Has the USA offered aid to every sovereign nation?

Has the USA offered aid to every sovereign nation?

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My history teacher said that the USA has offered aid to every other sovereign nation that has existed the same time at us. He defines aid as being humanitarian, economical, or militaristic. Is this claim true? I know it hard to prove a negative, but has there ever been a sovereign nation that the USA has never aided?

Note: I thought of the Confederacy, but apparently it was not a sovereign nation.

The US very often offers aid, in cases of disaster as mentioned by Oldcat, but also to countries that are having economic or security issues. As pointed out by Semaphore the answer to the question is: No, not all countries that exist/ed at the same time as the US have been offered aid to

I also think it's important to understand what exactly is "aid" between governments and this isn't exactly what you would call "helping your friend".

Usually, when accepting aid, recipient countries can only spend the money in certain ways, with certain companies, from certain countries, often to the disadvantage of the aid recipient. An example:

However, non-government organization watch groups have noted that as much as 40% of aid to Afghanistan has found its way back to donor countries through awarding contracts at inflated costs.

So the donor country's economy benefits from these deals, and the recipient also has to pay it back eventually: "Double profit" for the donor. And if the recipient can't pay it back, well that may even be better for the donor. The recipient is now indebted towards it…

Other times, aid is given as a covert way of undermining unfriendly governments:

In situations where the U.S. is hostile to the government of a country, USAID may be asked to undertake programs that the government would not accept and thus to operate without the government's knowledge. This might include USAID support for opposition political movements that seek to remove the government. Such "political aid" is criticized by some as being incompatible with USAID's role as an assistance or cooperation agency and as exposing USAID staff worldwide to the suspicion of being covertly engaged in subversion.

Aid recipients are also expected to align themselves politically with the donor:

In 1990 when the Yemeni Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdullah Saleh al-Ashtal, voted against a resolution for a U.S.-led coalition to use force against Iraq, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering walked to the seat of the Yemeni Ambassador and retorted: "That was the most expensive No vote you ever cast". Immediately afterwards, USAID ceased operations and funding in Yemen.

Wikipedia with sources for all three citations and other examples there

Recently, many recipient countries are taking steps to minimise or terminate USAID programs in their countries. USAID has a particularly bad reputation in South America, where ALBA countries are demanding it cease operations, and the Middle East:

It is a bit naïve to think that large powerful governments can allow themselves to be altruistic. Usually their job is to work for profit, economical or political.

I'm sure that in the case of disaster relief, the US offers any aid that they can as a matter of routine. Often this involves military units, since they have the vehicles and training to go into areas where the infrastructure has been destroyed, and they are able to move at a moment's notice to remote parts of the world.

Proposals for the United States to purchase Greenland

Since 1867, the United States has considered, or made, several proposals to purchase the island of Greenland from Denmark, as it did with the Danish West Indies in 1917. While Greenland remains an autonomous territory within the Kingdom Of Denmark, a 1951 treaty gives the United States much control over an island it once partially claimed from exploration.

US Foreign Aid to Africa: What We Give and Why

In 2012, the United States provided nearly $12 billion in official development assistance (“ODA”) to African nations. The ODA is allocated to education, health, infrastructure and economic development programs in recipient countries. Currently, the United States allocates foreign aid to 47 African nations and USAID operates 27 missions on the continent.

US Foreign aid to Africa began in the 1960s as many African nations gained independence and the United States sought strategic alliances to counter the influence of the Soviet Union. With the exception of disaster and famine relief, most foreign aid to Africa began to decrease with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In the 2000s, President Bush more than tripled aid to Africa by establishing programs such as the Child Survival and Health Programs Fund as well as the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative.

Though foreign aid programs are designed to assist recipient nations with development, they also benefit the United States in a number of ways.

First, these programs help build strategic alliances and foster support for democratic transitions. It also stimulates Africa’s growth and development, which provides opportunities for increased trade and direct investment in the continent’s emerging markets.

But for all the benefits, foreign aid to Africa has no shortage of detractors. Many critics point out that much of the money allocated to Africa never reaches the people who most need the assistance. “Eighty percent of U.S. aid to Africa is spent right here in America — on American contractors, American suppliers, and so forth,” said George Ayittey, president of the Free Africa Foundation.

In more corrupt nations, politicians and civic leaders are often charged with misappropriating funds designated for the people. Others critics claim that foreign aid to Africa simply does not work—after 50 years of assistance, Africa still confronts the same issues.

But even critics would have to agree on one crucial point: foreign aid is an integral part of U.S. foreign policy. In Africa, aid programs support a large framework of social and economic assistance for developing nations.

Critics are correct that American companies and corrupt politicians siphon a large portion of foreign aid. But aid to Africa has also done much to improve infrastructure, bolster economic development and improve health care conditions for millions of people on the continent.

Has the USA offered aid to every sovereign nation? - History

The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom—and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. In the twenty-first century, only nations that share a commitment to protecting basic human rights and guaranteeing political and economic freedom will be able to unleash the potential of their people and assure their future prosperity. People everywhere want to be able to speak freely choose who will govern them worship as they please educate their children—male and female own property and enjoy the benefits of their labor. These values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society—and the duty of protecting these values against their enemies is the common calling of freedom-loving people across the globe and across the ages.

Today, the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and great economic and political influence. In keeping with our heritage and principles, we do not use our strength to press for unilateral advantage.We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human freedom: conditions in which all nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic liberty. In a world that is safe, people will be able to make their own lives better.We will defend the peace by fighting terrorists and tyrants.We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. We will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.

Defending our Nation against its enemies is the first and fundamental commitment of the Federal Government. Today, that task has changed dramatically. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger America. Now, shadowy networks of individuals can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores for less than it costs to purchase a single tank. Terrorists are organized to penetrate open societies and to turn the power of modern technologies against us.

To defeat this threat we must make use of every tool in our arsenal—military power, better homeland defenses, law enforcement, intelligence, and vigorous efforts to cut off terrorist financing. The war against terrorists of global reach is a global enterprise of uncertain duration. America will help nations that need our assistance in combating terror. And America will hold to account nations that are compromised by terror, including those who harbor terrorists— because the allies of terror are the enemies of civilization. The United States and countries cooperating with us must not allow the terrorists to develop new home bases. Together, we will seek to deny them sanctuary at every turn.

The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination. The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed.We will build defenses against ballistic missiles and other means of delivery. We will cooperate with other nations to deny, contain, and curtail our enemies’ efforts to acquire dangerous technologies. And, as a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. So we must be prepared to defeat our enemies’ plans, using the best intelligence and proceeding with deliberation. History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action.

As we defend the peace, we will also take advantage of an historic opportunity to preserve the peace. Today, the international community has the best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the seventeenth century to build a world where great powers compete in peace instead of continually prepare for war. Today, the world’s great powers find ourselves on the same side— united by common dangers of terrorist violence and chaos. The United States will build on these common interests to promote global security.We are also increasingly united by common values. Russia is in the midst of a hopeful transition, reaching for its democratic future and a partner in the war on terror. Chinese leaders are discovering that economic freedom is the only source of national wealth. In time, they will find that social and political freedom is the only source of national greatness. America will encourage the advancement of democracy and economic openness in both nations, because these are the best foundations for domestic stability and international order.We will strongly resist aggression from other great powers—even as we welcome their peaceful pursuit of prosperity, trade, and cultural advancement.

Finally, the United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe.We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world. The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.

The United States will stand beside any nation determined to build a better future by seeking the rewards of liberty for its people. Free trade and free markets have proven their ability to lift whole societies out of poverty—so the United States will work with individual nations, entire regions, and the entire global trading community to build a world that trades in freedom and therefore grows in prosperity. The United States will deliver greater development assistance through the New Millennium Challenge Account to nations that govern justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom.We will also continue to lead the world in efforts to reduce the terrible toll of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

In building a balance of power that favors freedom, the United States is guided by the conviction that all nations have important responsibilities. Nations that enjoy freedom must actively fight terror. Nations that depend on international stability must help prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Nations that seek international aid must govern themselves wisely, so that aid is well spent. For freedom to thrive, accountability must be expected and required.

We are also guided by the conviction that no nation can build a safer, better world alone. Alliances and multilateral institutions can multiply the strength of freedom-loving nations. The United States is committed to lasting institutions like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of American States, and NATO as well as other long-standing alliances. Coalitions of the willing can augment these permanent institutions. In all cases, international obligations are to be taken seriously. They are not to be undertaken symbolically to rally support for an ideal without furthering its attainment.

Freedom is the non-negotiable demand of human dignity the birthright of every person—in every civilization. Throughout history, freedom has been threatened by war and terror it has been challenged by the clashing wills of powerful states and the evil designs of tyrants and it has been tested by widespread poverty and disease. Today, humanity holds in its hands the opportunity to further freedom’s triumph over all these foes. The United States welcomes our responsibility to lead in this great mission.

George W. Bush
September 17, 2002

I. Overview of America's International Strategy

"Our Nation's cause has always been larger than our Nation's defense. We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace—a peace that favors liberty. We will defend the peace against the threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent."

President Bush
West Point, New York
June 1, 2002

The United States possesses unprecedented— and unequaled—strength and influence in the world. Sustained by faith in the principles of liberty, and the value of a free society, this position comes with unparalleled responsibilities, obligations, and opportunity. The great strength of this nation must be used to promote a balance of power that favors freedom.

For most of the twentieth century, the world was divided by a great struggle over ideas: destructive totalitarian visions versus freedom and equality.

That great struggle is over. The militant visions of class, nation, and race which promised utopia and delivered misery have been defeated and discredited. America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones. We are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few.We must defeat these threats to our Nation, allies, and friends.

This is also a time of opportunity for America. We will work to translate this moment of influence into decades of peace, prosperity, and liberty. The U.S. national security strategy will be based on a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests. The aim of this strategy is to help make the world not just safer but better. Our goals on the path to progress are clear: political and economic freedom, peaceful relations with other states, and respect for human dignity.

  • champion aspirations for human dignity
  • strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism and work to prevent attacks against us and our friends
  • work with others to defuse regional conflicts
  • prevent our enemies from threatening us, our allies, and our friends, with weapons of mass destruction
  • ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade
  • expand the circle of development by opening societies and building the infrastructure of democracy
  • develop agendas for cooperative action with other main centers of global power and
  • transform America’s national security institutions to meet the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

II. Champion Aspirations for Human Dignity

"Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities."

President Bush
West Point, New York
June 1, 2002

In pursuit of our goals, our first imperative is to clarify what we stand for: the United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. Fathers and mothers in all societies want their children to be educated and to live free from poverty and violence. No people on earth yearn to be oppressed, aspire to servitude, or eagerly await the midnight knock of the secret police.

America must stand firmly for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law limits on the absolute power of the state free speech freedom of worship equal justice respect for women religious and ethnic tolerance and respect for private property.

These demands can be met in many ways. America’s constitution has served us well. Many other nations, with different histories and cultures, facing different circumstances, have successfully incorporated these core principles into their own systems of governance. History has not been kind to those nations which ignored or flouted the rights and aspirations of their people.

America’s experience as a great multi-ethnic democracy affirms our conviction that people of many heritages and faiths can live and prosper in peace. Our own history is a long struggle to live up to our ideals. But even in our worst moments, the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence were there to guide us. As a result, America is not just a stronger, but is a freer and more just society.

Today, these ideals are a lifeline to lonely defenders of liberty. And when openings arrive, we can encourage change—as we did in central and eastern Europe between 1989 and 1991, or in Belgrade in 2000.When we see democratic processes take hold among our friends in Taiwan or in the Republic of Korea, and see elected leaders replace generals in Latin America and Africa, we see examples of how authoritarian systems can evolve, marrying local history and traditions with the principles we all cherish.

Embodying lessons from our past and using the opportunity we have today, the national security strategy of the United States must start from these core beliefs and look outward for possibilities to expand liberty.

Our principles will guide our government’s decisions about international cooperation, the character of our foreign assistance, and the allocation of resources. They will guide our actions and our words in international bodies.

We will champion the cause of human dignity and oppose those who resist it.

III. Strengthen Alliances to Defeat Global Terrorism and Work to Prevent Attacks Against Us and Our Friends

“Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. The conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing.”

President Bush
Washington, D.C. (The National Cathedral)
September 14, 2001

The United States of America is fighting a war against terrorists of global reach. The enemy is not a single political regime or person or religion or ideology. The enemy is terrorism— premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents.

In many regions, legitimate grievances prevent the emergence of a lasting peace. Such grievances deserve to be, and must be, addressed within a political process. But no cause justifies terror. The United States will make no concessions to terrorist demands and strike no deals with them.We make no distinction between terrorists and those who knowingly harbor or provide aid to them.

The struggle against global terrorism is different from any other war in our history. It will be fought on many fronts against a particularly elusive enemy over an extended period of time. Progress will come through the persistent accumulation of successes—some seen, some unseen.

Today our enemies have seen the results of what civilized nations can, and will, do against regimes that harbor, support, and use terrorism to achieve their political goals. Afghanistan has been liberated coalition forces continue to hunt down the Taliban and al-Qaida. But it is not only this battlefield on which we will engage terrorists. Thousands of trained terrorists remain at large with cells in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and across Asia.

Our priority will be first to disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations of global reach and attack their leadership command, control, and communications material support and finances. This will have a disabling effect upon the terrorists’ ability to plan and operate.

We will continue to encourage our regional partners to take up a coordinated effort that isolates the terrorists. Once the regional campaign localizes the threat to a particular state, we will help ensure the state has the military, law enforcement, political, and financial tools necessary to finish the task.

The United States will continue to work with our allies to disrupt the financing of terrorism.We will identify and block the sources of funding for terrorism, freeze the assets of terrorists and those who support them, deny terrorists access to the international financial system, protect legitimate charities from being abused by terrorists, and prevent the movement of terrorists’ assets through alternative financial networks.

  • direct and continuous action using all the elements of national and international power. Our immediate focus will be those terrorist organizations of global reach and any terrorist or state sponsor of terrorism which attempts to gain or use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or their precursors
  • defending the United States, the American people, and our interests at home and abroad by identifying and destroying the threat before it reaches our borders.While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of selfdefense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country and
  • denying further sponsorship, support, and sanctuary to terrorists by convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities. We will also wage a war of ideas to win the battle against international terrorism. This includes:
  • using the full influence of the United States, and working closely with allies and friends, to make clear that all acts of terrorism are illegitimate so that terrorism will be viewed in the same light as slavery, piracy, or genocide: behavior that no respectable government can condone or support and all must oppose
  • supporting moderate and modern government, especially in the Muslim world, to ensure that the conditions and ideologies that promote terrorism do not find fertile ground in any nation
  • diminishing the underlying conditions that spawn terrorism by enlisting the international community to focus its efforts and resources on areas most at risk and
  • using effective public diplomacy to promote the free flow of information and ideas to kindle the hopes and aspirations of freedom of those in societies ruled by the sponsors of global terrorism.

While we recognize that our best defense is a good offense, we are also strengthening America’s homeland security to protect against and deter attack. This Administration has proposed the largest government reorganization since the Truman Administration created the National Security Council and the Department of Defense. Centered on a new Department of Homeland Security and including a new unified military command and a fundamental reordering of the FBI, our comprehensive plan to secure the homeland encompasses every level of government and the cooperation of the public and the private sector.

This strategy will turn adversity into opportunity. For example, emergency management systems will be better able to cope not just with terrorism but with all hazards. Our medical system will be strengthened to manage not just bioterror, but all infectious diseases and mass-casualty dangers. Our border controls will not just stop terrorists, but improve the efficient movement of legitimate traffic.

While our focus is protecting America, we know that to defeat terrorism in today’s globalized world we need support from our allies and friends.Wherever possible, the United States will rely on regional organizations and state powers to meet their obligations to fight terrorism. Where governments find the fight against terrorism beyond their capacities, we will match their willpower and their resources with whatever help we and our allies can provide.

As we pursue the terrorists in Afghanistan, we will continue to work with international organizations such as the United Nations, as well as non-governmental organizations, and other countries to provide the humanitarian, political, economic, and security assistance necessary to rebuild Afghanistan so that it will never again abuse its people, threaten its neighbors, and provide a haven for terrorists.

In the war against global terrorism, we will never forget that we are ultimately fighting for our democratic values and way of life. Freedom and fear are at war, and there will be no quick or easy end to this conflict. In leading the campaign against terrorism, we are forging new, productive international relationships and redefining existing ones in ways that meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.

IV. Work with others to Defuse Regional Conflicts

"We build a world of justice, or we will live in a world of coercion. The magnitude of our shared responsibilities makes our disagreements look so small."

President Bush
Berlin, Germany
May 23, 2002

Concerned nations must remain actively engaged in critical regional disputes to avoid explosive escalation and minimize human suffering. In an increasingly interconnected world, regional crisis can strain our alliances, rekindle rivalries among the major powers, and create horrifying affronts to human dignity.When violence erupts and states falter, the United States will work with friends and partners to alleviate suffering and restore stability.

No doctrine can anticipate every circumstance in which U.S. action—direct or indirect—is warranted.We have finite political, economic, and military resources to meet our global priorities. The United States will approach each case with these strategic principles in mind:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is critical because of the toll of human suffering, because of America’s close relationship with the state of Israel and key Arab states, and because of that region’s importance to other global priorities of the United States. There can be no peace for either side without freedom for both sides. America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living beside Israel in peace and security. Like all other people, Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests and listens to their voices. The United States will continue to encourage all parties to step up to their responsibilities as we seek a just and comprehensive settlement to the conflict.

The United States, the international donor community, and the World Bank stand ready to work with a reformed Palestinian government on economic development, increased humanitarian assistance, and a program to establish, finance, and monitor a truly independent judiciary. If Palestinians embrace democracy, and the rule of law, confront corruption, and firmly reject terror, they can count on American support for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Israel also has a large stake in the success of a democratic Palestine. Permanent occupation threatens Israel’s identity and democracy. So the United States continues to challenge Israeli leaders to take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable, credible Palestinian state. As there is progress towards security, Israel forces need to withdraw fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000. And consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee, Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop. As violence subsides, freedom of movement should be restored, permitting innocent Palestinians to resume work and normal life. The United States can play a crucial role but, ultimately, lasting peace can only come when Israelis and Palestinians resolve the issues and end the conflict between them.

In South Asia, the United States has also emphasized the need for India and Pakistan to resolve their disputes. This Administration invested time and resources building strong bilateral relations with India and Pakistan. These strong relations then gave us leverage to play a constructive role when tensions in the region became acute.With Pakistan, our bilateral relations have been bolstered by Pakistan’s choice to join the war against terror and move toward building a more open and tolerant society. The Administration sees India’s potential to become one of the great democratic powers of the twentyfirst century and has worked hard to transform our relationship accordingly. Our involvement in this regional dispute, building on earlier investments in bilateral relations, looks first to concrete steps by India and Pakistan that can help defuse military confrontation.

Indonesia took courageous steps to create a working democracy and respect for the rule of law. By tolerating ethnic minorities, respecting the rule of law, and accepting open markets, Indonesia may be able to employ the engine of opportunity that has helped lift some of its neighbors out of poverty and desperation. It is the initiative by Indonesia that allows U.S. assistance to make a difference.

In the Western Hemisphere we have formed flexible coalitions with countries that share our priorities, particularly Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Chile, and Colombia. Together we will promote a truly democratic hemisphere where our integration advances security, prosperity, opportunity, and hope.We will work with regional institutions, such as the Summit of the Americas process, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Defense Ministerial of the Americas for the benefit of the entire hemisphere.

Parts of Latin America confront regional conflict, especially arising from the violence of drug cartels and their accomplices. This conflict and unrestrained narcotics trafficking could imperil the health and security of the United States. Therefore we have developed an active strategy to help the Andean nations adjust their economies, enforce their laws, defeat terrorist organizations, and cut off the supply of drugs, while—as important—we work to reduce the demand for drugs in our own country.

In Colombia, we recognize the link between terrorist and extremist groups that challenge the security of the state and drug trafficking activities that help finance the operations of such groups. We are working to help Colombia defend its democratic institutions and defeat illegal armed groups of both the left and right by extending effective sovereignty over the entire national territory and provide basic security to the Colombian people.

In Africa, promise and opportunity sit side by side with disease, war, and desperate poverty. This threatens both a core value of the United States— preserving human dignity—and our strategic priority—combating global terror. American interests and American principles, therefore, lead in the same direction: we will work with others for an African continent that lives in liberty, peace, and growing prosperity. Together with our European allies, we must help strengthen Africa’s fragile states, help build indigenous capability to secure porous borders, and help build up the law enforcement and intelligence infrastructure to deny havens for terrorists.

An ever more lethal environment exists in Africa as local civil wars spread beyond borders to create regional war zones. Forming coalitions of the willing and cooperative security arrangements are key to confronting these emerging transnational threats.

Africa’s great size and diversity requires a security strategy that focuses on bilateral engagement and builds coalitions of the willing. This Administration will focus on three interlocking strategies for the region:

Ultimately the path of political and economic freedom presents the surest route to progress in sub-Saharan Africa, where most wars are conflicts over material resources and political access often tragically waged on the basis of ethnic and religious difference. The transition to the African Union with its stated commitment to good governance and a common responsibility for democratic political systems offers opportunities to strengthen democracy on the continent.

V. Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction

“The gravest danger to freedom lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile technology—when that occurs, even weak states and small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations. Our enemies have declared this very intention, and have been caught seeking these terrible weapons. They want the capability to blackmail us, or to harm us, or to harm our friends—and we will oppose them with all our power.”

President Bush
West Point, New York
June 1, 2002

The nature of the Cold War threat required the United States—with our allies and friends—to emphasize deterrence of the enemy’s use of force, producing a grim strategy of mutual assured destruction.With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, our security environment has undergone profound transformation.

Having moved from confrontation to cooperation as the hallmark of our relationship with Russia, the dividends are evident: an end to the balance of terror that divided us an historic reduction in the nuclear arsenals on both sides and cooperation in areas such as counterterrorism and missile defense that until recently were inconceivable.

But new deadly challenges have emerged from rogue states and terrorists. None of these contemporary threats rival the sheer destructive power that was arrayed against us by the Soviet Union. However, the nature and motivations of these new adversaries, their determination to obtain destructive powers hitherto available only to the world’s strongest states, and the greater likelihood that they will use weapons of mass destruction against us, make today’s security environment more complex and dangerous.

  • brutalize their own people and squander their national resources for the personal gain of the rulers
  • display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors, and callously violate international treaties to which they are party
  • are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, along with other advanced military technology, to be used as threats or offensively to achieve the aggressive designs of these regimes
  • sponsor terrorism around the globe and
  • reject basic human values and hate the United States and everything for which it stands.

At the time of the Gulf War, we acquired irrefutable proof that Iraq’s designs were not limited to the chemical weapons it had used against Iran and its own people, but also extended to the acquisition of nuclear weapons and biological agents. In the past decade North Korea has become the world’s principal purveyor of ballistic missiles, and has tested increasingly capable missiles while developing its own WMD arsenal. Other rogue regimes seek nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons as well. These states’ pursuit of, and global trade in, such weapons has become a looming threat to all nations.

We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends. Our response must take full advantage of strengthened alliances, the establishment of new partnerships with former adversaries, innovation in the use of military forces, modern technologies, including the development of an effective missile defense system, and increased emphasis on intelligence collection and analysis.

  • Proactive counterproliferation efforts. We must deter and defend against the threat before it is unleashed.We must ensure that key capabilities—detection, active and passive defenses, and counterforce capabilities—are integrated into our defense transformation and our homeland security systems. Counterproliferation must also be integrated into the doctrine, training, and equipping of our forces and those of our allies to ensure that we can prevail in any conflict with WMD-armed adversaries.
  • Strengthened nonproliferation efforts to prevent rogue states and terrorists from acquiring the materials, technologies, and expertise necessary for weapons of mass destruction. We will enhance diplomacy, arms control, multilateral export controls, and threat reduction assistance that impede states and terrorists seeking WMD, and when necessary, interdict enabling technologies and materials.We will continue to build coalitions to support these efforts, encouraging their increased political and financial support for nonproliferation and threat reduction programs. The recent G-8 agreement to commit up to $20 billion to a global partnership against proliferation marks a major step forward.
  • Effective consequence management to respond to the effects of WMD use, whether by terrorists or hostile states. Minimizing the effects of WMD use against our people will help deter those who possess such weapons and dissuade those who seek to acquire them by persuading enemies that they cannot attain their desired ends. The United States must also be prepared to respond to the effects of WMD use against our forces abroad, and to help friends and allies if they are attacked.

It has taken almost a decade for us to comprehend the true nature of this new threat. Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past. The inability to deter a potential attacker, the immediacy of today’s threats, and the magnitude of potential harm that could be caused by our adversaries’ choice of weapons, do not permit that option.We cannot let our enemies strike first.

  • In the Cold War, weapons of mass destruction were considered weapons of last resort whose use risked the destruction of those who used them. Today, our enemies see weapons of mass destruction as weapons of choice. For rogue states these weapons are tools of intimidation and military aggression against their neighbors. These weapons may also allow these states to attempt to blackmail the United States and our allies to prevent us from deterring or repelling the aggressive behavior of rogue states. Such states also see these weapons as their best means of overcoming the conventional superiority of the United States.
  • Traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents whose so-called soldiers seek martyrdom in death and whose most potent protection is statelessness. The overlap between states that sponsor terror and those that pursue WMD compels us to action.

For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat—most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack.

We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction—weapons that can be easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning.

The targets of these attacks are our military forces and our civilian population, in direct violation of one of the principal norms of the law of warfare. As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction.

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction— and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

  • build better, more integrated intelligence capabilities to provide timely, accurate information on threats, wherever they may emerge
  • coordinate closely with allies to form a common assessment of the most dangerous threats and
  • continue to transform our military forces to ensure our ability to conduct rapid and precise operations to achieve decisive results.

The purpose of our actions will always be to eliminate a specific threat to the United States or our allies and friends. The reasons for our actions will be clear, the force measured, and the cause just.

VI. Ignite a New Era of Global Economic Growth through Free Markets and Free Trade

"When nations close their markets and opportunity is hoarded by a privileged few, no amount-no amount-of development aid is ever enough. When nations respect their people, open markets, invest in better health and education, every dollar of aid, every dollar of trade revenue and domestic capital is used more effectively."

President Bush
Monterrey, Mexico
March 22, 2002

A strong world economy enhances our national security by advancing prosperity and freedom in the rest of the world. Economic growth supported by free trade and free markets creates new jobs and higher incomes. It allows people to lift their lives out of poverty, spurs economic and legal reform, and the fight against corruption, and it reinforces the habits of liberty.

We will promote economic growth and economic freedom beyond America’s shores. All governments are responsible for creating their own economic policies and responding to their own economic challenges.We will use our economic engagement with other countries to underscore the benefits of policies that generate higher productivity and sustained economic growth, including:

A return to strong economic growth in Europe and Japan is vital to U.S. national security interests. We want our allies to have strong economies for their own sake, for the sake of the global economy, and for the sake of global security. European efforts to remove structural barriers in their economies are particularly important in this regard, as are Japan’s efforts to end deflation and address the problems of non-performing loans in the Japanese banking system.We will continue to use our regular consultations with Japan and our European partners—including through the Group of Seven (G-7)—to discuss policies they are adopting to promote growth in their economies and support higher global economic growth.

Improving stability in emerging markets is also key to global economic growth. International flows of investment capital are needed to expand the productive potential of these economies. These flows allow emerging markets and developing countries to make the investments that raise living standards and reduce poverty. Our long-term objective should be a world in which all countries have investment-grade credit ratings that allow them access to international capital markets and to invest in their future.

We are committed to policies that will help emerging markets achieve access to larger capital flows at lower cost. To this end, we will continue to pursue reforms aimed at reducing uncertainty in financial markets.We will work actively with other countries, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the private sector to implement the G-7 Action Plan negotiated earlier this year for preventing financial crises and more effectively resolving them when they occur.

The best way to deal with financial crises is to prevent them from occurring, and we have encouraged the IMF to improve its efforts doing so.We will continue to work with the IMF to streamline the policy conditions for its lending and to focus its lending strategy on achieving economic growth through sound fiscal and monetary policy, exchange rate policy, and financial sector policy.

The concept of "free trade" arose as a moral principle even before it became a pillar of economics. If you can make something that others value, you should be able to sell it to them. If others make something that you value, you should be able to buy it. This is real freedom, the freedom for a person—or a nation—to make a living. To promote free trade, the Unites States has developed a comprehensive strategy:

Economic growth should be accompanied by global efforts to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations associated with this growth, containing them at a level that prevents dangerous human interference with the global climate. Our overall objective is to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions relative to the size of our economy, cutting such emissions per unit of economic activity by 18 percent over the next 10 years, by the year 2012. Our strategies for attaining this goal will be to:

VII. Expand the Circle of Development by Opening Societies and Building the Infrastructure of Democracy

"In World War II we fought to make the world safer, then worked to rebuild it. As we wage war today to keep the world safe from terror, we must also work to make the world a better place for all its citizens."

President Bush
Washington, D.C. (Inter-American Development Bank)
March 14, 2002

A world where some live in comfort and plenty, while half of the human race lives on less than $2 a day, is neither just nor stable. Including all of the world’s poor in an expanding circle of development—and opportunity—is a moral imperative and one of the top priorities of U.S. international policy.

Decades of massive development assistance have failed to spur economic growth in the poorest countries.Worse, development aid has often served to prop up failed policies, relieving the pressure for reform and perpetuating misery. Results of aid are typically measured in dollars spent by donors, not in the rates of growth and poverty reduction achieved by recipients. These are the indicators of a failed strategy.

Working with other nations, the United States is confronting this failure.We forged a new consensus at the U.N. Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey that the objectives of assistance—and the strategies to achieve those objectives—must change.

This Administration’s goal is to help unleash the productive potential of individuals in all nations. Sustained growth and poverty reduction is impossible without the right national policies. Where governments have implemented real policy changes, we will provide significant new levels of assistance. The United States and other developed countries should set an ambitious and specific target: to double the size of the world’s poorest economies within a decade.

The United States Government will pursue these major strategies to achieve this goal:

VIII. Develop Agendas for Cooperative Action with the Other Main Centers of Global Power

“We have our best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the 17th century to build a world where the great powers compete in peace instead of prepare for war.”

President Bush
West Point, New York
June 1, 2002

America will implement its strategies by organizing coalitions—as broad as practicable— of states able and willing to promote a balance of power that favors freedom. Effective coalition leadership requires clear priorities, an appreciation of others’ interests, and consistent consultations among partners with a spirit of humility.

There is little of lasting consequence that the United States can accomplish in the world without the sustained cooperation of its allies and friends in Canada and Europe. Europe is also the seat of two of the strongest and most able international institutions in the world: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which has, since its inception, been the fulcrum of transatlantic and inter-European security, and the European Union (EU), our partner in opening world trade.

The attacks of September 11 were also an attack on NATO, as NATO itself recognized when it invoked its Article V self-defense clause for the first time. NATO’s core mission—collective defense of the transatlantic alliance of democracies —remains, but NATO must develop new structures and capabilities to carry out that mission under new circumstances. NATO must build a capability to field, at short notice, highly mobile, specially trained forces whenever they are needed to respond to a threat against any member of the alliance.

  • expand NATO’s membership to those democratic nations willing and able to share the burden of defending and advancing our common interests
  • ensure that the military forces of NATO nations have appropriate combat contributions to make in coalition warfare
  • develop planning processes to enable those contributions to become effective multinational fighting forces
  • take advantage of the technological opportunities and economies of scale in our defense spending to transform NATO military forces so that they dominate potential aggressors and diminish our vulnerabilities
  • streamline and increase the flexibility of command structures to meet new operational demands and the associated requirements of training, integrating, and experimenting with new force configurations and
  • maintain the ability to work and fight together as allies even as we take the necessary steps to transform and modernize our forces.

If NATO succeeds in enacting these changes, the rewards will be a partnership as central to the security and interests of its member states as was the case during the Cold War.We will sustain a common perspective on the threats to our societies and improve our ability to take common action in defense of our nations and their interests. At the same time, we welcome our European allies’ efforts to forge a greater foreign policy and defense identity with the EU, and commit ourselves to close consultations to ensure that these developments work with NATO.We cannot afford to lose this opportunity to better prepare the family of transatlantic democracies for the challenges to come.

The attacks of September 11 energized America’s Asian alliances. Australia invoked the ANZUS Treaty to declare the September 11 was an attack on Australia itself, following that historic decision with the dispatch of some of the world’s finest combat forces for Operation Enduring Freedom. Japan and the Republic of Korea provided unprecedented levels of military logistical support within weeks of the terrorist attack.We have deepened cooperation on counterterrorism with our alliance partners in Thailand and the Philippines and received invaluable assistance from close friends like Singapore and New Zealand.

  • look to Japan to continue forging a leading role in regional and global affairs based on our common interests, our common values, and our close defense and diplomatic cooperation
  • work with South Korea to maintain vigilance towards the North while preparing our alliance to make contributions to the broader stability of the region over the longer term
  • build on 50 years of U.S.-Australian alliance cooperation as we continue working together to resolve regional and global problems—as we have so many times from the Battle of the Coral Sea to Tora Bora
  • maintain forces in the region that reflect our commitments to our allies, our requirements, our technological advances, and the strategic environment and
  • build on stability provided by these alliances, as well as with institutions such as ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, to develop a mix of regional and bilateral strategies to manage change in this dynamic region.

We are attentive to the possible renewal of old patterns of great power competition. Several potential great powers are now in the midst of internal transition—most importantly Russia, India, and China. In all three cases, recent developments have encouraged our hope that a truly global consensus about basic principles is slowly taking shape.

With Russia, we are already building a new strategic relationship based on a central reality of the twenty-first century: the United States and Russia are no longer strategic adversaries. The Moscow Treaty on Strategic Reductions is emblematic of this new reality and reflects a critical change in Russian thinking that promises to lead to productive, long-term relations with the Euro-Atlantic community and the United States. Russia’s top leaders have a realistic assessment of their country’s current weakness and the policies—internal and external—needed to reverse those weaknesses. They understand, increasingly, that Cold War approaches do not serve their national interests and that Russian and American strategic interests overlap in many areas.

United States policy seeks to use this turn in Russian thinking to refocus our relationship on emerging and potential common interests and challenges.We are broadening our already extensive cooperation in the global war on terrorism. We are facilitating Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization, without lowering standards for accession, to promote beneficial bilateral trade and investment relations.We have created the NATO-Russia Council with the goal of deepening security cooperation among Russia, our European allies, and ourselves.We will continue to bolster the independence and stability of the states of the former Soviet Union in the belief that a prosperous and stable neighborhood will reinforce Russia’s growing commitment to integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.

At the same time, we are realistic about the differences that still divide us from Russia and about the time and effort it will take to build an enduring strategic partnership. Lingering distrust of our motives and policies by key Russian elites slows improvement in our relations. Russia’s uneven commitment to the basic values of free-market democracy and dubious record in combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remain matters of great concern. Russia’s very weakness limits the opportunities for cooperation. Nevertheless, those opportunities are vastly greater now than in recent years—or even decades.

The United States has undertaken a transformation in its bilateral relationship with India based on a conviction that U.S. interests require a strong relationship with India.We are the two largest democracies, committed to political freedom protected by representative government. India is moving toward greater economic freedom as well.We have a common interest in the free flow of commerce, including through the vital sea lanes of the Indian Ocean. Finally, we share an interest in fighting terrorism and in creating a strategically stable Asia.

Differences remain, including over the development of India’s nuclear and missile programs, and the pace of India’s economic reforms. But while in the past these concerns may have dominated our thinking about India, today we start with a view of India as a growing world power with which we have common strategic interests. Through a strong partnership with India, we can best address any differences and shape a dynamic future.

The United States relationship with China is an important part of our strategy to promote a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Asia-Pacific region.We welcome the emergence of a strong, peaceful, and prosperous China. The democratic development of China is crucial to that future. Yet, a quarter century after beginning the process of shedding the worst features of the Communist legacy, China’s leaders have not yet made the next series of fundamental choices about the character of their state. In pursuing advanced military capabilities that can threaten its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region, China is following an outdated path that, in the end, will hamper its own pursuit of national greatness. In time, China will find that social and political freedom is the only source of that greatness.

The United States seeks a constructive relationship with a changing China.We already cooperate well where our interests overlap, including the current war on terrorism and in promoting stability on the Korean peninsula. Likewise, we have coordinated on the future of Afghanistan and have initiated a comprehensive dialogue on counterterrorism and similar transitional concerns. Shared health and environmental threats, such as the spread of HIV/AIDS, challenge us to promote jointly the welfare of our citizens.

Addressing these transnational threats will challenge China to become more open with information, promote the development of civil society, and enhance individual human rights. China has begun to take the road to political openness, permitting many personal freedoms and conducting village-level elections, yet remains strongly committed to national one-party rule by the Communist Party. To make that nation truly accountable to its citizen’s needs and aspirations, however, much work remains to be done. Only by allowing the Chinese people to think, assemble, and worship freely can China reach its full potential.

Our important trade relationship will benefit from China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, which will create more export opportunities and ultimately more jobs for American farmers, workers, and companies. China is our fourth largest trading partner, with over $100 billion in annual two-way trade. The power of market principles and the WTO’s requirements for transparency and accountability will advance openness and the rule of law in China to help establish basic protections for commerce and for citizens. There are, however, other areas in which we have profound disagreements. Our commitment to the self-defense of Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act is one. Human rights is another.We expect China to adhere to its nonproliferation commitments.We will work to narrow differences where they exist, but not allow them to preclude cooperation where we agree.

The events of September 11, 2001, fundamentally changed the context for relations between the United States and other main centers of global power, and opened vast, new opportunities.With our long-standing allies in Europe and Asia, and with leaders in Russia, India, and China, we must develop active agendas of cooperation lest these relationships become routine and unproductive.

Every agency of the United States Government shares the challenge.We can build fruitful habits of consultation, quiet argument, sober analysis, and common action. In the long-term, these are the practices that will sustain the supremacy of our common principles and keep open the path of progress.

IX. Transform America's National Security Institutions to Meet the Challenges and Opportunities of the Twenty-First Century

"Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity. They did not touch its source. America is successful because of the hard work, creativity, and enterprise of our people."

President Bush
Washington, D.C. (Joint Session of Congress)
September 20, 2001

The major institutions of American national security were designed in a different era to meet different requirements. All of them must be transformed.

It is time to reaffirm the essential role of American military strength.We must build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge. Our military’s highest priority is to defend the United States. To do so effectively, our military must:

The unparalleled strength of the United States armed forces, and their forward presence, have maintained the peace in some of the world’s most strategically vital regions. However, the threats and enemies we must confront have changed, and so must our forces. A military structured to deter massive Cold War-era armies must be transformed to focus more on how an adversary might fight rather than where and when a war might occur. We will channel our energies to overcome a host of operational challenges.

The presence of American forces overseas is one of the most profound symbols of the U.S. commitments to allies and friends. Through our willingness to use force in our own defense and in defense of others, the United States demonstrates its resolve to maintain a balance of power that favors freedom. To contend with uncertainty and to meet the many security challenges we face, the United States will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia, as well as temporary access arrangements for the long-distance deployment of U.S. forces.

Before the war in Afghanistan, that area was low on the list of major planning contingencies. Yet, in a very short time, we had to operate across the length and breadth of that remote nation, using every branch of the armed forces.We must prepare for more such deployments by developing assets such as advanced remote sensing, long-range precision strike capabilities, and transformed maneuver and expeditionary forces. This broad portfolio of military capabilities must also include the ability to defend the homeland, conduct information operations, ensure U.S. access to distant theaters, and protect critical U.S. infrastructure and assets in outer space.

Innovation within the armed forces will rest on experimentation with new approaches to warfare, strengthening joint operations, exploiting U.S. intelligence advantages, and taking full advantage of science and technology.We must also transform the way the Department of Defense is run, especially in financial management and recruitment and retention. Finally, while maintaining near-term readiness and the ability to fight the war on terrorism, the goal must be to provide the President with a wider range of military options to discourage aggression or any form of coercion against the United States, our allies, and our friends.

We know from history that deterrence can fail and we know from experience that some enemies cannot be deterred. The United States must and will maintain the capability to defeat any attempt by an enemy—whether a state or non-state actor—to impose its will on the United States, our allies, or our friends.We will maintain the forces sufficient to support our obligations, and to defend freedom. Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.

Intelligence—and how we use it—is our first line of defense against terrorists and the threat posed by hostile states. Designed around the priority of gathering enormous information about a massive, fixed object—the Soviet bloc—the intelligence community is coping with the challenge of following a far more complex and elusive set of targets.

We must transform our intelligence capabilities and build new ones to keep pace with the nature of these threats. Intelligence must be appropriately integrated with our defense and law enforcement systems and coordinated with our allies and friends.We need to protect the capabilities we have so that we do not arm our enemies with the knowledge of how best to surprise us. Those who would harm us also seek the benefit of surprise to limit our prevention and response options and to maximize injury.

We must strengthen intelligence warning and analysis to provide integrated threat assessments for national and homeland security. Since the threats inspired by foreign governments and groups may be conducted inside the United States, we must also ensure the proper fusion of information between intelligence and law enforcement.

Initiatives in this area will include:

As the United States Government relies on the armed forces to defend America’s interests, it must rely on diplomacy to interact with other nations. We will ensure that the Department of State receives funding sufficient to ensure the success of American diplomacy. The State Department takes the lead in managing our bilateral relationships with other governments. And in this new era, its people and institutions must be able to interact equally adroitly with non-governmental organizations and international institutions. Officials trained mainly in international politics must also extend their reach to understand complex issues of domestic governance around the world, including public health, education, law enforcement, the judiciary, and public diplomacy.

Our diplomats serve at the front line of complex negotiations, civil wars, and other humanitarian catastrophes. As humanitarian relief requirements are better understood, we must also be able to help build police forces, court systems, and legal codes, local and provincial government institutions, and electoral systems. Effective international cooperation is needed to accomplish these goals, backed by American readiness to play our part.

Just as our diplomatic institutions must adapt so that we can reach out to others, we also need a different and more comprehensive approach to public information efforts that can help people around the world learn about and understand America. The war on terrorism is not a clash of civilizations. It does, however, reveal the clash inside a civilization, a battle for the future of the Muslim world. This is a struggle of ideas and this is an area where America must excel.

We will take the actions necessary to ensure that our efforts to meet our global security commitments and protect Americans are not impaired by the potential for investigations, inquiry, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction does not extend to Americans and which we do not accept.We will work together with other nations to avoid complications in our military operations and cooperation, through such mechanisms as multilateral and bilateral agreements that will protect U.S. nationals from the ICC.We will implement fully the American Servicemembers Protection Act, whose provisions are intended to ensure and enhance the protection of U.S. personnel and officials.

We will make hard choices in the coming year and beyond to ensure the right level and allocation of government spending on national security. The United States Government must strengthen its defenses to win this war. At home, our most important priority is to protect the homeland for the American people.

Today, the distinction between domestic and foreign affairs is diminishing. In a globalized world, events beyond America’s borders have a greater impact inside them. Our society must be open to people, ideas, and goods from across the globe. The characteristics we most cherish—our freedom, our cities, our systems of movement, and modern life—are vulnerable to terrorism. This vulnerability will persist long after we bring to justice those responsible for the September 11 attacks. As time passes, individuals may gain access to means of destruction that until now could be wielded only by armies, fleets, and squadrons. This is a new condition of life.We will adjust to it and thrive—in spite of it.

In exercising our leadership, we will respect the values, judgment, and interests of our friends and partners. Still, we will be prepared to act apart when our interests and unique responsibilities require.When we disagree on particulars, we will explain forthrightly the grounds for our concerns and strive to forge viable alternatives.We will not allow such disagreements to obscure our determination to secure together, with our allies and our friends, our shared fundamental interests and values.

Ultimately, the foundation of American strength is at home. It is in the skills of our people, the dynamism of our economy, and the resilience of our institutions. A diverse, modern society has inherent, ambitious, entrepreneurial energy. Our strength comes from what we do with that energy. That is where our national security begins.

A Closer Look

Seventy-five years of American foreign aid has produced more fiction than fact when it comes to how U.S. tax dollars are spent.

As we enter an election cycle, it is important that candidates and voters have a basic understanding of how taxpayer dollars support foreign aid.

What is foreign aid?

Foreign aid is money, technical assistance, and commodities that the United States provides to other countries in support of a common interest of the U.S. and that country. Typically, the support goes either to a government entity or to communities in that country. Such support typically falls into one of three categories: humanitarian assistance for life-saving relief from natural and manmade disasters development assistance that promotes the economic, social, and political development of countries and communities and security assistance, which helps strengthen the military and security forces in countries allied with the United States. The relative proportions vary each year, but over time humanitarian assistance accounts for a bit less than one-third of the foreign aid budget, development assistance a bit more than a third, and security assistance about a third. Very little actually is delivered as cash, and most funds for humanitarian and development assistance are provided not to government entities but used for technical assistance and commodities provided by U.S., international, and local organizations.

How much of the federal budget is devoted to foreign aid?

Less than 1%. Opinion polls consistently report that Americans believe foreign aid comprises around 25% of the federal budget. When asked how much it should be, they say about 10%. In fact, at $39.2 billion for fiscal year 2019, foreign aid is less than 1% of the federal budget.

Do other wealthy countries do their fair share?

YES, relative to their economic size. The U.S. provides more assistance than any other country, which as the world’s wealthiest nation, is appropriate. There is a broad international commitment that wealthy countries should provide annually 0.7% of GNP to assist poor countries. Five countries (Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark, and the U.K.) exceed that benchmark. The average for all wealthy nations is around 0.3 %. The U.S. ranks near the bottom at below 0.2 %.

Is support for foreign aid partisan or bipartisan?

BIPARTISAN. This is surprising given today’s divisive politics. Historically, Democrats embraced foreign aid more fully than Republicans. Take the Truman administration, which initiated the Marshall Plan. Or, in the 1990s, when votes in Congress on foreign aid spending were close, the appropriations bill garnered more Democratic than Republican votes. Yet every president, Democratic and Republican, until the current occupant of the White House, has been a strong proponent of foreign aid.

In fact, some of the most rapid increases in foreign aid have come during Republican presidencies—the first terms of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Since the creation in the early 2000s of President Bush’s popular and successful signature programs—the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the President’s Malaria Initiative—foreign aid now also carries a Republican brand and has received overwhelming congressional support from both parties. One needs to look no further for proof of this than the recent bipartisan rejection of proposals by the Trump administration to cut the U.S. international affairs budget by one-third.

Does foreign aid go to corrupt, wasteful governments?

NO. Only about a fifth of U.S. economic assistance goes to governments. In 2018, 21% of U.S. official development assistance went to governments, 20% to non-profit organizations, 34% to multilateral organizations, and 25% elsewhere. Typically, when the U.S. wants to support a country that is ruled by a corrupt, uncooperative, or autocratic government, U.S. assistance goes through private channels—NGOs, other private entities, or multilateral organizations. Accountability of U.S. economic assistance is high—the U.S. imposes stringent, some would say onerous, reporting and accounting requirements on recipients of U.S. assistance, and the office of the U.S. inspector general investigates misuse.

Does foreign aid go to autocratic governments?

LESS SO TODAY. During the Cold War, when foreign aid was often based on the premise that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” no matter what the nature of the government, some aid did find its way to autocratic governments. That substantially changed in the 1990s following the demise of the Soviet Union. However, there are countries that are at best “semi-democratic” and have autocratic elements but receive U.S. assistance because of strong U.S. security interests in their stability. Further, there is reason to worry that less concern with autocracy is reappearing with the abiding anxiety about terrorism in our post-9/11 era.

Does foreign aid produce concrete results?

YES. The U.S. government requires regular monitoring and reporting on how and whether assistance programs are working, and periodic evaluations of results. There is hard evidence that development and humanitarian programs produce considerable results, less so for programs driven for foreign policy and security purposes. While U.S. assistance is by no means the sole driver, the record of global development results is impressive. These results include:

  • Extreme poverty has fallen dramatically over the past 30 years—from 1.9 billion people (36 percent of the world’s population) in 1990 to 592 million (8 percent) in 2019.
  • Smallpox has been defeated polio eliminated in all but two countries and deaths from malaria cut in half from 2000 to 2017.
  • The U.S. PEPFAR program has saved 17 million lives from HIV/AIDS and enabled 2.4 million babies to be born HIV-free.
  • Assistance programs can promote national economic progress and stability, which can make it more viable for citizens to remain at home rather than migrate to other countries.

Does foreign aid benefit the U.S. or foreigners?

BOTH. Foreign aid typically aims to support security as well as the economic, social, and political development of recipient countries and their people. At the same time, such assistance also advances one or all of the following overriding U.S. interests:

  • Contributing to U.S. national security by supporting allies in promoting regional and global stability and peace.
  • Reflecting the core U.S. value of caring for others in need—providing humanitarian assistance to victims of war, violence, famine, and natural disasters.

Do the American people support foreign aid?

YES. While the term “foreign aid” is not universally popular and polling reveals that some feel our foreign policy is overextended, Americans support U.S. active engagement in the world. Polling over several decades shows consistent approval of U.S. assistance efforts, with support particularly strong for purposes such as improving people’s health, helping women and girls, educating children, and helping poor countries develop their economies.

A 2016 poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that 64% of Americans feel the U.S. should take an active role in international affairs. Seventy-eight percent supported the statement, “the U.S. should coordinate its power with other countries according to shared ideas of what is best for the world as a whole.”

A 2017 poll by the University of Maryland Program for Public Consultation found 8 in 10 respondents favoring humanitarian assistance and two-thirds favoring aid that helps needy countries develop their economies. Two-thirds supported the notion that “the world is so interconnected today, that in the long run, helping Third World countries to develop is in the economic interests of the U.S.” What receives less support is assistance for strategic purposes.

Editor’s note: A version of this piece was originally published by The Ripon Forum.

George Ingram

Senior Fellow - Global Economy and Development, Center for Sustainable Development

Myth #2: Others don’t do their fair share

The U.S. provides more assistance than any other country. As the world’s wealthiest nation, that’s appropriate. There is a broad international commitment that wealthy countries should provide annually 0.7 percent of GNP to assist poor countries. Five countries (Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark, and the U.K.) exceed that benchmark. The average for all wealthy nations is around 0.4 percent. The U.S. ranks near the bottom at below 0.2 percent.

Myth #3: U.S. foreign aid is mainly backed by Democrats

Foreign aid historically has been viewed more as a Democratic than Republican program. The Marshall Plan was initiated by the Truman administration, and in the 1990s, when votes in the Congress on foreign aid spending were close, the appropriations bill garnered more Democratic than Republican votes. But every president, Democratic and Republican, until the current occupant of the White House, has been a strong proponent of foreign assistance.

In fact, some of the most rapid increases in foreign aid have come during Republican presidencies—the first term of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Since the creation in the early 2000s of President Bush’s signature popular and successful programs of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the President’s Malaria Program (PMI), foreign aid now also carries a Republican brand and has received overwhelming congressional support from both parties, including bipartisan rejection of the one-third cuts to international spending proposed by the Trump administration.

Myth #4: Foreign aid goes to corrupt, wasteful governments

Only a minority of U.S. economic assistance goes to governments. In 2018, 21 percent of U.S. official development assistance went to governments, 20 percent to non-profit organizations, 34 percent to multilateral organizations, and 25 percent elsewhere. Typically, when the U.S. wants to support a country that is ruled by a corrupt, uncooperative, or autocratic government, U.S. assistance goes through private channels—NGOs or other private entities—or multilateral organizations. Accountability of U.S. economic assistance is high—the U.S. imposes stringent, some would say onerous, reporting and accounting requirements on recipients of U.S. assistance, and the office of the U.S. inspector general (IG) investigates misuse.


In the United States, the federal government has sovereign immunity and may not be sued unless it has waived its immunity or consented to suit. [7] The United States as a sovereign is immune from suit unless it unequivocally consents to being sued. [8] The United States Supreme Court in Price v. United States observed: "It is an axiom of our jurisprudence. The government is not liable to suit unless it consents thereto, and its liability in suit cannot be extended beyond the plain language of the statute authorizing it." [9]

The principle was not mentioned in the original United States Constitution. The courts have recognized it both as a principle that was inherited from English common law, and as a practical, logical inference (that the government cannot be compelled by the courts because it is the power of the government that creates the courts in the first place). [10]

The United States has waived sovereign immunity to a limited extent, mainly through the Federal Tort Claims Act, which waives the immunity if a tortious act of a federal employee causes damage, and the Tucker Act, which waives the immunity over claims arising out of contracts to which the federal government is a party. The Federal Tort Claims Act and the Tucker Act are not the broad waivers of sovereign immunity they might appear to be, as there are a number of statutory exceptions and judicially fashioned limiting doctrines applicable to both. Title 28 U.S.C. § 1331 confers federal question jurisdiction on district courts, but this statute has been held not to be a blanket waiver of sovereign immunity on the part of the federal government.

In Federal tax refund cases filed by taxpayers (as opposed to third parties) against the United States, various courts have indicated that Federal sovereign immunity is waived under subsection (a)(1) of 28 U.S.C. § 1346 in conjunction with Internal Revenue Code section 7422 (26 U.S.C. § 7422), or under section 7422 in conjunction with subsection (a) of Internal Revenue Code section 6532 (26 U.S.C. § 6532). [11] Further, in United States v. Williams, the U.S. Supreme Court held that in case where an individual paid a federal tax under protest to remove a federal tax lien on her property where the tax she paid had been assessed against a third party, the waiver of sovereign immunity found in 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(1) authorized her tax refund suit. [12]

Congress has also waived sovereign immunity for patent infringement claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1498(a) , but that statute balances this waiver with provisions that limit the remedies available to the patent holder. The government may not be enjoined from infringing a patent, and persons performing work for the government are immune both from liability and from injunction. Any recourse must be had only against the government in the United States Court of Federal Claims. In Advanced Software Design v. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, [13] the Federal Circuit expanded the interpretation of this protection to extend to private companies doing work not as contractors, but in which the government participates even indirectly.

Section 702 of the Administrative Procedures Act provides a broad waiver of sovereign immunity for actions taken by administrative agencies. [14] It provides that persons suffering a legal wrong because of an agency action are entitled to judicial review.

Early history and Eleventh Amendment Edit

In 1793, the Supreme Court held in Chisholm v. Georgia that Article III, § 2 of the United States Constitution, which granted diversity jurisdiction to the federal courts, allowed lawsuits "between a State and Citizens of another State" as the text reads. In 1795, the Eleventh Amendment was ratified in response to this ruling, removing federal judicial jurisdiction from lawsuits "prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State". The validity and retroactivity of the Eleventh Amendment was affirmed in the 1798 case Hollingsworth v. Virginia.

Later interpretation Edit

In Hans v. Louisiana, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Eleventh Amendment re-affirms that states possess sovereign immunity and are therefore immune from being sued in federal court without their consent. In later cases, the Supreme Court has strengthened state sovereign immunity considerably. In Blatchford v. Native Village of Noatak, the court explained that

we have understood the Eleventh Amendment to stand not so much for what it says, but for the presupposition of our constitutional structure which it confirms: that the States entered the federal system with their sovereignty intact that the judicial authority in Article III is limited by this sovereignty, and that a State will therefore not be subject to suit in federal court unless it has consented to suit, either expressly or in the "plan of the convention." States may consent to suit, and therefore waive their Eleventh Amendment immunity by removing a case from state court to federal court. See Lapides v. Board of Regents of University System of Georgia.

(Citations omitted). In Alden v. Maine, the Court explained that while it has

sometimes referred to the States’ immunity from suit as "Eleventh Amendment immunity[,]" [that] phrase is [a] convenient shorthand but something of a misnomer, [because] the sovereign immunity of the States neither derives from nor is limited by the terms of the Eleventh Amendment. Rather, as the Constitution's structure, and its history, and the authoritative interpretations by this Court make clear, the States’ immunity from suit is a fundamental aspect of the sovereignty which the States enjoyed before the ratification of the Constitution, and which they retain today (either literally or by virtue of their admission into the Union upon an equal footing with the other States) except as altered by the plan of the Convention or certain constitutional Amendments.

Writing for the court in Alden, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that in view of this, and given the limited nature of congressional power delegated by the original unamended Constitution, the court could not "conclude that the specific Article I powers delegated to Congress necessarily include, by virtue of the Necessary and Proper Clause or otherwise, the incidental authority to subject the States to private suits as a means of achieving objectives otherwise within the scope of the enumerated powers." Sovereign immunity as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Alden v. Maine means a constitutional prohibition of suits against states by its own citizens in state courts and federal courts. [15]

However, a "consequence of [the] Court's recognition of pre-ratification sovereignty as the source of immunity from suit is that only States and arms of the State possess immunity from suits authorized by federal law." Northern Ins. Co. of N. Y. v. Chatham County (emphases added). Thus, cities and municipalities lack sovereign immunity, Jinks v. Richland County, and counties are not generally considered to have sovereign immunity, even when they "exercise a 'slice of state power.'" Lake Country Estates, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Separately, sovereign immunity of a state from lawsuits in other states have been in question. The Supreme Court ruled in Nevada v. Hall (1977) that states are not constitutionally immune from being named in lawsuits filed in other states. In the intervening years, many states developed legislation that recognize sovereign immunity of other states since 1979, there had only been 14 legal cases that did involve a state being named as a litigant in a case heard in another state. The Supreme Court overturned Nevada in its 2019 decision of Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt (Docket 17-1299) that states did enjoy constitutional sovereign immunity from lawsuits in other states. [16]

State sovereign immunity does not extend to cases where a plaintiff alleges the state's action is in violation of the federal or state constitution. In Department of Revenue v. Kuhnlein, the Florida Department of Revenue claimed that sovereign immunity prevented plaintiffs from bringing a case that alleged that a tax violated the Commerce Clause and, furthermore, that if the tax was unconstitutional, the refund request could not be given because it did not comply with state statutes for tax refunds. The Florida Supreme Court rejected those arguments, stating: "Sovereign immunity does not exempt the State from a challenge based on violation of the federal or state constitutions, because any other rule self-evidently would make constitutional law subservient to the State's will. Moreover, neither the common law nor a state statute can supersede a provision of the federal or state constitutions." [17]

The federal government recognizes tribal nations as "domestic dependent nations" and has established a number of laws attempting to clarify the relationship between the federal, state, and tribal governments. Generally speaking, Native American tribes enjoy immunity from suit—in federal, state, or tribal courts—unless they consent to suit, or unless the federal government abrogates that immunity. [18] However, individual members of the tribe are not immune. Under certain circumstances, a tribal official acting in his or her official capacity, and within the scope of his or her statutory authority, may be cloaked with sovereign immunity. But if a tribal official's tortious acts exceed the scope of his or her authority, the official is subject to suit for those acts. See Cosentino vs. Fuller, Cal. Ct. App. (May 28, 2015).

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) of 1976 establishes the limitations as to whether a foreign sovereign nation (or its political subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities) may be sued in U.S. courts—federal or state. It also establishes specific procedures for service of process and attachment of property for proceedings against a Foreign State. The FSIA provides the exclusive basis and means to bring a lawsuit against a foreign sovereign in the United States. In international law, the prohibition against suing a foreign government is known as state immunity.

Counties and municipalities are not entitled to sovereign immunity. In Lincoln County v. Luning, [19] the court held that the Eleventh Amendment does not bar an individual's suit in federal court against a county for nonpayment of a debt. By contrast, a suit against a statewide agency is considered a suit against the state under the Eleventh Amendment. [20] In allowing suits against counties and municipalities, the court was unanimous, relying in part on its "general acquiescence" in such suits over the prior thirty years. William Fletcher, a professor of legal studies at Yale University, explains the different treatment on the ground that in the nineteenth century, a municipal corporation was viewed as more closely analogous to a private corporation than to a state government. [ citation needed ]

County and municipal officials, when sued in their official capacity, can only be sued for prospective relief under federal law. [21] Under state law, however, the court in Pennhurst noted that even without immunity, suits against municipal officials relate to an institution run and funded by the state, and any relief against county or municipal officials that has some significant effect on the state treasury must be considered a suit against the state, and barred under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

There are exceptions to the doctrine of sovereign immunities derived from the 11th amendment:

Discrimination Edit

If the state or local government entities receive federal funding for whatever purpose, they cannot claim sovereign immunity if they are sued in federal court for discrimination. The United States Code, Title 42, Section 2000d-7 explicitly says this.

The 2001 Supreme Court decision of Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett seems to nullify this however, numerous appellate court cases, such as Doe v. Nebraska in the 8th Circuit [22] and Thomas v. University of Houston of the 5th Circuit [23] have held that, as long as the state entity receives federal funding, then the sovereign immunity for discrimination cases is not abrogated, but voluntarily waived. Since the receiving of the federal funds was optional, then the waiver of sovereign immunity was optional. If a state entity wanted its sovereign immunity back, all they have to do in these circuits is stop receiving federal funding.

However, the 2nd Circuit does not share this ideal. [24] Currently, they are the only federal court of appeals to take this approach to the issue. [25]

Arbitration Edit

In C & L Enterprises, Inc. v. Citizen Band, Potawatomi Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, 532 U.S. 411 (2001), the Supreme Court held that sovereigns are not immune under the Federal Arbitration Act. Since arbitration is a matter of contract between the parties, agreeing to participate in arbitration constitutes consent to be subject to the arbitrator's jurisdiction, thus constituting a voluntary waiver of immunity. [26]

Suits brought by the United States Edit

Because the U.S. is a superior sovereign, it may need to bring suit against a state from time to time. According to the Supreme Court, proper jurisdiction for a contract suit by the United States Federal Government against a state is in Federal District Court. [27]

Suits brought by another state Edit

Similar to the U.S. v. state exclusion above, a state may also sue another state in the federal court system. Again, there would be a conflict of interest if either state's court system tried the case. Instead, the federal court system provides a neutral forum for the case.

Under Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court of the United States has original jurisdiction over cases between states. Congress, if it so chooses, may grant lower federal courts concurrent jurisdiction over cases between states. However, Congress has not yet chosen to do so. Thus, the United States Supreme Court currently has original and exclusive jurisdiction over cases between state governments.

Suits filed against state officials under the "stripping doctrine" Edit

The "stripping doctrine" permits a state official who used his or her position to act illegally to be sued in his or her individual capacity. [ citation needed ] However, the government itself is still immune from being sued through respondeat superior. [ citation needed ] The courts have called this "stripping doctrine" a legal fiction. [ citation needed ] Therefore, a claimant may sue an official under this "stripping doctrine" and get around any sovereign immunity that that official might have held with his or her position.

When a claimant uses this exception, the state cannot be included in the suit instead, the name of the individual defendant is listed. The claimant cannot seek damages from the state, because the claimant cannot list the state as a party. The claimant can seek prospective, or future, relief by asking the court to direct the future behavior of the official. [ citation needed ]

For example, Ex parte Young allows federal courts to enjoin the enforcement of unconstitutional state (or federal) statutes on the theory that "immunity does not extend to a person who acts for the state, but [who] acts unconstitutionally, because the state is powerless to authorize the person to act in violation of the Constitution." Althouse, Tapping the State Court Resource, 44 Vand. L. Rev. 953, 973 (1991). Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman (465 U.S.) ("the authority-stripping theory of Young is a fiction that has been narrowly construed") Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho ("Young rests on a fictional distinction between the official and the State"). The Young doctrine was narrowed by the court in Edelman v. Jordan, which held that relief under Young can only be for prospective, rather than retrospective, relief the court reasoned that the Eleventh Amendment's protection of state sovereignty requires the state's coffers to be shielded from suit. Prospective relief includes injunctions and other equitable orders, but would rarely include damages. This limitation of the Young doctrine "focused attention on the need to abrogate sovereign immunity, which led to the decision two years later in Fitzpatrick." Althouse, Vanguard States, supra, at 1791 n.216

The 42 U.S.C. § 1983 allows state officials to be sued in their individual or official capacities, a principle which was demonstrated again in Brandon v. Holt. [28]

Suits as to which Congress has abrogated the states' Eleventh Amendment immunity Edit

The federal government and nearly every state have passed tort claims acts allowing them to be sued for the negligence, but not intentional wrongs [ citation needed ] , of government employees. The common-law tort doctrine of respondeat superior makes employers generally responsible for the torts of their employees. In the absence of this waiver of sovereign immunity, injured parties would generally have been left without an effective remedy. See Brandon v. Holt. [28]

Under the abrogation doctrine, while Congress cannot use its Article I powers to subject states to lawsuits in either federal courts, Seminole Tribe v. Florida, or a fortiori its own courts, Alden, supra, it can abrogate a state's sovereign immunity pursuant to the powers granted to it by §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and thus subject them to lawsuits. Seminole, supra Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer. However:

  • The court requires "a clear legislative statement" of intent to abrogate sovereignty, Blatchford, supra Seminole, supra.
  • Because Congress' power under §5 is only "the power 'to enforce,' not the power to determine what constitutes a constitutional violation," for the abrogation to be valid, the statute must be remedial or protective of a right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and "[t]here must be a congruence and proportionality between the injury to be prevented or remedied and the means adopted to that end," City of Boerne v. Flores. But "[t]he ultimate interpretation and determination of the Fourteenth Amendment's substantive meaning remains the province of the Judicial Branch." Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents. Simply put: "Under the City of Boerne doctrine, courts must ask whether a statutory remedy has 'congruence and proportionality' to violations of Section 1 rights, as those rights are defined by courts." Althouse, Vanguard States, Laggard States: Federalism & Constitutional Rights, 152 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1745, 1780 (2004)
  • States can expressly waive sovereign immunity, but do not do so implicitly simply by participating in a commercial enterprise where Congress subjects market participants to lawsuits. College Savings Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board.

The Court has found that somewhat different rules may apply to Congressional efforts to subject the states to suit in the domain of federal bankruptcy law. In Central Virginia Community College v. Katz, the Court held that state sovereign immunity was not implicated by the exercise of in rem jurisdiction by bankruptcy courts in voiding a preferential transfer to a state. Justice Stevens, writing for a majority of five (including Justice O'Connor, in one of her last cases before retirement, and Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer), referred to the rationale of an earlier bankruptcy decision, but relied more broadly on the nature of the bankruptcy power vested in Congress under Article I. "The question", he stated, "[was] not whether Congress could 'abrogate' state sovereign immunity in the Bankruptcy Act (as Congress had attempted to do) rather, because the history and justification of the Bankruptcy Clause, as well as legislation enacted immediately following ratification, demonstrate that [the Bankruptcy Clause] was intended not just as a grant of legislative authority to Congress, but also to authorize limited subordination of state sovereign immunity in the bankruptcy arena." In reaching this conclusion, he acknowledged that the Court's decision in Seminole Tribe and succeeding cases had assumed that those holdings would apply to the Bankruptcy Clause, but stated that the Court was convinced by "[c]areful study and reflection" that "that assumption was erroneous". The Court then crystallized the current rule: when Congressional legislation regulates matters that implicate "a core aspect of the administration of bankrupt estates", sovereign immunity is no longer available to the States if the statute subjects them to private suits.

The Court in Central Virginia Community College v. Katz added this caveat: "We do not mean to suggest that every law labeled a 'bankruptcy' law could, consistent with the Bankruptcy Clause, properly impinge upon state sovereign immunity".

Certain contracts with the government Edit

By way of the Tucker Act, certain claims of monetary damages against the United States are exempt from sovereign immunity. These cases are heard by the United States Court of Federal Claims, or, for cases involving less than ten thousand dollars, a district court has concurrent jurisdiction.

Examples of contracts where immunity is waived include:

    incurred. of government employees. that have not been sent. contracts.
  • Any contract that has a provision in it specifically waiving sovereign immunity.

Actions taken in bad faith Edit

If a plaintiff can demonstrate that the government's action was done in bad faith, the plaintiff can receive damages despite sovereign immunity. Typically if a party can demonstrate that the government intentionally acted wrongly with the sole purpose of causing damages, that party can recover for injury or economic losses. For example, if access lanes to a major bridge are closed for repair and the closure results in severe traffic congestion, the action was in good faith and the state could not be sued. However, if, as in the Fort Lee lane closure scandal, the lanes were closed in retaliation against a mayor who declined to support a politician's campaign, with the explicit purpose of causing traffic jams, such lawsuits could proceed. [29]

The Development Delusion: Foreign Aid and Inequality

D uring the last decades of the Soviet Union, technocrats in Moscow managed to prop up the failing regime by telling a story. They knew that the economy was falling apart, but they refused to admit it. Instead, they hired propagandists to convince the public that everything was still going according to plan, that the Soviet Union was stable and eternal. Their aim was to distract people from the complexities of the real world to prevent mass confusion, panic, and dissent from breaking out. Of course, everyone secretly knew that this story was false—an illusion devised for the sake of political control—but they went along with it anyway. They chose to accept the illusion as real, because the truth was simply too difficult to swallow. Alexei Yurchak refers to this effect as “hypernormalization” in his book about the paradoxes of life in the USSR, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More. In a state of hypernormalization, reality no longer matters—all that matters is the story.

At first glance, these tactics seem foreign to those of us who live in Western democracies. We associate them with opaque, totalitarian states. But in fact, the tools of propaganda are routinely used even by governments in North America and Europe. The United States, for instance, has a long history of deploying “perception management” strategies to shape public reactions to everything from domestic legislation to foreign wars, with varying degrees of success. But nowhere is hypernormalization more apparent—and more totalizing—than when it comes to the question of global inequality.

In January 1949, President Harry Truman took the stage for his inaugural address—the first to be broadcast on live television. Most of his speech passed without anything remarkable, but toward the end, he laid out a vision for a fresh new program, and for some reason it struck a chord. “More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery,” he said. “Their food is inadequate. They are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant.” But he offered hope. “For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of these people. The United States is preeminent among nations in the development of industrial and scientific techniques. . . . We must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.”

The idea—what Truman called “development”—captured the public imagination, and the newspapers glowed with approval. No program actually existed, and the plans were vague at best but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the story. It was powerful because it gave Americans a compelling way to think about the misery of the global South and the vast inequalities that marked the international order. The rich countries of Europe and North America were ahead on the Great Arrow of Progress. Their success was down to their hard work and their superior intelligence. By contrast, the countries of the South were still behind, “underdeveloped” and struggling to catch up. This story was deeply affirming for Americans. It made them feel proud of their achievements and of their place in the world. And it gave them a way to feel noble, too: the advanced nations would stand as saviors to the rest of the world, reaching out to aid the suffering masses, boosting them up the development ladder.

In other words, Truman’s story explained the existence of global inequality and offered a solution to it in a single satisfying stroke. The story was useful because it erased the long and violent history of entanglement between the West and the Rest. Truman wasn’t ignorant of that history. He knew that the United States had long been intervening in Latin America to secure access to the continent’s resources. Indeed, drawing on the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary, the U.S. military was invading and occupying states like Honduras, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic even as late as the 1920s and 1930s, during Truman’s own political career—at the behest of American banana and sugar companies—and was propping up authoritarian regimes in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Mexico. And, of course, European powers had been controlling vast regions of the South from as early as the sixteenth century, drawing on colonial resources and the products of the slave economy to leverage their own industrialization, with devastating consequences for the colonized: the genocide of indigenous Americans, the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade, policy-induced famines in British India, and so on.

But all of this was airbrushed out of the story that Truman handed down. It was all a matter of perception management.

About a decade later, in 1960, the economist Walt Whitman Rostow published a book titled The Stages of Economic Growth. He advertised the book as a “non-communist manifesto”: The idea was to convince poor nations that underdevelopment was a technical problem, not a political one. If they really want to develop, they just need to get their institutions right, implement free market policies, and follow the West’s path to “modernization”—or so the argument went. Rostow’s work quickly became popular at the highest levels of the U.S. government, as it pulled attention away from the unfairness of the global economy—away from any demand for justice—and focused instead on internal pathologies. President John Kennedy hired Rostow into a senior role in the U.S. State Department, and President Lyndon Johnson promoted him to National Security Advisor. Following Truman’s lead, Rostow turned the story of development into a public relations exercise—this time not for American ears but for the ears of the rest of the world.

Today, nearly seventy years after Truman’s speech, this story remains very much alive. We encounter it in ads from Save the Children and World Vision we hear it from rock stars like Bono and Bob Geldof, and from billionaires like Bill Gates. But for most of us it appears most forcefully in the narrative of foreign aid. As in Truman’s original story, the idea of aid overrides any suggestion that Western powers are in any way complicit in the suffering of the South. Indeed, aid stands as irrefutable proof of Western benevolence. After all, rich countries give out about $128 billion in development aid to poor countries each year. This is an enormous amount of money—more than all of the profits of all of the banks in the United States combined. But if we take a moment to look more closely, we see that it is vastly outstripped by financial resources that flow in the opposite direction. In reality, rich countries aren’t developing poor countries poor countries are developing rich ones. The discourse of aid obscures this difficult fact by making the takers seem like givers. It tells a comforting, affirming story, and people buy right into it. Hypernormalization.

Aid in Reverse

Western politicians love to celebrate their commitments to foreign aid. The Obama administration frequently spoke of how U.S. aid was transforming the lives of poor people in developing nations. So too with the Hollande administration, which hailed France’s aid to the former colonies of West Africa. And former prime minister David Cameron often spoke proudly of Britain’s record of aid and development in the South—from India to southern Africa. These claims go down well with most voters. But for anyone who pays attention to how the global economy really works, they ring more than a little hollow.

At the end of 2016, the U.S.-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics published an extensive report on global financial flows. They tallied up all of the financial resources that are transferred between rich and poor countries each year—not just aid, foreign investment, and trade, but also transfers like debt cancellation, remittances, and capital flight. Their calculations revealed that in 2012, the last year of recorded data, developing countries received a total of about $1.3 trillion in total inflows. But that same year, some $3.3 trillion flowed out of them. In other words, the South sent $2 trillion more to the rest of the world than they received. What this means is that developing countries are net creditors to the rest of the world—the exact opposite of the usual narrative. Indeed, since 1980, these net outflows have added up to a total of $16.3 trillion. To get a sense for the scale of this, $16.3 trillion is roughly the GDP of the United States.

What do these large net outflows consist of? Some of it is payments on external debt. According to World Bank data, developing countries pay out around $200 billion each year in interest alone, with most of it going to creditors in rich countries—a direct cash transfusion that far outstrips the aid that flows in the other direction. In all the years since 1980, the South has forked over an eye-watering $4.3 trillion in interest payments on external debt. Importantly, much of the interest being paid out today is being rendered on decades-old loans that have already been paid off many times over. And much of it is being paid on principal that was accumulated by illegitimate dictators—many of them propped up by Western powers—who have long since been deposed. In fact, around $700 billion of sovereign debt in the global South today is considered illegitimate or “odious” by international standards.

Another major source of reverse flow leaves in the form of profits repatriated by multinational companies operating in the developing world—a practice that has grown rapidly since capital controls were liberalized beginning in the 1980s. Multinational companies repatriate close to $500 billion each year out of developing countries, which outstrips the aid budget four times over and roughly matches or even exceeds the amount of foreign direct investment that the South receives. Think of all the profit that Coca-Cola extracts out of Central American sugar plantations and banks back home, for example, or the income that Total pulls out of West Africa’s oil fields.

But by far the biggest source of outflows has to do with unrecorded—and usually illicit—capital flight. GFI calculates that developing countries lose about $700 billion each year through a practice known as “trade misinvoicing.” Basically, corporations, both foreign and domestic, report false prices on their trade invoices in order to spirit money out of developing countries into tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions, like Guernsey or the British Virgin Islands. This is remarkably easy to do, as rules introduced by the World Trade Organization in the 1990s require customs officials to take invoices at face value, even when they are obviously distorted, so their hands are tied when it comes to suspicious transactions.

Losses due to trade misinvoicing outstrip the aid budget by a factor of five or more. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Multinational companies also suck money out of developing countries through a practice known as “same-invoice faking,” shifting profits illegally between their own subsidiaries by mutually faking invoices on both sides. For example, a subsidiary in China might dodge local taxes by shifting money to a related subsidiary in Luxembourg, where the tax rate is effectively zero and where funds can’t be traced. Same-invoice faking is very difficult to detect, but GFI estimates that it costs developing countries another $700 billion per year.

And, crucially, GFI’s figures only capture outflows through trade in goods, not trade in services. To include outflows through trade in services, GFI argues we need to bump the figures up by 25 percent. If we do, it brings total net resource outflows to about $3 trillion per year.

That is a mind-boggling sum. Three trillion dollars outstrips the aid budget twenty-four times over. In other words, for every dollar of aid that developing countries receive, they lose twenty-four in net outflows, simply as a result of how the global economy has been designed by many of the very nations that so love to tout their foreign aid contributions. Of course, this is an aggregate figure for some countries the ratio is larger, while for others it is smaller. But, in all cases, outflows strip developing countries of an important source of revenue and finance that could be used for development and investment. Indeed, the GFI report finds that increasingly large net outflows are linked to declining economic growth rates and falling living standards in developing countries.

A Dream Deferred

Looking at the real picture of global financial flows deals a shattering blow to the aid narrative. But to really understand the gap between rhetoric and reality, we have to look at the history of the past few decades.

As European colonialism in Asia and Africa began to collapse in the middle of the twentieth century, and as Franklin Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy suspended U.S. meddling in Latin America and opened the way for popular movements to challenge authoritarian regimes, states across the global South found themselves free to determine their own economic policies. Many were quick to adopt Keynesian principles, which were popular at the time: progressive taxation, social spending, capital controls, land reform, and decent wages for workers. They wanted to build their economies for their own national good, rather than for the benefit of foreign powers. Refusing to be simply exporters of raw materials and importers of Western manufactures, they sought to industrialize on their own terms—and to do this, they made use of policies like nationalization, import substitution, subsidies, and tariffs.

This was the era of what economic historians call “developmentalism.” It was not perfect, of course, but for the most part it delivered impressive results. The global South enjoyed high rates of per capita income growth during the 1960s and 1970s, averaging 3.2 percent per year—double or triple what the West achieved during the Industrial Revolution and more than six times higher than what the South experienced under colonialism. Poverty began to decline, and the per capita income ratio between the North and South began to narrow for the first time in history, shrinking by around 20 percent.

What is more, countries of the global South were reaching out to one another to build a network of mutual support and alliance. The Non-Aligned Movement was formed in 1961 to reject colonialism and neocolonialism by great powers on either side of the Cold War divide. Before long, the movement came to include nearly every country of the global South and became a powerful force demanding sovereignty, nonintervention, non-racialism, and economic justice. Three years later, they formed the G77 to advance this vision at the United Nations. And in 1973, they affirmed these ideals in the halls of the UN General Assembly, with a successful declaration for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) that enshrined their right to determine their own macroeconomic policy without threat of foreign intervention.

The South was rising, and they were doing so with a vision that—in contrast to the Truman narrative—saw underdevelopment as a political problem that demanded political solutions.

Now, given their rhetorical commitment to development, one might imagine that Western powers would be pleased with the results achieved by postcolonial governments. After all, they were bringing about real transformation in the living standards of their people. But Western powers were not amused. Developmentalist policies were threatening their access to cheap labor, raw materials, and consumer markets across the South, eroding the foundations of the world system that they had come to rely on during the colonial era. Unwilling to let this continue, they intervened across the South to depose democratically elected leaders and replace them with regimes—generally dictatorships—that would be more amenable to Western interests. As Noel Maurer points out in The Empire Trap (Princeton, 2013), these interventions were typically triggered when Western assets were put at risk by land reform, nationalization, or capital controls.

It started in 1953. Iran’s leader, Mohammed Mosaddegh, was brought to power on a popular developmentalist platform. After his election, he introduced unemployment insurance, abolished forced agricultural labor, taxed land rents to fund social spending, and sought to renegotiate ownership of the country’s massive oil reserves. This latter move caught the attention of Britain, which had controlled Iran’s oil since 1913, and provoked a retaliation: With assistance from the CIA under the Eisenhower administration, the British Secret Intelligence Service toppled Mosaddegh in a coup d’état. In his place, they installed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who rolled back Mosaddegh’s reforms and ruled the country as a dictator for the next twenty-six years, most of that time with U.S. support.

The Iran coup was the first move in what amounted to a war on developmentalism. There were many more to follow. One year later, the same story played out in Guatemala. Guatemala’s president, Jacobo Árbenz, had just begun a program of land reforms that shifted unused portions of large private estates to peasants who had been dispossessed during the reign of Jorge Ubico, a U.S.-backed dictator who controlled the country during the 1930s and 1940s. The Árbenz administration paid full compensation in the process, but this wasn’t enough to satisfy the United Fruit Company, an American-owned firm that had significant land holdings in Guatemala. At the behest of United Fruit, which had close ties to the Eisenhower administration, the CIA intervened to topple Árbenz and install a military dictator—Carlos Castillor Armas—in his place.

The Guatemala episode marked the official end of Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy and revived America’s habit of projecting military power across Latin America. The following decades saw many more such interventions. Brazil was hit with a U.S.-backed coup in 1964 that deposed João Goulart, another pro-poor reformer. In 1965, the United States invaded the Dominican Republic in order to quash a popular rebellion against the U.S.-backed military junta that controlled the country. And then, of course, there was Chile, which remains probably the best-known case. In 1973, the CIA lined up behind disgruntled national elites to support a bloody coup against Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, who had been swept to power three years earlier on his promise to create an economy fairer to the country’s peasants and workers. He was replaced by military dictator Augusto Pinochet, who swiftly reversed Allende’s reforms and pried the economy open to U.S. corporate interests.

The war against developmentalism wasn’t limited only to Latin America. Belgium, Britain, and the United States intervened in the Congo in 1961 to assassinate the country’s first democratically elected leader, Patrice Lumumba, who they feared would loosen their grip over the region’s vast mineral resources, and installed Mobutu Sese Seko in his place—the cartoonishly corrupt dictator who immiserated the country over the course of three long decades. In Indonesia, the United States supported a coup against President Sukarno in 1965, the national independence hero who played a key role in mobilizing the Non-Aligned Movement, in a bloody mission that left 500,000 people dead. A year later, Britain and the United States deposed Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah—another founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and a leading critic of neocolonialism. In 1971, Uganda’s Obote was deposed by the British and replaced with the murderous Idi Amin. And France intervened across West Africa to install puppet leaders through the secretive Francafrique network, rigging elections in Cameroon, Gabon, and the Ivory Coast in support of leaders who would maintain France’s access to the region’s oil and other resources into the postcolonial era.

Of course, many of these interventions were conducted under the banner of the Cold War—in the guise of fighting “Communism.” Yet few leaders in the global South who were deposed during this period identified as Communist for the most part they were explicitly nonaligned. Indeed, they were really only mimicking the Keynesian policies that the United States and Europe had used themselves to such great effect. If we pull away the rhetoric of the Cold War, it becomes clear that the coups had little to do with ideology, and certainly nothing to do with promoting democracy—quite the opposite! The goal, rather, was to defend Western economic interests. It is tempting to see this as nothing but a list of crimes, but it is more than that. It reflects an organized effort on the part of Western powers to crush the South’s one promising shot at development. They simply would not tolerate development if it meant shifting the balance of power in the global economy. Yet this bloody history is absent from the official development narrative.

An Adjusted World

The tactic of resisting the rise of the South through covert coups d’état worked well enough for a time, but it was a piecemeal effort. As the 1970s wore on and voters became more sensitive to issues of human rights and national sovereignty, Western powers began to view it as a politically risky strategy. They needed a new plan. In 1975, the leaders of the United States, Britain, France, Japan, and West Germany met at Château de Rambouillet in northern France to form the alliance that—with the later addition of Canada—would become the G7. On the agenda was the task of figuring out how to counter the rise of developmentalism and the NIEO. Henry Kissinger, the U.S. Secretary of State at the time, proposed to divide the G77 by using aid as an instrument of control. The idea was to create a new group of so-called Least Developed Countries—the poorest and most desperate members of the global South—and offer them aid in exchange for siding with the West against the rest of the G77. Aid would be wielded as a tool to shatter the solidarity of the global South.

Whether this strategy would have been enough to reverse the South’s rise will never be known, because only a few years later something happened that changed the course of international history forever, giving Western powers the decisive upper hand.

It began with the Volcker shock. In 1980, U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker suddenly raised interest rates to as high as 20 percent. The move was designed to attack stagflation in the United States, but it had consequences around the world. The interest rates on Third World debt skyrocketed in turn, and many developing countries slid to the brink of default. Wall Street banks, which were set to lose hundreds of billions if such defaults occurred, demanded that the U.S. government step in to protect them. And that’s exactly what happened. The International Monetary Fund agreed to roll over the loans of developing countries on the condition that they would adopt “Structural Adjustment Programs.” The idea behind structural adjustment was that debtor nations would cut social spending and privatize public assets in order to redirect money to their creditors. In other words, the U.S. government used the IMF to appropriate the resources of poor countries in order to bail out Wall Street banks. But they didn’t stop there. Structural adjustment also required that poor countries radically deregulate their economies, slashing tariff barriers, abolishing capital controls, abandoning subsidies, and curbing labor regulations, all of which had been instrumental to the gains achieved under developmentalism.

In essence, structural adjustment programs allowed Western creditors to assume de facto control over economic policy in developing countries. Power over macroeconomic decisions was shifted from national parliaments and elected representatives in capitals across the South to bankers and technocrats in Washington, New York, and London. It was a coup, this time bloodless and invisible, that reversed the developmentalist revolution in one fell swoop.

The IMF promised that these free-market reforms would make the economies of poor countries more “efficient” and would attract foreign direct investment, setting them on a path toward growth and development. But they ended up doing exactly the opposite. Per capita income growth rates plunged from an average of 3.2 percent during the developmentalist period to 0.7 percent during the 1980s and 1990s. In Africa, which was hit particularly hard, income declined by 0.7 percent per year, and the number of people living in absolute poverty doubled. Progress in development was stopped in its tracks. Robert Pollin, an economist at the University of Massachusetts, calculates that developing countries lost roughly $480 billion per year in potential GDP as a consequence of structural adjustment—five times more than they were receiving in aid during the same period.

Structural adjustment turned out to be the greatest single cause of poverty in the twentieth century, after colonialism. And yet it is absent from the dominant development narrative.

How could the IMF and the World Bank get away with these policies when they were clearly not working—indeed, when they were actively causing harm? It’s partly because they enjoy “sovereign immunity” status, which means they cannot be sued even when their policies create mass human suffering. But it also has to do with how voting power is apportioned. Each member nation exercises votes according to their share of financial ownership. All major decisions require 85 percent of the vote. Because the United States holds 16 percent of the shares in both institutions, it wields de facto veto power, while low- and middle-income countries, which together constitute some 85 percent of the world’s population, have only about 40 percent of the vote. In other words, even if every single country in the South united in disagreement with IMF and World Bank policy, they would not be able to change it.

There’s no reason to believe that the staffers who designed the structural adjustment programs had ill intentions. They probably thought they were doing the right thing, operating in line with the principles of neoclassical economics. But it is clear that the United States and the other rich nations saw the forced adjustment of the South as beneficial to their own economic interests. Struggling with stagnant growth during the 1970s, they needed a way to restore corporate profits, and blowing open the markets of developing countries provided the perfect solution. For one, it opened up a whole new field of assets that had been off limits to private foreign investment during the postcolonial years. Consider the fact that the World Bank privatized more than $2 trillion worth of public utilities and firms in the developing world between 1984 and 2012. But more importantly, it allowed Western companies to rove the South in search of the cheapest possible labor (with the added benefit, in turn, of breaking the power of trade unions and driving down wages back at home).

Taking advantage of these new opportunities, U.S. investments abroad quickly grew to more than $10 trillion, and the rate of return on those investments shot up from 5 percent to over 11 percent. Structural adjustment may have caused misery across the South, but it jolted Western capitalism back to life.

From Charity to Justice

According to official estimates, there are presently around 4.3 billion people in the world living on less than $5 per day—the absolute minimum that scholars say is necessary in order to achieve basic nutrition and something approaching normal human life expectancy. That’s about 60 percent of humanity. And the number has grown rather dramatically since official measurements began in 1980. Meanwhile, global inequality has been getting worse. The gap between the per capita incomes of advanced Western economies and those of developing regions like Latin America, Africa, and South Asia continues to widen and is now three times larger than it was in 1960, at the end of the colonial period. The only regions that have been able to buck this trend are China and parts of East Asia—the very regions that, for the most part, were never subjected to Western intervention in the postcolonial era.

With statistics like these at hand, we have to conclude that the development industry is failing at its most basic objectives, and it is failing because of its own story. By erasing history and politics from view, it refuses to recognize and act upon the real, structural drivers of poverty and inequality. Once we manage to shake off the analytical constraints that the development story imposes, we will be able to understand that if we are to have any hope of addressing persistent poverty in the South, we will need to change the balance of power in the global economy.

Let me be clear: I do not mean to say that endogenous problems play no role in poverty and underdevelopment, or that the governments of developing countries bear no responsibility for their own misfortunes. They do. But to stop there—as the development industry tends to do—leaves us blind to the broader forces that are much more causally significant.

There are many effective solutions we might consider. One would be to democratize the institutions of global governance—like the IMF and the World Bank—so that nations of the global South have a real voice when it comes to decisions that affect them. Or, alternatively, we could shift the development-related functions of the IMF and the World Bank to a more democratic institution, like the United Nations.

A second move would be to aggressively reduce the debts of countries in the global South. This would roll back the remote-control power that rich countries exercise over poor countries and restore sovereign control over economic policy at the national level. It would also free developing countries to spend more of their income on health care, education, and poverty-reduction efforts instead of just handing it over in debt service.

Third, we need to put an end to structural adjustment conditions so that developing countries can gain access to finance while retaining the right to use tariffs, subsidies, capital controls, social spending, and other measures they might need to manage their economies and reduce poverty. In the South, some hope that the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank—both capitalized largely by China—might provide alternative sources of finance that don’t demand painful economic conditions, but it is too early to tell.

Fourth, we need to shut down illicit financial flows out of developing countries. There are a number of ways to approach this. We could stop trade misinvoicing by fixing the WTO’s customs rules. We could close the tax havens or roll out financial transparency rules that would put an end to shell companies and anonymous accounts. We could require multinational companies to report their profits in the countries where their economic activity actually takes place. Or we could impose a global minimum tax on corporations, which would eliminate their incentive to evade national taxes altogether.

These are all important first steps toward creating a fairer, more democratic global economy. And implementing them would not require a single dollar of foreign aid. But it will need a political struggle, for those who extract so much material benefit from the present system will not cede their power voluntarily. Indeed, it is this kind of challenge that the development story was designed to forestall.

James A. Garfield's Inaugural Address

We stand to-day upon an eminence which overlooks a hundred years of national life—a century crowded with perils, but crowned with the triumphs of liberty and law. Before continuing the onward march let us pause on this height for a moment to strengthen our faith and renew our hope by a glance at the pathway along which our people have traveled.

It is now three days more than a hundred years since the adoption of the first written constitution of the United States—the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The new Republic was then beset with danger on every hand. It had not conquered a place in the family of nations. The decisive battle of the war for independence, whose centennial anniversary will soon be gratefully celebrated at Yorktown, had not yet been fought. The colonists were struggling not only against the armies of a great nation, but against the settled opinions of mankind for the world did not then believe that the supreme authority of government could be safely intrusted to the guardianship of the people themselves.

We can not overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent courage, and the sum of common sense with which our fathers made the great experiment of self-government. When they found, after a short trial, that the confederacy of States, was too weak to meet the necessities of a vigorous and expanding republic, they boldly set it aside, and in its stead established a National Union, founded directly upon the will of the people, endowed with full power of self-preservation and ample authority for the accomplishment of its great object.

Under this Constitution the boundaries of freedom have been enlarged, the foundations of order and peace have been strengthened, and the growth of our people in all the better elements of national life has indicated the wisdom of the founders and given new hope to their descendants. Under this Constitution our people long ago made themselves safe against danger from without and secured for their mariners and flag equality of rights on all the seas. Under this Constitution twenty-five States have been added to the Union, with constitutions and laws, framed and enforced by their own citizens, to secure the manifold blessings of local self-government.

The jurisdiction of this Constitution now covers an area fifty times greater than that of the original thirteen States and a population twenty times greater than that of 1780.

The supreme trial of the Constitution came at last under the tremendous pressure of civil war. We ourselves are witnesses that the Union emerged from the blood and fire of that conflict purified and made stronger for all the beneficent purposes of good government.

And now, at the close of this first century of growth, with the inspirations of its history in their hearts, our people have lately reviewed the condition of the nation, passed judgment upon the conduct and opinions of political parties, and have registered their will concerning the future administration of the Government. To interpret and to execute that will in accordance with the Constitution is the paramount duty of the Executive.

Even from this brief review it is manifest that the nation is resolutely facing to the front, resolved to employ its best energies in developing the great possibilities of the future. Sacredly preserving whatever has been gained to liberty and good government during the century, our people are determined to leave behind them all those bitter controversies concerning things which have been irrevocably settled, and the further discussion of which can only stir up strife and delay the onward march.

The supremacy of the nation and its laws should be no longer a subject of debate. That discussion, which for half a century threatened the existence of the Union, was closed at last in the high court of war by a decree from which there is no appeal—that the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof are and shall continue to be the supreme law of the land, binding alike upon the States and the people. This decree does not disturb the autonomy of the States nor interfere with any of their necessary rights of local self-government, but it does fix and establish the permanent supremacy of the Union.

The will of the nation, speaking with the voice of battle and through the amended Constitution, has fulfilled the great promise of 1776 by proclaiming "liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof."

The elevation of the negro race from slavery to the full rights of citizenship is the most important political change we have known since the adoption of the Constitution of 1787. NO thoughtful man can fail to appreciate its beneficent effect upon our institutions and people. It has freed us from the perpetual danger of war and dissolution. It has added immensely to the moral and industrial forces of our people. It has liberated the master as well as the slave from a relation which wronged and enfeebled both. It has surrendered to their own guardianship the manhood of more than 5,000,000 people, and has opened to each one of them a career of freedom and usefulness. It has given new inspiration to the power of self-help in both races by making labor more honorable to the one and more necessary to the other. The influence of this force will grow greater and bear richer fruit with the coming years.

No doubt this great change has caused serious disturbance to our Southern communities. This is to be deplored, though it was perhaps unavoidable. But those who resisted the change should remember that under our institutions there was no middle ground for the negro race between slavery and equal citizenship. There can be no permanent disfranchised peasantry in the United States. Freedom can never yield its fullness of blessings so long as the law or its administration places the smallest obstacle in the pathway of any virtuous citizen.

The emancipated race has already made remarkable progress. With unquestioning devotion to the Union, with a patience and gentleness not born of fear, they have "followed the light as God gave them to see the light." They are rapidly laying the material foundations of self-support, widening their circle of intelligence, and beginning to enjoy the blessings that gather around the homes of the industrious poor. They deserve the generous encouragement of all good men. So far as my authority can lawfully extend they shall enjoy the full and equal protection of the Constitution and the laws.

The free enjoyment of equal suffrage is still in question, and a frank statement of the issue may aid its solution. It is alleged that in many communities negro citizens are practically denied the freedom of the ballot. In so far as the truth of this allegation is admitted, it is answered that in many places honest local government is impossible if the mass of uneducated negroes are allowed to vote. These are grave allegations. So far as the latter is true, it is the only palliation that can be offered for opposing the freedom of the ballot. Bad local government is certainly a great evil, which ought to be prevented but to violate the freedom and sanctities of the suffrage is more than an evil. It is a crime which, if persisted in, will destroy the Government itself. Suicide is not a remedy. If in other lands it be high treason to compass the death of the king, it shall be counted no less a crime here to strangle our sovereign power and stifle its voice.

It has been said that unsettled questions have no pity for the repose of nations. It should be said with the utmost emphasis that this question of the suffrage will never give repose or safety to the States or to the nation until each, within its own jurisdiction, makes and keeps the ballot free and pure by the strong sanctions of the law.

But the danger which arises from ignorance in the voter can not be denied. It covers a field far wider than that of negro suffrage and the present condition of the race. It is a danger that lurks and hides in the sources and fountains of power in every state. We have no standard by which to measure the disaster that may be brought upon us by ignorance and vice in the citizens when joined to corruption and fraud in the suffrage.

The voters of the Union, who make and unmake constitutions, and upon whose will hang the destinies of our governments, can transmit their supreme authority to no successors save the coming generation of voters, who are the sole heirs of sovereign power. If that generation comes to its inheritance blinded by ignorance and corrupted by vice, the fall of the Republic will be certain and remediless.

The census has already sounded the alarm in the appalling figures which mark how dangerously high the tide of illiteracy has risen among our voters and their children.

To the South this question is of supreme importance. But the responsibility for the existence of slavery did not rest upon the South alone. The nation itself is responsible for the extension of the suffrage, and is under special obligations to aid in removing the illiteracy which it has added to the voting population. For the North and South alike there is but one remedy. All the constitutional power of the nation and of the States and all the volunteer forces of the people should be surrendered to meet this danger by the savory influence of universal education.

It is the high privilege and sacred duty of those now living to educate their successors and fit them, by intelligence and virtue, for the inheritance which awaits them.

In this beneficent work sections and races should be forgotten and partisanship should be unknown. Let our people find a new meaning in the divine oracle which declares that "a little child shall lead them," for our own little children will soon control the destinies of the Republic.

My countrymen, we do not now differ in our judgment concerning the controversies of past generations, and fifty years hence our children will not be divided in their opinions concerning our controversies. They will surely bless their fathers and their fathers' God that the Union was preserved, that slavery was overthrown, and that both races were made equal before the law. We may hasten or we may retard, but we can not prevent, the final reconciliation. Is it not possible for us now to make a truce with time by anticipating and accepting its inevitable verdict?

Enterprises of the highest importance to our moral and material well-being unite us and offer ample employment of our best powers. Let all our people, leaving behind them the battlefields of dead issues, move forward and in their strength of liberty and the restored Union win the grander victories of peace.

The prosperity which now prevails is without parallel in our history. Fruitful seasons have done much to secure it, but they have not done all. The preservation of the public credit and the resumption of specie payments, so successfully attained by the Administration of my predecessors, have enabled our people to secure the blessings which the seasons brought.

By the experience of commercial nations in all ages it has been found that gold and silver afford the only safe foundation for a monetary system. Confusion has recently been created by variations in the relative value of the two metals, but I confidently believe that arrangements can be made between the leading commercial nations which will secure the general use of both metals. Congress should provide that the compulsory coinage of silver now required by law may not disturb our monetary system by driving either metal out of circulation. If possible, such an adjustment should be made that the purchasing power of every coined dollar will be exactly equal to its debt-paying power in all the markets of the world.

The chief duty of the National Government in connection with the currency of the country is to coin money and declare its value. Grave doubts have been entertained whether Congress is authorized by the Constitution to make any form of paper money legal tender. The present issue of United States notes has been sustained by the necessities of war but such paper should depend for its value and currency upon its convenience in use and its prompt redemption in coin at the will of the holder, and not upon its compulsory circulation. These notes are not money, but promises to pay money. If the holders demand it, the promise should be kept.

The refunding of the national debt at a lower rate of interest should be accomplished without compelling the withdrawal of the national-bank notes, and thus disturbing the business of the country.

I venture to refer to the position I have occupied on financial questions during a long service in Congress, and to say that time and experience have strengthened the opinions I have so often expressed on these subjects.

The finances of the Government shall suffer no detriment which it may be possible for my Administration to prevent.

The interests of agriculture deserve more attention from the Government than they have yet received. The farms of the United States afford homes and employment for more than one-half our people, and furnish much the largest part of all our exports. As the Government lights our coasts for the protection of mariners and the benefit of commerce, so it should give to the tillers of the soil the best lights of practical science and experience.

Our manufacturers are rapidly making us industrially independent, and are opening to capital and labor new and profitable fields of employment. Their steady and healthy growth should still be matured. Our facilities for transportation should be promoted by the continued improvement of our harbors and great interior waterways and by the increase of our tonnage on the ocean.

The development of the world's commerce has led to an urgent demand for shortening the great sea voyage around Cape Horn by constructing ship canals or railways across the isthmus which unites the continents. Various plans to this end have been suggested and will need consideration, but none of them has been sufficiently matured to warrant the United States in extending pecuniary aid. The subject, however, is one which will immediately engage the attention of the Government with a view to a thorough protection to American interests. We will urge no narrow policy nor seek peculiar or exclusive privileges in any commercial route but, in the language of my predecessor, I believe it to be the right "and duty of the United States to assert and maintain such supervision and authority over any interoceanic canal across the isthmus that connects North and South America as will protect our national interest."

The Constitution guarantees absolute religious freedom. Congress is prohibited from making any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The Territories of the United States are subject to the direct legislative authority of Congress, and hence the General Government is responsible for any violation of the Constitution in any of them. It is therefore a reproach to the Government that in the most populous of the Territories the constitutional guaranty is not enjoyed by the people and the authority of Congress is set at naught. The Mormon Church not only offends the moral sense of manhood by sanctioning polygamy, but prevents the administration of justice through ordinary instrumentalities of law.

In my judgment it is the duty of Congress, while respecting to the uttermost the conscientious convictions and religious scruples of every citizen, to prohibit within its jurisdiction all criminal practices, especially of that class which destroy the family relations and endanger social order. Nor can any ecclesiastical organization be safely permitted to usurp in the smallest degree the functions and powers of the National Government.

The civil service can never be placed on a satisfactory basis until it is regulated by law. For the good of the service itself, for the protection of those who are intrusted with the appointing power against the waste of time and obstruction to the public business caused by the inordinate pressure for place, and for the protection of incumbents against intrigue and wrong, I shall at the proper time ask Congress to fix the tenure of the minor offices of the several Executive Departments and prescribe the grounds upon which removals shall be made during the terms for which incumbents have been appointed.

Finally, acting always within the authority and limitations of the Constitution, invading neither the rights of the States nor the reserved rights of the people, it will be the purpose of my Administration to maintain the authority of the nation in all places within its jurisdiction to enforce obedience to all the laws of the Union in the interests of the people to demand rigid economy in all the expenditures of the Government, and to require the honest and faithful service of all executive officers, remembering that the offices were created, not for the benefit of incumbents or their supporters, but for the service of the Government.

And now, fellow-citizens, I am about to assume the great trust which you have committed to my hands. I appeal to you for that earnest and thoughtful support which makes this Government in fact, as it is in law, a government of the people.

I shall greatly rely upon the wisdom and patriotism of Congress and of those who may share with me the responsibilities and duties of administration, and, above all, upon our efforts to promote the welfare of this great people and their Government I reverently invoke the support and blessings of Almighty God.

Donald Trump's Radical Foreign Policy

The Republican nominee doesn’t just disagree with Democrats—his ideas represent a break with a long list of policies that have won bipartisan support for decades.

The word “unprecedented” gets thrown around a lot in conversations about Donald Trump’s presidential run. It’s a risky label to affix: History doesn’t always validate its use, and besides, the term has become diluted unto meaninglessness through constant repetition.

To understand the ways in which Trump’s candidacy represents a break from decades of U.S. foreign-policy consensus—including in most, though not all cases, Republican orthodoxy—it’s more useful to follow the old axiom of show-don’t-tell with an inventory of the policy proposals Trump has suggested, juxtaposing them with the old, agreed-upon approach. Here’s a cheat sheet on the GOP nominee’s divergences from the established path.

Hacking and Sovereignty

The existing consensus: U.S. sovereignty is paramount. Foreign government attempts to undermine American sovereignty—for example, through hacking into government officials’ email systems—is an unacceptable violation.

What Trump says: In a July 27 press conference, Trump expressed his belief that Russian-government agents may have hacked then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails, and said that would be a good thing: “By the way, if they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted. Because you’d see some beauties there.” He added: “I will tell you this: Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Those comments earned immediate backlash, including from many Republicans, who said foreign governments should stay out of U.S. elections. One George W. Bush-era National Security Council member even called it “tantamount to treason.” Max Fisher interviewed experts who were gobsmacked. “Being shocked into speechlessness is not the sort of thing you’re really used to in the business of foreign policy analysis,” one told him.

International Alliances

The existing consensus: The United States’ international alliances are an essential part of the post-World War II system. That includes bilateral ties, such as the “special relationship” with the United Kingdom collective organizations, especially NATO and the United Nations. These organizations are essential for preventing another world war, ensuring global peace, and protecting American interests. Some of these premises have been disputed. Some observers viewed NATO as potentially obsolete following the fall of the Soviet Union it was constructed to contain, but the increasing bellicosity of Vladimir Putin has imbued the alliance with new importance as a bulwark against Russian expansionism in Ukraine, Georgia, and Eastern Europe. The George W. Bush administration bridled against UN involvement in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, and appointed John Bolton—an outspoken critic of the organization—as U.S. ambassador. But even Bolton saw a role for the UN. Among the U.S.’s allies, Britain is universally considered to be the U.S.’s closest and most important.

What Trump says: Trump has repeatedly questioned the utility and relevance of NATO. He has argued that the United States is overstretched, and that its allies must contribute more to their own defense. Asked whether he would back NATO member states in the Baltics if they were attacked by Russia, for example, Trump replied, “Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.” Asked whether he would back Russian annexation of Crimea, he said, “Yes. We would be looking at that.” (It’s hard to know how seriously to take that Trump responds that he would “look at” or “look into” any number of things.) Bolton pronounced himself “disturbed” by the remarks NATO members, especially in Eastern Europe, hastened to highlight their contributions. Trump was even more critical of the UN, though he made the comments while speaking to AIPAC, which deplores the UN’s typical stances on Israel. “The United Nations is not a friend of democracy,” Trump said. “It's not a friend to freedom. It's not a friend even to the United States of America, where as all know, it has its home.” As for the United Kingdom, Trump blithely dismissed the special relationship prior to Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation. “It looks like we're not going to have a very good relationship, who knows?” he said in response to Cameron’s criticism of his proposal to ban Muslims entering the United States as “divisive, stupid, and wrong.” Paradoxically, Trump also complains that under Barack Obama’s leadership, “Our friends are beginning to think they can’t depend on us.”

American Foreign Involvement and Military Deployment

The existing consensus: The U.S has an important role to play in maintaining global stability—a large role, unequaled by any other nation on the face of the earth, and an obligation that comes with both privileges and obligations. While leaders disagree on the scope and depth of those obligations, they generally take a globalist view. U.S. military bases around the world are an essential part of projecting American power, protecting democracy and freedom, and ensuring peace and stability. This is especially true of bases in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan, which keep a check on Russia and also afford easy access to South Asia in the volatile Middle East and in South Korea, where U.S. troops deter North Korean aggression. American bases in Japan are also important to East Asian stability, especially in the face of a newly aggressive China. Japan has maintained a small, mostly defensive military since 1945.

What Trump says: Trump has proposed a sweeping realignment under the banner he calls “America First,” a wide-ranging retrenchment that draws back U.S. presence around the globe. American resources are overextended, and allies need to do more to pay for their own defense. “We have spent trillions of dollars over time—on planes, missiles, ships, equipment—building up our military to provide a strong defense for Europe and Asia,” he said. “The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense—and, if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.” (See: International Alliances, above.) “At some point, we cannot be the policeman of the world,” he told The New York Times. He has suggested pulling back American troops from various places, especially South Korea, where he questioned the utility of U.S. bases, without which “maybe you would have had a unified Korea. Who knows what would have happened? In the meantime, what have we done? So we’ve kept peace, but in the meantime we’ve let North Korea get stronger and stronger.” Trump also said he would speak with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, apparently without preconditions, and accept a visit to the United States by him. The offer of conversation alarmed even close Trump confidants. Despite insisting the U.S. cannot afford to maintain so many bases, Trump has promised to spend heavily on rebuilding the U.S. armed forces. “We will spend what we need to rebuild our military,” he said. “It is the cheapest investment we can make. We will develop, build and purchase the best equipment known to mankind. Our military dominance must be unquestioned.”

Nuclear Proliferation

The existing consensus: For decades, the United States has publicly opposed nuclear proliferation not only for enemies but for friends. A long line of American presidents have also worked to decrease the world’s stocks of nuclear weapons.

What Trump says: Trump has publicly supported a large expansion in nuclear proliferation around the globe. While decrying Iranian and North Korean efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, he has suggested that other countries should adopt them. For example, he said that if Japan had nuclear weapons (which are banned under its post-World War II constitution) it could defend itself against North Korea. “If Japan had that nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us,” he has said. He also said he’d accept a nuclear Saudi Arabia. “Can I be honest with you?” he said during one debate. “It's going to happen, anyway. It's going to happen anyway. It's only a question of time.”


The existing consensus: American politics has generally been very favorable to free trade, believing that open markets and no protectionism provide the largest possible market for American goods and offer U.S. consumers the lowest prices, a good win-win for the world. Free trade has been a central credo of the Republican Party for years, but Democrats have for the most part endorsed it, too. President Bill Clinton signed NAFTA into law President Obama has pursued the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While some politicians have called for better protections for American workers, from retraining and aid to “fair trade” conditions, protectionism has mostly become a dirty word, with economists mostly arguing that large tariffs would increase costs for American buyers and ignite trade wars.

What Trump says: Opposition to free trade has become one of Trump’s defining policy ideas. He is part of a growing backlash to free trade Senator Bernie Sanders spoke out against trade deals, and Hillary Clinton, under pressure from Sanders, has now said she opposes the TPP that she once backed. Still, Trump is distinctive. “If I don’t get a change, I would pull out of NAFTA in a split second,” he told the Times. He opposes TPP. He has promised to close the U.S. trade deficit by levying high tariffs on foreign goods, at one point saying he’d impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods. He has also proposed large tariffs as a punishment for American companies that move manufacturing overseas, though he won’t say how big. “It would be 35 percent, it may be 10 percent, it may be five percent, it may be 20 percent,” he told The Detroit News.


The existing consensus: Torture is bad, both as a moral matter and as policy, because it’s unlikely to elicit useful, actionable intelligence. This norm has been severely challenged in recent decades. During the George W. Bush administration, the government approved “enhanced interrogation techniques” that nearly all disinterested observers labeled torture. Some Republicans—notably Senator John McCain, who was tortured as a POW in Vietnam—continued to oppose torture. President Obama barred the Bush-era techniques, and a Senate panel condemned their use, but some advocates criticized Obama for not prosecuting anyone.

What Trump says: Trump has been an outspoken proponent of torture throughout the presidential campaign. “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work—torture works,” he said in February. He said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” Trump has said that rules constricting the U.S. are impeding the fight against ISIS: “We are playing by rules, but they have no rules. It's very hard to win when that’s the case.” In June, he told NH1, “We’re going to have to be a lot sharper and we’re going to have to do things that are unthinkable almost.” More broadly, Trump was asked point-blank on June 27 whether the Geneva Conventions, the international accords governing law of war, prisoners of war, and more, were outdated. “I think everything’s out of date. We have a whole new world,” he said.

Middle East Policy

The existing consensus: There are few areas of the world and foreign policy where U.S. leaders have been so divided as in the Middle East, but a few lodestars of agreement exist. For example, Americans (even those critical of Israeli policy on some matters) have long viewed Israel as the most essential ally in the region, a beacon of democracy. U.S. policy has backed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the U.S. has worked sporadically to convene peace talks, but has sided with Israel in most talks. They have also treated Saudi Arabia as an important ally—a distasteful one, run by a backward, brutal, theocracy, but essential to regional stability and oil supplies. Finally, Iran has been viewed as a dangerous threat that should not be allowed to acquire the nuclear weapons it so badly desires. Top U.S. officials have tended to take a fairly hawkish stance. Many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, joined with Republicans to back the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

What Trump says: Trump has been wildly self-contradictory on Israel. He has complained that President Obama has been “the worst thing that ever happened to Israel.” But his own statements have rattled Israeli leaders. Trump has refused to commit to either a one- or two-state solution. “Well, I think a lot of people are saying it’s going to result in a two-state solution,” he told the Times. “I’m not saying anything. What I’m going to do is, you know, I specifically don’t want to address the issue because I would love to see if a deal could be made.” He said he wanted to be “sort of a neutral guy,” but has also insisted, “There’s nobody more pro-Israel than I am.” Like many American policymakers, Trump is now critical of both the war in Iraq and the U.S. intervention in Libya, though he supported both of them at the time. Like Clinton, he has promised to take a hard line on ISIS but has offered few details. (He says he has a foolproof plan, but doesn’t want to tip the group off.) Trump has been highly critical of Obama’s deal with Iran to stave off nuclear arms, a position on which he agrees with most Republicans. Trump has threatened to stop buying oil from Saudi Arabia and withdraw protection if the kingdom doesn’t ante up more money. “We lose monetarily, everywhere. And yet, without us, Saudi Arabia wouldn’t exist for very long,” he said.


The existing consensus: Europe writ large remains an important partner for the United States. In addition to the United Kingdom, Western Europeans countries like Germany and France are close allies. The European Union is an important economic power and guarantor of stability on the continent, and it should be strengthened. President Obama spoke out against Brexit, the referendum of the UK leaving the EU, as well as against a Scottish independence referendum in 2014.

Since Emancipation, the United States Has Refused to Make Reparations for Slavery

March 23, 2020

Free at last: This illustration, “Celebration of the Abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia by the Colored People, in Washington, April 19, 1866,” by Frederick Dielman, was published in Harper’s Weekly in 1866. (Getty Images)

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In 1870 a black woman named Henrietta Wood sued the white deputy sheriff who, nearly two decades earlier, kidnapped her from the free state of Ohio, illegally transported her to slaveholding Kentucky, and sold her into a life of enslavement that endured until the end of the Civil War. Lawyers for the defendant argued that Wood’s claim to reparations for decades of unpaid labor was barred by a statute of limitations. Nearly 150 years later, as Congress prepared to hear testimony on the idea of reparations, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell offered much the same argument. “I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” he said, before ticking off the Civil War, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the election of Barack Obama as evidence that any debts owed to the descendants of the enslaved have already been largely paid. “I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that.” 1

Whether five years after Emancipation or a century and a half later, whether the claimants were the formerly enslaved or their descendants, the United States has steadfastly refused at nearly every opportunity to provide recompense for slavery and its disastrous legacy. The country reneged on its post-Emancipation promise of 40 acres and a mule just a few months after making it. In the 1890s, the federal government brutally crushed a national campaign to give freed black people pension plans. And for nearly each of the last 30 years, Congress has rejected a bill that would merely create a commission to study the consequences of slavery and consider the impact of reparations. 2

“Any legislation that sought to put black people on an equal footing has been ultimately, if not strangled in the crib, slowly starved,” historian Carroll Gibbs, the author of Black, Copper, & Bright: The District of Columbia’s Black Civil War Regiment, told me. “It’s important to understand that what makes the argument hollow—that it’s too late to do anything because everybody’s dead now—is that the US refused to do it when everyone was still alive.” 3

Instead, the US government supported and enshrined into law policies that further entrenched white supremacy. Case in point: The only reparations program enacted by the federal government doled out the 2020 equivalent of over $23 million in Treasury Department funds—not to the formerly enslaved but to their white enslavers. 4

In April 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, a congressional bill abolishing slavery in Washington, DC. Less than half a year earlier, he proposed similar legislation in Delaware that stalled in the state’s House of Representatives. Under the DC law—the first emancipation legislation in this country’s history—enslavers were eligible to receive up to $300 for each person they were legally obliged to liberate. (I use the term “enslaver” rather than “slave owner” because it acknowledges the active role those individuals played in keeping human beings locked in a brutal and violent institution. And while the reductive term “slave” has historically been used to strip black people of their humanity, referring to an “enslaved person” makes clear that bondage was a legally enforced position.) No such provision was made for DC’s newly freed black population. Instead, seeing no more use for them, the government offered formerly enslaved people funds only if they agreed to relocate to Haiti, Liberia, “or such other country beyond the limits of the United States.” For this act of self-deportation from the land they had made an economic powerhouse, payment would “not exceed one hundred dollars for each emigrant.” 5

Almost no freed people took up the government on its insulting offer, but DC-area enslavers submitted 966 petitions in the months following the law’s passage. In accordance with eligibility requirements, each filer declared loyalty to the Union and presented itemized descriptions—essentially, invoices—of those they’d enslaved, assigning estimated dollar amounts to each human being. Lincoln empaneled a three-person commission to render a final judgment on the monetary merit of each petition and thus on the black lives described therein. 6

T he trio of DC-based commissioners decided that their first order of business was to locate someone well acquainted with the task of putting price tags on human beings. The Civil War, now entering its second year, disrupted the retail market for enslaved people, causing instability in pricing. Further, the trading of enslaved people—meaning the literal and legal sale of humans from one enslaver to another—was banned in Washington, DC, under the Compromise of 1850. “There are few persons, especially in a community like Washington, where slavery has been for many years an interest of comparatively trifling importance, who possess the knowledge and discrimination as to the value of slaves,” the commission mused in its written report. This area of unpreparedness, the commissioners feared, might interfere with their ability to assess the “just apportionment of compensation” to which enslavers were entitled. Driven by sympathetic concern for the hardships of enslavers denied the legal right to enslave—and to avoid what they unironically referred to as the “interminable labor” of accurately guesstimating people’s worth—the commission brought on Bernard M. Campbell, “an experienced dealer in slaves from Baltimore.” 7

Broken promise: The US government reneged on Gen. William T. Sherman’s order to provide “40 acres and a mule” to formerly enslaved people, forcing millions into sharecropping. (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

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According to the law, petitioners needed to “produce” the enslaved people for whom they requested compensation, and Campbell’s duties included conducting physical examinations to determine their value, just as at auctions. But the rule of an in-person appearance was often waived. “Many [freed people] left immediately” when Emancipation was announced in the district, seeking out paid work with the military and in parts farther north. Others had run away before the act became law, and in a few cases, enslaved people died just after Lincoln signed the bill. 8

“Under such circumstances,” the commissioners determined, “it would be manifestly unjust to withhold compensation on account of the inability of the claimant to produce” the enslaved person they claimed. The panel decided enslavers deserved compensation if the people they’d enslaved had escaped no more than two years prior. Petitioners were also asked to include “written evidence” substantiating their claims, but submissions lacking that proof ran little risk of being rejected. This “liberal construction of the act,” the commissioners wrote, sprang from the desire to free the most people (and, of course, pay the most enslavers) without paperwork getting in the way. But the laxity with which this rule was applied highlighted one of the many horrific aspects of enslavement: the ease with which white claims to black bodies and lives could be made. 9

“Slaves were held, owned, and mistreated so callously that there quite often was not a legal basis for their ownership,” says Kenneth Winkle, a historian at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and co-director of the research project Civil War Washington. “Slave owners were asked to provide records or bills of sale or receipts or some paperwork. Most of them simply said, ‘I’ve misplaced it’ or ‘I’m not sure I ever had any.’ A white person could claim ownership of an African-American as a slave based on the testimony of two other white people, with no paperwork necessary.” 10

Putting a price on human beings: Horatio King was a member of the commission adjudicating claims under the District of Columbia’s 1862 Compensated Emancipation Act. (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

The Compensated Emancipation Act did not grant automatic emancipation to enslaved people not named in petitions, and some enslavers did not file for compensation by the act’s 90-day deadline, many of them pro-slavery Confederate sympathizers who had no intention of emancipating those they enslaved. To address these cases, Congress passed the Supplementary Act in July 1862, which allowed black folks to submit petitions pleading for their own emancipation and to testify and serve as witnesses—the first time African Americans were allowed to do so in federal proceedings. More than 160 claims were filed by people the commissioners described as “held to service in the District of Columbia by reason of African descent.” 11

Winkle and his colleagues at Civil War Washington have meticulously cataloged, digitized, transcribed, and posted online nearly all of the petitions filed under the Compensated Emancipation Act. No matter how much you may know about the violence, cruelty, depravity, and terror of slavery, those horrors are revealed anew in the petitions filed. The petitioners’ responses to the bureaucratic formality of noting how they “acquired” other human beings as their property leads to firsthand accounts of black people ripped from their families, treated like hand-me-downs, and enslaved by dint of birth. One claimant wrote that an enslaved woman named “Ann Williams [was] acquired by marriage forty years ago” and that her grandson, Albert Hollyday, “was born while his mother (Eliza since sold) was owned by me.” Another enslaver (this time a woman, of which there were many) reported that a black woman identified only as Delilah was “willed to me by my father in 1816” and that “while my slave and in my survace [sic] Delilah had a daughter named Amanda who while my slave and in my survace [sic] became the mother of said Casper & William,” two young men for whom she requested $450 and $350, respectively. 12

Enslaved people are listed by name in the petitions, a rarity in documents from the era. That omission was intentional and institutional: Recording the names of the enslaved threatened to confer personhood, and the denial of humanity was the bedrock on which black chattel slavery rested. Erasure of black people from the American historical record is partly located in the practice of reducing the enslaved to nameless head counts or dollar amounts, an obliteration of black existence that continues to impede African American efforts at heritage and genealogical research. Even this tiny recognition of black humanity was conceded only in exchange for federal dollars. 13

The degrading reduction of black human beings to what were deemed salable traits is both the most salient horror in the petitions and the entire reason for the exercise. Petitioners described the old, the very young, and the sick as having “no value,” rendered worthless by a market that no longer had a way to exploit them. Just as horrifying are the price tags affixed by petitioners to enslaved people for whom they hoped to receive top dollar. Through descriptions of enslaved people’s physical and mental characteristics, the petitioners provided justifications for their compensation claims, highlighting what the commissioners labeled “their intrinsic utility to their owners.” Ironically, these reductive descriptions provide rare glimpses of the human beings named, the lives they lived, and the circumstances they endured. 14

Linda Harris, for example, is described as a “slave for life,” of “olive brown complexion with full suit of hair, free spoken and intelligent.” Her enslaver writes that Linda is “honest” and “an excellent cook, washerwoman or nurse. During the past year she has had occasional attacks of rheumatism and is at intervals troubled with weakness of the breast, but has never been compelled to abandon her usual duties.” (As if, one thinks, she had a choice.) Linda’s estimated worth is given as $800. Her enslaver was paid $306.60 for her. 15

The petition: Linda Harris’s enslaver received $306.60 for emancipating her. (National Archives via Civil War Washington)

William Alexander Johnson, 22 years old, is described as 5 feet 8 inches tall and “a skillful mechanic, very ingenious in every branch of mechanism…employed in making models for patents, in making and repairing mathematical instruments.” His enslaver requested $2,000 for him she was compensated in the amount of $657. 16

Twenty-three-year-old Margaret E. Taylor was the mother of 5-year-old Annie and infant Fanny, both of whom are described as being of “mulatto color.” Their male enslaver notes that “both [were] born while their said mother was held to said service or labor by your Petitioner.” He was given $569.40 for the woman and her children, with Fanny garnering just $21.90. 17

Gibbs told me that, in addition to the dehumanizing nature of the process, he was consistently struck by the way the descriptions counter the narrative that enslaved people were mentally feeble or lazy. “Despite the claims of proslavery [advocates],” he said, “we’re looking at people whom their masters described in many cases as worthy, competent, skilled.” 18

Philip Reid is described in a petition as 42 years old, “not prepossessing in appearance, but smart in mind,” and formerly “employed…by the Government.” He was a skilled artisan who helped cast DC’s Statue of Freedom and whose ingenuity succeeded in placing the bronze figure atop the Capitol, where it stands today. For his 33 weeks of labor without respite, Reid was paid $1.25 per day. He was allowed to keep only his Sunday wages the rest went to his enslaver, Clark Mills. In his claim, Mills requested $1,500 in compensation for Reid. He received $350.40. 19

“The primary drawback in consulting these records is that most of them were compiled by the slave owners, not by the slaves themselves,” Winkle said. “So this becomes a huge exercise in reading between the lines, so to speak, and certainly not taking this information at face value but analyzing it before putting the pieces together to try to create an authentic collective portrait of who these slaves were, how they lived their lives, and what they accomplished. And surviving slavery was an incredible accomplishment.” He added that the petitions represent “just over 3,300 slaves in the District of Columbia. I always say it’s one-tenth of 1 percent of all the slaves in the American South, but we see them. They are named. We can see them as individuals.” 20

Seeking justice: In 1870, Sojourner Truth petitioned Congress for land reparations. (National Portrait Gallery)

“Self-petitions” from enslaved African Americans requesting their freedom, many of them written by white pro bono lawyers, provide yet more insight. Phillip Meredith, a 30-year-old black man, lists his enslaver of 30 years as “General Robert Lee.” A corroborating witness notes the general was “formerly of U.S. Army now in Rebel service.” Meredith’s petition was approved. 21

A more heartrending story is told through the “self-petition” of Mary A. Prather on behalf of herself and her 3-year-old son, Arthur. “Mary says she had permission” from her enslaver to be hired out, according to testimony, but that permission was later rescinded, making her a fugitive and thus ineligible for emancipation under the act. Mary’s and Arthur’s names appear in the commissioners’ report among those “from whom certificates have been withheld.” 22

Washington Childs wrote in his “self-petition” that he was 33 years old, 6 feet 2 inches tall, with “a large hair mole on the right side of his chin.” He indicated that he was hired out in Washington, DC, “nearly or quite five years last past” by his Virginian enslaver, who would have received all of his wages during that time. His enslaver provided a letter of support for Childs’s emancipation to be presented to the commission. Included in the missive is a citation of an outstanding debt of $60, along with the galling request that Childs pay it off by sending “a barrel of good sugar & sacks of coffee and 2 bolts of cotton & [a] pound of best Tea, that is if you can send the tea & cotton by express.” 23

His emancipation was granted, and his enslaver was not compensated. But the overwhelming majority of those who submitted compensation claims succeeded in getting funds—often in amounts lower than requested, but at times up to $788. The compensation given to white enslavers helped maintain their financial security and the continuation of white supremacy and power. 24

“Let’s look at the fortunes of the larger holders of enslaved people—for example, George Washington Young, the largest slaveholder in the district, or Margaret Barber, the second largest,” Gibbs told me. “Barber’s farm, North View, is now the site of the US vice president’s house and the Naval Observatory. She was able to use the money [from the act] and parlay it and invest it.” Another, Ann Biscoe, “had an employment bureau, essentially. She made good money leasing out the enslaved people who were under her control. When compensated emancipation came, she still made out fairly well.” 25

E ight months after passage of the Compensated Emancipation Act, during his Second Annual Message to Congress, Lincoln proposed a gradual expansion of the policy to any state that freed its enslaved people by the year 1900—a plan that would have condemned enslaved black folks to four more decades of backbreaking, brutally extracted labor and exploitation. Compensation for the formerly enslaved never even came up. Instead, Lincoln again floated the idea that freed black folks could be consensually expatriated to “Liberia and Hayti.” The plan, of course, was not enacted. On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which applied only to the treasonous Confederate states, over which the Union had no jurisdiction. Slavery wasn’t fully abolished until nearly three years later, with the ratification of the 13th Amendment. 26

Stolen land, stolen freedom: A sharecropper plowing in Montgomery, Alabama. (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

In January 1865, the United States undertook the “40 acres and a mule” reparations program, distributing 400,000 acres of Southern coastal land confiscated from disloyal Confederates to freed black families in plots of “not more than forty (40) acres of tillable ground.” (Union Gen. William T. Sherman, who issued the initial order, also authorized distribution of old Army mules.) Historian and former US Commission on Civil Rights chair Mary Frances Berry noted that by June of 1865, “40,000 freedmen had been settled” on the land and were already “growing crops.” Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, cruelly reversed the policy, evicting the land’s black occupants and returning their properties to the white Confederate enslavers who had attacked the Union. Many of those black folks would be forced into sharecropping, a Jim Crow form of slavery in all but name. 27

American history has since been marked by too many calls for reparations to list, each rebuffed in turn by the US government. In 1870, Sojourner Truth unsuccessfully petitioned Congress for land reparations, stating, “I shall make them understand that there is a debt to the Negro people which they can never repay. At least, then, they must make amends.” Walter Vaughan, a white slavery apologist who believed black dollars would ultimately fatten white Southern pockets, wrote an 1890 bill to give freed people pensions like those granted to Civil War veterans. Introduced in Congress by Nebraska Representative William J. Connell, Vaughan’s “ex-slave pension bill” died before becoming law, as did eight other reparations proposals introduced between 1896 and 1903. During the same period, a formerly enslaved woman and mother of five named Callie House cofounded the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association. In 1915, the group sued the US Treasury for $68 million, the estimated amount of taxes collected on cotton between 1862 and 1868. A lower tribunal and the Supreme Court cited government immunity in dismissing the suit. For her temerity, House was charged with mail fraud, convicted by an all-white jury, and sentenced to a year in the Missouri State Penitentiary. Nearly 50 years later, reparations advocate Audley “Queen Mother” Moore secured enough petition signatures—over 1 million—to compel President John F. Kennedy to meet with her, but no legal remedies followed. The US District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a 1995 reparations lawsuit, and the Supreme Court declined to hear a 2007 class action case against corporations that benefited from black enslavement. 28

In 2019 the House of Representatives held a hearing on HR 40—the number refers to Sherman’s unfulfilled promise of land—a bill that was introduced in every Congress from 1989 to 2017 by Michigan Representative John Conyers. Unceremoniously killed in committee for nearly 30 years, HR 40 would not compel federal payouts to the descendants of enslaved people but instead would merely impanel a commission to examine the impact of “slavery and its continuing vestiges.” In taking up the bill’s sponsorship, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee noted that it would help illuminate the statistics that show the “stunning chasm between the destinies of White America and that of Black America.” For example, the median wealth of white families is currently estimated at $171,000 for black families, it is $17,600—approximately a tenfold difference. Fewer than 10 percent of white families have zero or negative net worth, while nearly 20 percent of black households do. Discrimination against black people in mortgage lending, historically and today, has hobbled opportunities for homeownership, the source of two-thirds of equity for American households and one of the most reliable forms of intergenerational wealth. And while we’re on the subject of black folks being denied property, it seems like a good moment to note that if those 40 acres and a mule had been distributed as promised, the land would be worth about $6.4 trillion today. 29

MORE FROM Kali Holloway

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If there were an actual interest in ending those disparities, Congress would at the very least support studying the numbers. Instead, opponents of HR 40 argue against even investigating the issue. That opposition, including McConnell’s dismissive remarks, demonstrates the ahistorical American self-mythologizing at the heart of the country’s bitter opposition to slavery reparations. The Senate leader and his ilk are fighting an ideological war to defend the lie that slavery was a historical anomaly, an inconsequential blip on an American moral arc that always otherwise bends toward racial justice. It’s an attempt to rewrite history, omitting how the denial of reparations shortchanged black freedom and omitting the policies of Jim Crow, redlining, mass incarceration, and unstinting white terror against black success. Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author of the highly influential 2014 Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations,” directly addressed McConnell—whose family enslaved black human beings—in his testimony on HR 40. “We recognize our lineage as a generational trust, as inheritance, and the real dilemma posed by reparations is just that: a dilemma of inheritance,” Coates stated. “It is impossible to imagine America without the inheritance of slavery.” 30

R ecognition of this fact has very slowly dawned on a smattering of institutions. Yale, Brown, Harvard, William & Mary, and more than 50 other members of the Universities Studying Slavery consortium have acknowledged the role of black enslavement in their early funding, founding, construction, and maintenance. (The collective includes schools in Britain, which also gave reparations solely to enslavers the taxpayer-funded payments of $3.9 billion ended only in 2015.) To atone for their ties to slavery, Virginia Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Georgetown University have all established reparations funds. In November 2019 legislators in Evanston, Illinois, voted to use taxes on legalized marijuana to pay reparations to a community “unfairly policed and damaged” by the War on Drugs. And in 2005, JPMorgan Chase apologized for its connections to black chattel slavery and established a $5 million scholarship fund for black students. In 2019 then–presidential hopeful Cory Booker introduced a reparations bill in the Senate that was cosponsored by fellow candidates at the time Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Amy Klobuchar, as well as current candidate Bernie Sanders. 31

Henrietta Wood, the woman who sued for reparations just five years after the end of the Civil War, won her case, although she received only a fraction of her original demand—in itself far less than she was owed, which was a price too great to be quantified. Her story remains a near singular example of US willingness to make some form of reparation for black enslavement. Like many who have studied the enslavement of black people in the United States and its destructive legacy on black lives, Kenneth Winkle believes there should be an effort to study reparations and determine some kind of corrective. 32

“There must be recompense for descendants of slaves,” Winkle says. “I’m a historian, and I devote most of my thoughts to the past and probably too little to the present. And I’m not certain what that compensation can or should consist of—but there needs to be an official recognition of the injustice that Americans collectively inflicted, at the time of their emancipation, on about 4 million African Americans who survived to be able to enjoy their emancipation, and the government participated in committing that injustice.” 33

What is so often labeled America’s “original sin” is, in fact, a wrong this country continues to commit. Reparations would not only represent a genuine effort to redress the United States’ long history of racial discrimination, white terror and anti-black lawmaking but also a recognition of the ongoing harm this country inflicts against its African American citizens. 34

Kali Holloway Kali Holloway is a columnist for The Nation and the director of the Make It Right Project, a new national campaign to take down Confederate monuments and tell the truth about history. Her writing has appeared in Salon, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Time, AlterNet, Truthdig, The Huffington Post, The National Memo, Jezebel, Raw Story, and numerous other outlets.


  1. Amazu

    You know that every effect has its causes. Everything happens, everything that happens is all for the best. If it were not for this, it is not a fact that it would be better.

  2. Psusennes

    I think, that you commit an error. I can prove it. Write to me in PM.

  3. Aescford

    I think you are not right. Enter we'll discuss it. Write to me in PM.

  4. Micheil

    I apologize, but it's not quite what I need.

  5. Thuc

    Willingly I accept. In my opinion, it is an interesting question, I will take part in discussion.Together we can come to a right answer. I am assured.

  6. Olivier

    Excuse me, I have thought and has removed the question

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