Foreign Assistance

When this nation first undertook foreign assistance on a peacetime basis, in the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan of 1947, the rationale of our effort was clear. We were promoting economic recovery in Europe to help support the restoration of democratic institutions. Economic and military aid went hand in hand as a means of strengthening our allies against the threat of Communist aggression. The weakness of our allies and friends after the Second World War left the major responsibility to the United States.

In the two decades since then, we moved from reconstruction to the support of development as the geographic focus of our ald programs moved from Europe to the Middle East and then to Asia, Africa and Latin America. The objectives of our programs also evolved as economic and social development became intertwined with security objectives, and as we provided aid to a wide variety of countries. For more than two decades our aid programs have therefore been justified with a wide variety of reasons. Americans who have debated the issue of foreign aid have been unable to find a clear answer to questions about its fundamental purpose: Was it to win us friends? Was it out of altruistic motives? Was it to stimulate political democracy? Was it to maintain a forward defense? Aid appropriations declined steadily and steeply in the l960s-principally, I am convinced, because of our confusion of purposes and because programs tailored to the postwar period no longer suited the changed environment.

When this Administration came into office, the United States needed a new approach. We needed a new conceptual foundation that made sense in the 1970s just as the rationale of aid in the immediate postwar period made sense then.

Therefore, in 1969-after developing the principles of our overall foreign policy-I appointed a distinguished task force of experts from the business and academic communities, chaired by Mr. Rudolph Peterson, to make comprehensive and detailed recommendations on our foreign assistance programs. On the basis of their work and our subsequent analysis in the National Security Council system, I proposed a sweeping change in our foreign assistance policy in a message to Congress on September 15, 1970.