FOREIGN AID AND JIHAD. I really, really think we ought to boost foreign aid, but I'm uncomfortable with this sort of analogy:

Truman also believed that spreading democracy required combating economic despair. He allocated between 2.5 and 5 percent of U.S. national income over four years to the Marshall Plan, in the belief that unless Europe's fragile postwar democracies improved their people's lives, they were likely to fail. Then, in his 1949 State of the Union address, he went further and proposed a Marshall Plan for the Third World. In fact, while Truman increased military spending, he and his advisers repeatedly described economic development as more important to the anti-communist cause.

This is true, but there's an important difference between then and now. Communism was an ideology primarily about economics. It purported to offer the world's poor a higher material standard of living. Thus, to check its appeal it was crucial to try and demonstrate that market democracies could offer high and rising levels of prosperity. Accomplishing this involved a combination of foreign aid and various state interventions aimed at securing social justice within a context of markets and private property ownership. Osama bin Laden's message isn't like that. No doubt conditions of poverty and despair contribute to the sentiments jihadists draw on, but economics isn't their primary concern -- salvation and foreign domination of Muslim lands are. Presumably there's nothing we can do to argue that America's offers a better path to salvation, but that leaves imperialism, rather than poverty, as the main redressable grievance we could be combining with direct military measures.

--Matthew Yglesias

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