There is no softer target in GOP primaries than the United Nations and foreign-aid spending. Nonetheless, it is worth asking whether a blanket "Cut this now!" approach really makes sense, even in a year when cutting federal spending is a necessity. Let's consider what the Republican presidential candidates are saying, and ask what "foreign aid" is anyway.
Perhaps surprisingly, there are stark differences between the candidates on foreign aid. Ron Paul has the clearest position: Cut it all. As Paul put it at the Republican debate on October 18, foreign aid "should be the easiest thing to cut. It's not authorized in the Constitution that we can take money from you and give it to particular countries around the world. To me, foreign aid is taking money from poor people in this country and giving it to rich people in poor countries. . . . No matter how well-motivated it is . . . I would cut all foreign aid."
Such an approach leaves Paul alone in the field, in that he wants to cut military aid to Israel as well as assistance to other countries. More typical is Herman Cain, who in the same debate said: "If we clarify who our friends are, clarify who our enemies are, and stop giving money to our enemies, then we ought to continue to give money to our friends, like Israel." Michele Bachmann agrees about Israel, calling it "our greatest ally" in 2008, but made clear that it is an exception: "The United States is the most generous nation on earth. We have to have a balancing act between our benevolence and our prosperity. ...