exporting civil society
by Alan W. Dowd
"We have it in our power to begin the world over again." Those words were penned by Thomas Paine some 225 years ago, but they could just as well have been spoken by President George W. Bush in 2003. And in a sense, they were. "Our founders dedicated this country to the cause of human dignity, the rights of every person, and the possibilities of every life," Bush explained in his 2003 State of the Union. "This conviction leads us into the world to help the afflicted, and defend the peace, and confound the designs of evil men."
Since September 11, 2001, the White House has made no secret about its willingness--and America's capacity--to confound the designs of evil men by tearing down the vast infrastructure of terrorism, and in the process to transform the world through the destructive force of arms. Less publicized has been the Bush administration's readiness to help the afflicted by building an infrastructure of democracy in the forgotten corners of the world, and to begin the world over again through the creative force of American ideas and wealth.
In the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Bush has unveiled a brand-new tool of U.S. power that could transform both foreign aid and the developing world.
Priming the Pump
As Robert Bremner details in his book American Philanthropy (1980), foreign aid is not a new phenomenon. Concerted efforts to distribute foreign aid on the part of Americans date back at least to 1820, when volunteer committees collected money to care for Greek orphans. In 1832, the United States sent a relief ship full of supplies to the Cape Verde Islands. When Ireland was ravaged by famine a little over a decade later, America sent much more. According to Bremner, "To carry the contributions of Massachusetts alone required two sloops of war, four merchant ships, and two steamers."
World War I triggered the first great transformation of American foreign aid. Early in the war, with