Most people are the most generous with their closest friends.
But that’s not how the U.S. government operates. In fact, if you’re a foreign government and want more money from the United States, you might want to start encouraging your people to hate the United States a bit more.
That’s one takeaway from the latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey. The study, conducted among some 330,000 people in 60 countries, asked respondents if they considered the United States an “enemy,” “partner” or “neutral.”
The countries with the highest percentage of citizens who consider the U.S. an “enemy” include several NATO partners like Turkey and Greece, as well as major non-NATO strategic allies like Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt and Argentina.
These countries receive a ton of “foreign assistance,” or direct cash grants from various U.S. government-backed programs like USAID. In most cases, they receive much more than their pro-U.S. counterparts.
The big exception to this is Israel, a longtime U.S. ally and friend, which receives by far the most foreign assistance of any country. But beyond that, the 13 countries that consider the U.S. an “enemy” at an above average rate (15 percent or more of the respondents in those countries consider us an “enemy”) receive 50 percent more aid than the 24 countries that hate us the least, according to the survey.
Over the past five years, for example, Pakistan has received several billion in aid and has some $1.1 billion earmarked for 2014, while Egypt stands to receive some $1.5 billion this year, according to the U.S. Foreign Assistance website. Contrast that with the Philippines, where 97 percent of the population considers us a “partner” or “neutral,” and yet it will receive only $188 million this year.
This may not be all that groundbreaking to policy wonks, diplomats and freewheeling overseas politicians like our friend Hamid in Kabul, whose Afghan government is on target to get more than $2 billion in aid this year. And, in the world of foreign relations anyway, if you’re trying to turn your enemies into friends, it’s standard practice to throw money at them.
At some point, however, one wonders if this is really just another expensive example of tail-chasing in U.S. foreign policy.