By what measure does our foreign aid policy make common sense?
Not everyone in Congress agrees on the role of foreign aid. Some think it should act as charity, while others seek to use it as a tool to further our interests abroad.
One thing I think we should all agree on is this: American taxpayer dollars should never be shipped abroad to nations hostile to democracy, basic freedoms, free enterprise and American interests. The notion that our money will make foreign theocrats or dictators turn into Jeffersonian Democrats overnight is foolish and, as history shows, ill-conceived.
For far too long, we have sent money to countries in hopes that they will promote freedom, democracy and our common interests. Too often, the aid dollars that our government takes from hard-working Americans and sends abroad achieve none of those goals. The sad truth is that American taxpayers have been used to prop up regimes that do not respect freedom of religion, free speech or democracy, or respect the rights of other countries to peacefully exist.
To address this situation, I recently introduced the Foreign Assistance Under Limitation and Transparency (FAULT) Act. This bill aims to limit foreign aid to five countries that flagrantly undermine U.S. foreign policy objectives - Iran, North Korea, Syria, Egypt and Pakistan.
Each of these countries has either sponsored terrorism, made terrorist threats to the United States and its allies, or has engaged in atrocious human rights violations.
For example, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the organization known internationally as the Muslim Brotherhood, spews hateful, anti-Western rhetoric atop the perch from which he sits. Yet, President Obama rewards his regime with American planes, tanks and more taxpayer dollars.
In Pakistan, we have seen countless examples of the government's failure to cooperate with us on counterterrorism efforts. Many were led to believe that Pakistan's government shielded Osama bin Laden after Sept. 11, 2001.
In both countries, the treatment of women constitutes human rights abuses, and freedom of religion exists in name only.
U.S. military commanders also have said Pakistan has done little to take action against the Haqqani terrorist network inside its own borders. The government seems more than willing to take our tax money, but is less gung-ho about combating terrorist elements.
Can we really consider such nations allies? Counterterrorism clearly ceases to be a priority in these countries. Can we really justify taxpayer money to countries that treat women as second-class citizens or allow persecution of Christian and Jewish minorities?
As Iran continues to pose an existential threat to the United States and Israel, North Korea declares a state of war with our ally to their south. Foreign aid has not been effective in making these countries less hostile toward the United States and our allies.
Just recently, intelligence reports pointed to use of a chemical weapon by the Syrian government against dissident citizens. Does anyone think that our aid money to these countries has helped them embrace American values and democratic principles?
Enough is enough. We should not continue rewarding bad behavior, especially when it is proven to be ineffective. The FAULT Act sets specific criteria, or benchmarks, that require real behavior change before getting our money.
If these five countries fail to meet the requirements outlined in the FAULT Act, then Congress has the moral and fiscal obligation to immediately end their foreign aid.
Some of the criteria these five countries will need to meet include fundamental changes in policy, not using violence against their own people, respecting women and religious minorities, denouncing terrorism, and taking an active and visible role in eradicating it within its borders.
We have the overwhelming support of the American people, and I urge Congress to consider the FAULT Act.
We have to send a strong message to these countries that they must earn our trust before we send them any more taxpayer money.
The time is long overdue for Congress to drive a harder bargain.