Anachronistic isolationism will not make US great
US President Donald Trump’s slash-and-burn budget proposals are likely to sting in South Africa and on the rest of our continent.
Among those firmly in his sights — essentially everything except US defence spending — are international organisations, the US State Department and USAID, its foreign aid agency.
The UN, for example, could have its $10-billion contribution slashed by half and the state department by as much as 28%. For the UN, such deep cuts would be crippling as the US provides around 22% of its total budget.
The impact of huge cuts in US foreign spending would be no better here, even if it warms the cockles of the lunatic fringe in our politics who believe USAID and the Central Intelligence Agency are funding a domestic counter- revolution.
The truth is that USAID’s funding is far more benevolent than the conspiracy theorists believe. It invests significantly in a broad range of South African programmes across health, education, governance, and agriculture — among others. Its School Capacity and Innovation Program helps primary school teachers improve literacy for young children.
USAID is a significant actor our fight against HIV/Aids and the attendant challenge of our tuberculosis pandemic. Reductions in these programmes would advance no one’s interests. The global battle against HIV/Aids will not retreat, regardless of how many walls Trump builds.
The same goes for education, which is central to creating a skilled workforce to fuel domestic economic growth which, in turn, reduces pressure on the migration “problem” which appears to keep the US president awake at night.
Trump’s budget proposals betray an ignorance about the application of “soft power ” as he reverts to an anachronistic isolationism which may serve his “America First ” agenda but which is equally unlikely to make the US great again.