The US military dispenses billions of dollars to foreign forces
each year. Pentagon says the investment boosts diplomatic leverage,
citing the Egypt crisis. Critics say it does little to advance US
Each September, 130 troops from more than 90 countries begin nine
months of military instruction at the US Army Command and General
Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. They make field trips to
economically blighted neighborhoods and to the Truman Presidential
Library, to learn about the integration of the American military.
"What we're trying to get them to see from the outset is
openness, accepting responsibility for government or institutional
errors of the past," says Jim Fain, director of CGSC's international
military student division. This training of foreign officers makes
up an important portion of the military ASSISTANCE the Pentagon
extends to American allies.
Yet this assistance is now under close scrutiny as US-trained
militaries have been used by some of those allies to try to suppress
democratic uprisings by their people.
Given that unpleasant reality, plus the fact that the Pentagon
spends billions of dollars a year in foreign military aid, both the
public and defense analysts are asking anew: What can the American
military reasonably expect for giving such support?
"We have to look at whether [US military aid] even succeeds in
giving us benefits," says Christopher Preble, author of "The Power
Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less
Prosperous, and Less Free." Less ambiguous, he adds, are the costs:
"what we have paid - in tangible dollars, and in terms of our
The Pentagon, not surprisingly, hopes for a big return on its
investment: a bulwark against communism during the cold war, for
example, and against terrorist extremists after 9/11. The hard truth
is that such aid is, at best, a lever that can be used to try to
push a strategic ally - say, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, or Yemen - to
take greater account of US wishes than it might otherwise, many
defense analysts say. And it doesn't always work, they caution.
"The expectation has always been that countries that receive US
military aid and training will be bulwarks of stability and will
further US interests in a particular country or region," says Ted
Galen Carpenter, vice president for foreign-policy studies at the
libertarian CATO Institute. "Those expectations have often proved
If military aid buys less influence than the Pentagon imagines,
it can still have value. During the recent uprising in Egypt,
Pentagon leaders urged their Egyptian counterparts to exercise
restraint against protesters - and they did (though perhaps for
reasons of their own). Moreover, US law requires that aid be cut off
if the recipient nation is using it to commit human rights
violations - another leverage point.
"When you have personal relationships with very senior officers,
at times of crisis it gives you an ability to communicate easily,"
says Joseph Englehardt, a retired US Army colonel who served as US
defense attache in Cairo and Tehran in the 1970s.
Gen. James Mattis, head of the command responsible for the
Pentagon's operations in the Middle East, emphasized this point in
testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday,
noting that exchange programs, such as those at Fort Leavenworth,
provide the US military common cultural touchstones--with Egyptian
military officers who have completed these programs, for example--
that are strategically important to the Pentagon. He attributed the
ethical behavior of the Egyptian military to the time they spent in
US military war colleges. He added in his testimony that "it is
worth looking into" expanding such programs.
Still, there's no guarantee that billions in US military aid will
count with a foreign government when push comes to shove. …