Aiding and Abetting
U.S. Foreign Assistance and State Violence
Jessica Trisko Darden



Aiding Freedom: Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Assistance

WHETHER FOREIGN INTERVENTION in the affairs of a sovereign state is justified is at once a practical and a moral question—a question which is often raised in regard to so-called humanitarian interventions, economic sanctions, and international financial institutions such as the World Bank. The study of foreign intervention has ranged from analyses of covert operations during the Cold War to investigations of American efforts to promote democracy abroad and U.S. support for state and nonstate actors during civil wars. Although it is broadly accepted that such interventions are not neutral, it is less often acknowledged that they can both inadvertently and intentionally contribute to the very dynamics they seek to disrupt.

In the study of foreign intervention, foreign assistance has rarely been a focus.1 This is surprising because since its inception in 1949 the United States’ foreign assistance program has been seen by policymakers in Washington, D.C. as one of the country’s primary means for influencing the political and economic orientations of other countries, and as a powerful tool for encouraging higher human rights standards.2 Many believe that it is possible for the international community and individual donor nations such as the United States to use foreign aid to buy better behavior from aid recipients, or at least to raise the costs of human rights violations. The rationale underlying such beliefs is that once countries have become dependent on foreign assistance, they won’t risk upsetting the aid donor because that could lead to a reduction or curtailment of aid. In this view, aid recipients are treated much like a child given an iPad as a gift; it becomes something that concerned parents can threaten to take away whenever the child’s behavior becomes unruly.

But international politics is not that simple. Foreign donors such as the United States often face scenarios in which a government receiving aid violates the very rights they are tasked to protect. More important, foreign aid may be a contributing factor to human rights violations in the first place. In this book, I examine how U.S. foreign assistance policy contributes to state violence and government repression in countries receiving American aid. State violence—the use of force by state agents against civilians in ways that violate fundamental human rights—and government repression—the actual or threatened use of physical sanctions (including both violent and nonviolent means) against an individual or organization—are both ways in which state agents seek to control and constrain the behavior and beliefs of citizens in the interest of the state and its institutions. My focus is therefore on how foreign aid can undermine individual freedoms and embolden repressive rulers. Sometimes this is an unintended or secondary effect of U.S. foreign assistance; other times, it is an explicit goal. While foreign assistance has undoubtedly had positive effects globally—ranging from improved infant mortality rates and control of infectious diseases to increased literacy—it is crucial to know when, where, and how aid harms more than it helps.

Foreign Aid: The American Way

On January 20, 1949, President Harry S. Truman stood in front of the Capitol and declared, “It may be our lot to experience, and in a large measure bring about, a major turning point in the long history of the human race.”3 His second inaugural address laid out four courses of action for the pursuit of peace and freedom. The first was unfaltering support for the United Nations (UN). The second promised what would become the Marshall Plan—a massive aid program to bring about economic recovery and stave off the advance of communism, named after Secretary of State George Marshall. The third course of action would lead to the establishment of NATO, arguably the world’s most important military alliance. The fourth course of action, what came to be known as Truman’s “Fourth Point” or “Point Four,” aimed to reshape the developing world: “More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. Their food is inadequate. They are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas. For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of these people.”4 As historian Amanda Kay McVety notes, “It was the perfect foreign policy program: morally good, economically feasible, and, most importantly, diplomatically strategic, all of which made it palatable to the American public.”5

Under Truman, the U.S. foreign assistance program would not be simply a handout, but neither would it be the predatory system established by imperial powers. Its aim would be to help the free peoples of the world—through their own efforts—to grow more, to produce more, to build more, and ultimately to lighten their burdens. Unlike the Marshall Plan, the Point Four program was based on the concept of long-term aid to nations that had never industrialized or been connected to the global economy. The Point Four program would help the United States achieve existing policy objectives, including increased national economic productivity, a more balanced world economic structure, peace, and the wider spread of democracy abroad.6 Its ability to do good seemed boundless.

It took time to translate Truman’s vision into practice. The Act for International Development was signed into law on June 5, 1950. Later that year, the Technical Cooperation Administration was established within the State Department to administer the Point Four program. David Ekbladh writes that “while various bodies had been responsible for ‘uplift’ or ‘civilizing’ efforts that were development programs in all but name in the Philippines or during the extended U.S. military occupation of Haiti, these had never been given a perennial, global mission.”7 The Point Four program was fundamentally different. The global scope of Truman’s vision was reflected in the initial agreements signed, first with Iran on October 19, 1950, followed by Liberia, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Pakistan.8

The United States’ vision of foreign aid shifted somewhat toward greater security concerns in October 1951 with the passage of the Mutual Security Act. The Mutual Security Act was a response to communist gains following the 1949 revolution in China and the invasion of South Korea by North Korea in June 1950. It explicitly harnessed U.S. foreign aid in service of the Cold War, a policy that continued as Soviet aid to the “Third World” also expanded throughout the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, the United States developed new instruments for providing military assistance—including Military Assistance Program (MAP) grants and Foreign Military Financing (FMF)—that enabled partner governments to receive equipment and training from the United States or access equipment through American commercial channels by funding military spending and subsidizing military equipment purchases. International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds permitted foreign military officer and personnel training to take place abroad, as well as at U.S. staff colleges, on a grant basis. Over the past fifty years, roughly half a million foreigners have been trained in U.S. military institutions thanks to American taxpayers.9

Other foreign aid tools were soon developed. Under President Dwight Eisenhower, the Food for Peace program (Public Law or PL 480) was established. This marked the beginning of America’s food aid program, which continues today. Through subsidized sales of grain, cotton, and other agricultural products, PL 480 helps transfer excess American farm production to the developing world. The Food for Peace program established by Eisenhower was, and still is, strongly backed by a domestic constituency—American farm organizations—who directly benefit from the government purchases that make food aid possible. The American shipping industry benefits as well. Less than two months after PL 480 was signed, a requirement was added that at least 50 percent of all U.S. government food aid shipments must be carried overseas by U.S.-flagged vessels. This requirement has made its way into newer American food aid programs as well, including the Food for Progress Program and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program.10

As early as the 1950s, the tensions in U.S. foreign aid policy were apparent. Humanitarian, national security, and commercial interests all shaped how American aid was distributed. Then, as now, U.S. foreign assistance was not driven by a single, consistent vision of what it could or should achieve. Yet, few politicians openly acknowledged these tensions. Instead, moral imperatives were often evoked as a justification for continued aid. In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy promised “to those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required—not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right.”11 Only a decade after formal foreign aid institutions were created, providing foreign assistance had become simply what America did.

The passage of the Foreign Assistance Act in 1961, arguably the definitive innovation in U.S. foreign aid policy, did little to resolve the tensions. The Foreign Assistance Act defines U.S. foreign assistance as

any tangible or intangible item provided by the United States Government [including by means of gift, loan, sale, credit or guaranty] to a foreign country or international organization under this or any other Act, including but not limited to any training, service, or technical advice, any item of real, personal, or mixed property, any agricultural commodity, United States dollars, and any currencies of any foreign country government which are owned by the United States Government.12

As a result, the United States has a much more expansive understanding of what constitutes foreign assistance than most other countries. Indeed, what many countries count as their foreign aid—official development assistance as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)—covers a relatively narrow slice of America’s foreign assistance efforts.13

Given the scope of America’s foreign assistance, Kennedy created the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as the main administrative body.14 USAID administers bilateral (country-to-country) development assistance—for example, funds for building schools in rural areas, or new farming initiatives—in individual countries. With a staff of more than 9,500, the agency is responsible for overseeing the implementation of projects by thousands of contractors, consultants, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and tracking and administering aid from a variety of U.S. government agencies. For example, the State Department provides economic aid to support initiatives in areas including global health and child survival, narcotics control, migration and refugee assistance, and nonproliferation and terrorism-related programs, among others. The Department of Agriculture largely funds PL 480 food aid programs in addition to other health and agricultural services, whereas the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide assistance for global health programs including malaria and pandemics prevention. USAID’s original emphasis was on solving long-term development problems, but as soon as a year after its creation, critics complained that USAID was too slow and showed too few results.15 Such criticism persists.

U.S. foreign aid policy has consistently been torn between supporting the common good, realized through economic development, and furthering America’s own security and diplomatic interests. These conflicting priorities and policies have produced what is at once the world’s largest foreign aid program and also one of the most incoherent.

As political theorist Hans Morgenthau noted more than fifty years ago, the provision of resources to other states has historically been used by dominant powers to create and maintain ties with countries in order to shape their political and economic orientations.16 During the Cold War, the United States consistently increased the level of aid it provided to states under the threat of Soviet subversion or the actions of Soviet client states.17 In signing the Foreign Assistance Act, Kennedy noted that the bill “provides military assistance to countries which are on the rim of the Communist world and under direct attack. It provides economic assistance to those governments which are under attack from widespread misery and social discontent which are exploited by our adversaries.”18 But under President Lyndon Baines Johnson, aid became explicitly strategic.

Foreign aid was used as a carrot to entice recipients to support U.S. policy objectives, while the possibility of withholding aid could be used as a stick to punish movement away from those same objectives. Secretary of State Dean Rusk argued, “A properly directed foreign assistance program is a vital instrument of United States foreign policy. Economic and military assistance remain far and away the most powerful means at our command to influence the massive forces at work in the less developed nations. They are our primary source of influence on the economic and military evolution of most of the countries of the non-communist world.”19 Diplomatically or strategically important countries received high levels of U.S. aid, often with little consideration of whether the aid would have any effect on their economic development. Rather, foreign aid helped strengthen regimes such as that of Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, which received American aid from 1960 to 1990 in order to prevent a communist-leaning ruler from coming to power. The strategic use of foreign aid became so integral to U.S. foreign policy that Carol Lancaster, a former deputy director of USAID, argued that “foreign aid as we know it began as an instrument of Cold War diplomacy.”20

In the mid-1970s, U.S. foreign aid policy shifted as Congress passed a series of amendments introducing human rights conditionality. The Harkin amendment (named after Tom Harkin, D-IA) to the International Development and Food Assistance Act of 1975 reads:

No assistance may be provided under this part to the government of any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, unless such assistance will directly benefit the needy people in such country.21

An amendment to Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act spearheaded by Donald Fraser (D-MN) adopted similar language requiring that “except in extraordinary circumstances, the President shall substantially reduce or terminate security assistance to any government which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”22 Further amendments specified that it is a policy of the United States to promote and encourage increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Together, this legislation codified human rights as a consideration in U.S. foreign aid policy. Congress began receiving annual human rights reports on foreign countries from the executive branch as part of new reporting requirements.

The impact of this congressionally imposed human rights conditionality remains disputed. Analyses of decades of State Department Reports on Human Rights show that State Department criticism of governments for human rights abuses, considered by Congress in its annual allocation of foreign aid, was strongly influenced by broader Cold War political dynamics.23 The United States was less likely to criticize the human rights practices of its Cold War allies.24 In particular, there is strong evidence that the State Department’s initial human rights reports to Congress were designed to have as little a disruptive effect as possible on bilateral relations.25

To strengthen the responsiveness of U.S. foreign aid to human rights conditions overseas, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sponsored a series of amendments in the late 1990s that came to be known as the “Leahy Laws.”26 Initially motivated by concerns about human rights abuses by the Colombian and other Latin American militaries, which were receiving aid as part of the United States’ War on Drugs, the first Leahy amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriation Act (Public Law 104–208) was passed in 1997. It prohibited U.S. counternarcotics assistance to foreign military units facing credible allegations of abuses, unless the partner government was taking effective measures to address the allegations. The requirement was later extended to any foreign security force unit through Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act. A similar condition is present in Section 362 of Title 10 of the United States Code, which prohibits the Department of Defense from using appropriated funds for “any training, equipment, or other assistance for a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” The United States has restricted military assistance to armed forces units in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Turkey, among others.

Although the Leahy Laws were intended to make the recipients of foreign assistance more accountable to their own people by using the power of America’s purse, the impact of these restrictions is not clear-cut. In Indonesia, the United States cut off all military aid in response to widespread human rights abuses in East Timor (now Timor-Leste) in 1999. In particular, Indonesia’s army special forces command, known as Kopassus, was singled out for egregious human rights violations including extrajudicial killings. In 2010 the Obama administration chose to resume most Department of Defense cooperation with Kopassus. Three years later, the Indonesian army determined that members of Kopassus were guilty of the extrajudicial killings of four prisoners in retribution for the murder of a fellow soldier.27

Other cases demonstrate how the Leahy Laws can be easily circumvented. The Obama administration cut military aid to several Pakistani military units in 2010 as punishment for human rights abuses, including at least 300 extrajudicial executions in the Swat Valley.28 But the restrictions imposed on Pakistan occurred while a $2 billion counterterrorism assistance package was being negotiated. Mexico stands as another example. Only 15 percent of the total U.S. funds supporting the Mexican police and military are conditional on human rights abuses. This meant that in 2015, only $5 million in aid was withheld from Mexico because of human rights abuses in the country’s drug war.29

Potentially worse, imposing these restrictions can undermine American influence with and oversight of abusive foreign security forces. A 2013 investigation found that in some cases, the State and Defense Departments had cut off funds to the wrong units.30 Once units were barred from receiving U.S. funding, resuming cooperation became exceedingly difficult even if partner governments had taken remedial actions. Policy associated with the Leahy Laws has yet to adequately address the question of when a unit is determined to be free of human rights abusers. For example, should restrictions be lifted from a unit when none of its current members had been members when violations took place, or should the entire chain of command for the unit be distanced from prior human rights violations?31 The actual process for human rights vetting also remains unevenly implemented.32 An investigation by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General recently found that the Bureau of African Affairs continued payments to Somali National Army units despite a lapse in Leahy human rights vetting approvals.33 Overall, although human rights vetting of security forces is now a prerequisite for receiving U.S. foreign assistance, the process remains flawed. The implementation of penalties can mean that military-to-military ties are often strained in countries that have the most to gain from U.S. military training and cooperation.

With the end of the Cold War, a significant part of U.S. foreign aid policy lost its underlying logic. The threat of communism, which had shaped American foreign policy for more than four decades, rapidly lost its salience. Under President Bill Clinton, foreign aid policy lacked much direction beyond his strong support for the successor states of the Soviet Union and countries emerging from communism in Eastern Europe. Although U.S. foreign aid was used to secure cooperation in nuclear nonproliferation initiatives in post-Soviet states such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan, overall foreign aid levels declined throughout Clinton’s first term and eventually reached a historic low in 1997. Even so, aid continued to be used as a diplomatic tool. Congress approved $400 million in grants for Palestinians, $300 million for Jordan, and $1.2 billion for Israel to fund the implementation in 2000 of the Wye River Agreement, which laid out steps to complete the Oslo peace process. The use of foreign assistance in grand diplomatic bargains continued under the George W. Bush administration: the Six-Party Talks (2003–2007) promised economic and food aid for North Korea in exchange for the suspension of nuclear tests and greater access for international weapons inspectors.

The aftermath of the September 11, 2001 (9/11) attacks brought a significant shift in the distribution of U.S. foreign aid and a reaffirmation of aid’s strategic value. As part of the rapid expansion of America’s military footprint, military assistance took on quasi-development functions, and development assistance served national security goals. The Commander’s Emergency Response Program originated in Iraq as a way for U.S. military commanders to use funds seized from Saddam Hussein’s regime to benefit the Iraqi people by funding emergency relief and reconstruction projects. Projects funded through this program, which was later expanded to include U.S. government funds, included school refurbishments, water-and sewage-related repairs, road and bridge reconstruction projects, and logistical support for the distribution of humanitarian assistance.34

Bush reversed the cuts to aid under Clinton and led the largest expansion of U.S. foreign assistance to date. Much of this expansion took place under the auspices of the Global War on Terror, as foreign assistance was recast as a counterterrorism tool. But Bush was also motivated by a deeply held belief that providing foreign aid is in the United States’ moral and national interest, once stating that the generosity of the American people “reflects the view that all lives are precious, and to whom much is given, much is required.”35

Under the George W. Bush administration, foreign aid resumed its early role as an instrument for promoting democracy overseas. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an independent aid institution supporting countries that exhibit good governance, economic freedom, and investments in their citizens, was created. The MCC provides aid to countries that meet preset standards in three general areas: rule of law, anticorruption measures, and respect for human rights; social investment in areas such as health care and education; and the promotion of open markets and sustainable government spending. The idea behind the MCC is that countries will willingly make improvements in these areas in order to qualify for and receive MCC funding.

Equally enduring is Bush’s other signature foreign assistance program, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. PEPFAR is the largest commitment in history by any country to address a specific disease. It currently provides antiretroviral support to more than fourteen million people. The program’s budget has expanded from $2.27 billion in 2004 to $6.75 billion in 2017, and it retains strong bipartisan support.36

That the George W. Bush administration managed both the militarization of aid and the world’s largest global public health program speaks to the historical tension in U.S. foreign aid policy between humanitarian and strategic objectives. This tension persisted under the administration of Barack Obama, who maintained high levels of foreign aid to strategic allies and to countries with wars that he could not end. The securitization of economic aid expanded under the auspices of countering violent extremism in terrorism-prone countries.37 Yet, at the same time, President Obama called development a core pillar of American foreign policy. Harkening back to the early expansive vision of U.S. foreign aid, the 2010 National Security Strategy argued that “our diplomacy and development capabilities must help prevent conflict, spur economic growth, strengthen weak and failing states, lift people out of poverty, combat climate change and epidemic disease, and strengthen institutions of democratic governance.”38 The first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, spearheaded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, referred to development as “a strategic, economic, and moral imperative—as central to our foreign policy as diplomacy and defense.”39 As part of its “development diplomacy” approach, the Obama administration launched global initiatives in the areas of public health, climate change, and food security, with funding for environmental protection programs rising from $324 million in 2008 to $1.8 billion in 2016. Between 2001 and 2016, foreign aid funding for the health sector increased by more than 800 percent.40

The Obama administration’s signature foreign assistance program, Feed the Future, was authorized by the Global Food Security Act of 2016 (Public Law 114–195) and built on the United States’ existing food aid program. The law established a specific statutory foundation for global food security assistance, required the president to develop a whole-of-government strategy to promote global food security, and authorized over $1 billion in funding to support the strategy. The United States has recently provided more than 40 percent of global food aid, averaging about $2.4 billion in spending a year since 2014. When it reaches communities where food is scarce, food aid can save lives and improve children’s health outcomes.41 And yet, America’s food aid program has been heavily criticized for distorting agricultural markets, failing to improve nutrition, subsidizing poorly run governments, and worsening civil wars.42

Policymakers have long tried to tackle the disconnect between the lofty goals of U.S. foreign aid policy and its ability to achieve those goals. To remedy the inefficient administration of foreign aid, President Richard Nixon proposed the elimination of USAID as an independent agency and the reorganization of U.S. development programs. Congress declined Nixon’s suggestion, but Nixon and Hubert Humphrey pushed through the New Directions legislation, which shifted USAID from the megaprojects of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations toward a functional, sector-specific structure. In line with his belief that “no single government, no matter how wealthy or well-intentioned, can by itself hope to cope with the challenge of raising the standard of living of two-thirds of the world’s people,” Nixon created the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which provides political risk insurance and loan guarantees to support American investment in the developing world as an alternative to foreign aid.43 Under President Jimmy Carter, a proposed reorganization of USAID failed in Congress. President Clinton tried, and failed, to roll USAID into the State Department.

Although technocrats have struggled with the administration of U.S. foreign assistance for decades, the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump led to a different kind of debate about foreign aid. In response to the need for increased evaluation of the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid policy, Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Accountability and Transparency Act in 2016.44 The Trump administration, for its part, proposed a 2018 America First budget that featured dramatic cuts to overall State Department and USAID spending. The response was a seemingly unprecedented bipartisan effort by the foreign policy community to rally together in defense of foreign aid. Although many acknowledge that the structure of the U.S. foreign aid system is in desperate need of reform, few in the policy world seriously considered the proposed cuts. Congress agreed. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to secure $51 billion in funding for the State Department and related programs, an amount almost $11 billion above the Trump administration’s request. Undeterred, subsequent Trump administration budgets featured similar cuts. The administration also proved adept at circumventing Congress by cutting voluntary U.S. contributions to multiple UN agencies.45 The struggle over the direction of U.S. foreign assistance policy continues unabated.


1. See, for instance, Christopher J. Coyne, Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013) or Rajan Menon, The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016) for exceptions to this trend.

2. The terms U.S. foreign assistance and U.S. foreign aid are used interchangeably in this study to refer to U.S. government resources provided to foreign countries, as defined by the Foreign Assistance Act. This includes both economic and military assistance. See Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, 22 U.S.C., § 2151 et seq. (1961).

3. Harry S. Truman, “Inaugural Address” (speech), January 20, 1949.

4. Truman, “Inaugural Address.”

5. Amanda McVety, Enlightened Aid: U.S. Development as Foreign Policy in Ethiopia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 95.

6. McVety, Enlightened Aid, 94.

7. David Ekbladh, “Harry S. Truman, Development Aid, and American Foreign Policy,” in Foreign Aid and the Legacy of Harry S. Truman, ed. Raymond H. Gezelbracht (Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2015), 65.

8. McVety, Enlightened Aid, 169.

9. Mark Moyar, Aid for Elites: Building Partner Nations and Ending Poverty Through Human Capital (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 110.

10. Erin C. Lentz, Stephanie Mercier, and Christopher B. Barrett, Food Aid and Assistance Programs and the Next Farm Bill (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 2017), 3.

11. John F. Kennedy, “Inaugural Address,” January 20, 1961.

12. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, 22 U.S.C. § 2151 et seq. (1961).

13. The OECD defines official development assistance (ODA) as “government aid designed to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries. Aid may be provided bilaterally, from donor to recipient, or channeled through a multilateral development agency such as the United Nations or the World Bank. Aid includes grants, soft loans (where the grant element is at least 25 percent of the total) and the provision of technical assistance.” Notably, loans and credits for military purposes are excluded. See Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, “Net ODA,” accessed January 3, 2018,

14. John F. Kennedy, “Special Message to the Congress on Foreign Aid” (speech), March 22, 1961.

15. Carol Lancaster, Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, Domestic Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 71.

16. Hans Morgenthau, “A Political Theory of Foreign Aid,” American Political Science Review 56, no. 2 (1962): 301–9.

17. Anne D. Boschini and Anders Olofsgård, “Foreign Aid: An Instrument for Fighting Communism?” Journal of Development Studies 43, no. 4 (2007): 622–48; James Meernik and Steven C. Poe, “US Foreign Aid in the Domestic and International Environments,” International Interactions 22, no. 1 (1996): 21–40; James Meernik, Eric L. Krueger, and Steven C. Poe, “Testing Models of U.S. Foreign Policy: Foreign Aid During and After the Cold War,” Journal of Politics 60, no. 1 (1998): 63–85.

18. John F. Kennedy, “Remarks upon Signing the Foreign Assistance Act” (speech), August 1, 1962.

19. McVety, Enlightened Aid, 181.

20. Lancaster, Foreign Aid, 25.

21. The Harkin amendment establishing Section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act has itself been amended numerous times to expand and clarify applicable human rights violations and establish the executive branch’s reporting requirements.

22. U.S. Congress, Committee on International Relations and Committee on Foreign Relations, Legislation on Foreign Relations Through 2002, vol. I-A, 108th Cong., 1st sess., July 2003 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2003).

23. Nancy Qian and David Yanagizawa-Drott, “Government Distortion in Independently Owned Media: Evidence from U.S. News Coverage of Human Rights,” Journal of the European Economic Association 15, no. 2 (2017): 463–99.

24. Nancy Qian and David Yanagizawa-Drott, “The Strategic Determinants of US Human Rights Reporting: Evidence from the Cold War,” Journal of the European Economic Association 7, no. 2/3 (2009): 446–57.

25. Department of State to Delegation Secretary, Telegram 233405, September 21, 1976, D760355-0833, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/D-Reel Microfilm, Records Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, U.S. National Archives.

26. Nina M. Serafino, June S. Beittel, Lauren Ploch Blanchard, and Liana Rosen, “‘Leahy Law’ Human Rights Provisions and Security Assistance: Issue Overview,” CRS Report No. 7–5700 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2014).

27. Amnesty International, “Indonesia: Kopassus Conviction Small Step Towards Ending Impunity,” September 5, 2013,

28. Declan Walsh and Helen Pidd, “US to Cut Aid to Pakistan Military Units over Human Rights Abuses,” Guardian, October 22, 2010,

29. Elizabeth Malkin and Azam Ahmed, “U.S. Withholds $5 Million in Antidrug Aid to Mexico as Human Rights Rebuke,” New York Times, October 19, 2015,

30. Andrew M. Leonard, “Getting the Leahy Law Right: How to Improve U.S. Funding of Foreign Forces,” Foreign Affairs, June 29, 2017,

31. Charles “Ken” Comer, “Leahy in Indonesia: Damned if You Do (and Even if You Don’t),” Asian Affairs: An American Review 37, no. 2 (2010): 53–70.

32. U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Human Rights: Additional Guidance, Monitoring, and Training Could Improve Implementation of the Leahy Laws,” GAO-13–866 (Washington, DC: Government Accountability Office, 2013).

33. U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General, “Inspection of the Bureau of African Affairs’ Foreign Assistance Program Management,” ISP-I-18-02 (Washington, DC: Department of State, 2017).

34. Mark S. Martins, “The Commander’s Emergency Response Program,” Joint Force Quarterly, no. 37 (2005): 46–52.

35. George W. Bush, “George W. Bush: PEPFAR Saves Millions of Lives in Africa. Keep It Fully Funded,” Washington Post, April 7, 2017,–11e7–9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html.

36. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, “PEPFAR Funding,” July 2016,

37. U.S. Department of State, Department of State & USAID Joint Strategy on Countering Violent Extremism (Washington, DC: Department of State, May 2016); Jessica Trisko Darden, “Compounding Violent Extremism? When Efforts to Prevent Violence Backfire,” War on the Rocks, June 6, 2018,

38. Barack Obama, National Security Strategy (Washington, DC: White House, May 2010), 11.

39. U.S. Department of State, Leading Through Civilian Power: The First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (Washington, DC: Department of State, 2010), ix.

40. Curt Tarnoff and Marian Leonardo Lawson, “Foreign Aid: An Introduction to US Programs and Policy,” CRS Report R40213 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2018), 14.

41. Takashi Yamano, Harold Alderman, and Luc Christiaensen, “Child Growth, Shocks, and Food Aid in Rural Ethiopia,” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 87, no. 2 (2005): 273–88.

42. Nathan Nunn and Nancy Qian, “U.S. Food Aid and Civil Conflict,” American Economic Review 104, no. 6 (2014): 1630–66; David Tschirley, Cynthia Donovan, Michael T. Weber, “Food Aid and Food Markets: Lessons from Mozambique,” Food Policy 21, no. 2 (1996): 189–209.

43. Richard Nixon, “Special Message to the Congress on Foreign Aid” (speech), May 28, 1969.

44. Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2016, H.R. 3766, 114th Cong. (2016).

45. Amanda Shendruk, “Many UN Agencies Are in a Precarious Position if the US Decides to Cut Foreign Aid,” Quartz, September 29, 2018,; Felicia Schwartz and Jessica Donati, “U.S. Cuts Millions in Funding to U.N. Palestinian Agency,” Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2018,; Associated Press, “UN Operating Budget Cut by $285M; US Claims Credit for It,” December 26, 2017,