Assessing the State of the Union

Roger Bate | 24 Jan 2024
National Review Online
An NRO Symposium

On Tuesday, President George W. Bush delivered his next to last State of the Union address. National Review Online asked a group of experts to react. Here's how they responded.

Roger Bate
The president says that "American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy." He is partly right. His administration has done more to support development 'in nations where democracy is on the rise and corruption is in retreat' through the Millennium Challenge Account, and improve health through direct interventions to fight HIV and malaria, than any previous President or other World leader.

Half those treated (800,000) for HIV around the world are paid for by U.S. taxpayers, and his initiative on malaria is blazing a trail for better policy — notably the adoption of DDT spraying. His call for Congressional support for these programs (about $5bn per year) is warranted.

However, his administration's diplomacy often undermines this development work. I am not qualified to judge whether U.S. support for Ethiopia's recent invasion of Somalia was warranted. But I know that Ethiopia's president is a thug, and expanding support (even for malaria and HIV control as is planned) to this Marxist regime sends an unfortunate mixed message to other countries of Africa.

For 40 years, U.S. involvement in Africa is replete with failure; examples of where yesterday's realpolitik is today's idiocy. His administration must endeavor to only support those countries which will use that support wisely, rather than temporarily useful allies, or more billions of dollars and millions of lives will be wasted.

Roger Bate is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a director of the health advocacy group Africa Fighting Malaria.