Fighting on All Fronts; America Must Aid Morocco, before It's Too Late

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 24, 2003 | Go to article overview

Fighting on All Fronts; America Must Aid Morocco, before It's Too Late


Byline: Robert Satloff, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A recent State Department security warning urged all Americans abroad to make sure their cars have a full tank of gas. The message itself was odd: Is there really a Foggy Bottom office responsible for the level of petrol in every expatriate's gas tank? But the emphasis on prevention was wise. The Bush Administration's foreign aid request shows that not all our overseas allies merit the same interest as our overseas automobiles.

Imagine a populous Arab country that lies astride a strategic waterway through which much of the world's shipping - including U.S. Navy aircraft carriers - regularly passes.

This country has a progressive leadership that recently supervised an election universally recognized as free and fair. It also just won an encouraging evaluation from the International Monetary Fund for its economic management.

This country, an unabashed ally in the war on terror, even sends its intelligence officers to help ours in Guantanamo Bay. It does this despite having to face a growing and assertive Islamist movement, whose most radical elements frequently pop up as al-Qaeda operatives and whose moderate wing just tripled its parliamentary representation.

In short, this country is the quintessential "Arab moderate" state, with all the contradictions the term implies - Beverly Hills-style homes wired with high-speed internet connections around the block from corrugated roof slums that lack running water; women clad in chic Parisian fashions arm-in-arm with cousins covered in black, puritanical, drape-like robes; mass rallies that echo with the chilling sounds of "Death to the Jews" not far from the only Jewish museum in the Arab world.

One would expect that this country, one of America's oldest friends, would be the target of an all-out effort to put the Islamist genie back in its bottle, and that it would encourage democratization and reward quiet anti-terror cooperation. The fact that it also meets the economic test of "aid effectiveness" - assistance funds don't normally go down the drain or line ministers' pockets - is an added bonus.

This country is Morocco. But the reality of U.S. policy is very different. By the universal yardstick - money - Morocco does not even register.

The international affairs budget recently proposed by the Bush administration shows that Morocco is scheduled to receive no aid for child survival and health; economic support funds; anti-narcotics efforts; or the now zero-budgeted U.S. …

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