Tuesday, April 28, 2015

National Security and Poverty: Part 1

I have been researching poverty in the U.S. with an eye toward looking at how the U.S. approach to fighting the "War on Poverty" is impacting its ability to modernize its military to deal with "war" that involves the employment of violence to achieve state aims, especially self-defense.

In order to look poverty, it is useful to have a discussion about what poverty looks like in places other than the U.S. In the following Midrats interview, Alexander Martin, working with Nuru International, "a nonprofit organization whose mission is to end extreme poverty in remote rural areas," in Kenya gives a great description of what physical poverty means in that place and in this time. The pertinent discussion begins about 20 minutes in, but I recommend listening to the whole show. Poverty limits choices in life " . . . because you just can't make any choice past that choice of just trying to feed yourself . . ."

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Somewhere in the interview I mentioned an African economist who has suggested that "foreign aid" as it is constituted is not helping Africa climb out of poverty. That man is a Kenyan, James Shikwati. An interview with him in the German magazine Der Spiegel from 2005 can be found here:


Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It's only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it's not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa ...

SPIEGEL: ... corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers ...

Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.

This video should roll into parts 2 and 3 automatically.

UPDATE: See also:
Poverty Inc website here.

UPDATE2: Fixed the last video embed.

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