Reagan’s Secretary of State: Why Foreign Assistance Still Matters

September 15, 2015 By USGLC

President Reagan valued U.S. foreign assistance as a critical tool in his commitment to “peace through strength” and the fight for freedom around the world.

“You know the excuses,” said Reagan, who opposed those in Congress who sought to reduce or eliminate the International Affairs Budget. “We can’t afford foreign aid anymore, or we’re wasting money pouring it into these poor countries, or we can’t buy friends—other countries just take the money and dislike us for giving it. Well, all these excuses are just that, excuses—and they’re dead wrong.”

His remarks were made almost 28 years ago, but those words still hold true today. George Shultz, Secretary of State during the Reagan administration, spoke with the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition two days before the 2016 GOP presidential candidates take the debate stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The 1980s saw a host of difficult foreign policy issues, but during the Reagan period, “people knew we were strong, and we would use strength if we needed to,” said Shultz. Our nation’s leading role in the world wasn’t just due to our military strength; it was also in “very strong diplomatic actions.”

Shultz noted “what happens elsewhere has a big impact on us… we’re part of the world whether we like it or not.” Development and diplomacy provide the U.S. with “a big bang for the buck,” said Shultz. Reagan supported spending 0.6 percent of GDP on foreign assistance. Today, we spend half of that by the same measure.

Read more about Reagan on foreign assistance here.