, as it appears to me, is that he was controlled epistemologically by the Scottish ‘Common Sense’ philosophy. He felt compelled to adjust divine revelation to one of the most incompetent types of philosophy in the history of the subject” [Incarnation, 41]).

    I guess you are not going to answer my question, Jim:

    If sense perceptions are fallible, as you sometimes say, how do you tell correct perceptions from incorrect ones?

    If sense perceptions are always reliable, as you say at other times, how do you explain illusions, hallucinations, visions, conflicting simultaneous perceptions, etc., etc.

    And don’t forget the empiricist black box. Such an unknowable may be OK for RE, but it will hardly do for serious philosophy.



    I would be glad to answer your questions, but I am still waiting for
    an answer to the questions I posed to you a couple weeks ago.

    As you may recall, I asked you how you can tell the difference between epistemically reliable and epistemically unreliable perceptions.

    You replied, as best as I can tell, that:

    (1) there are no unreliable perceptions, for all perceptions are
    epistemically reliable. You even suggested, though you cited no support for the notion, that Scripture teaches that all perceptions are epistemically reliable.

    (2) it is somehow illegitimate to ask you to account for the
    difference between perceptions, for (according to you) knowledge does not require an account, and to ask how you can tell the difference between epistemically reliable and unreliable perceptions is requiring you to give an account of how you know.

    and (3) that my questions are “boring,” the most crushing reply of

    You did not bother to respond to my questions about hallucinations,
    perspective, visions, illusions, etc.

    So I am still waiting for a coherent, plain answer. Let me pose the
    question again: If all perceptions are epistemically reliable, as you assert at times, please account for perspective, hallucinations, visions, etc. You know the list–please stop ignoring it.

    On the other hand, if some perceptions are epistemically reliable, and some are not, how do you tell the difference? If you cannot tell the difference, of course, and you seem to assert on principle that RE will not allow you to answer my question, then your position is epistemically bankrupt. Or to use Clark’s phrase, “one of the most incompetent types of philosophy in the history of the subject.”


  10. LJ Says:

    Dang, I miss JRob 🙂

    Thanks for the reminder, Sean, that’s why I so enjoy reading God’s Hammer.


  11. Dewi Says:

    Yeah Man…
    Those were the days
    Thanks, Sean.

  12. Steve Matthews Says:

    I love going back and reading those old Clark list threads. It’s always a treat.

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