FOREIGNMAKING SENSE -- August 30, 2012 at 4:39 PM ET
We Spend How Much on Egypt's Military?
Soldiers stand guard along the route of the funeral of Omar Suleiman, former chief of intelligence in Egypt as well as a presidential candidate, on Saturday, July 21, 2012, in Cairo, Egypt. Photo by James Lawler Duggan/MCT via Getty Images.
Our Arachne here on Making Sen$e, multimedia producer Elizabeth Shell, has woven a new data graphic for today's page. On which foreign militaries has America splurged since 1946 and in recent years? On which have we skimped?
The interactive chart allows you to rank order countries in a variety of ways. Just click the category describing any column and the list reboots, from top to bottom. But before you try it, please enter your guess: Which three countries have gotten the most U.S. military aid in 2010 (the most recent year tallied)?
NewsHour foreign affairs reporter P.J. Tobia adds that many Americans think our government spends far too much money on foreign aid because the totals seem eye-popping. As the chart points out, in 2010 we spent $14.5 billion in total military foreign aid, far from chump change. But to put this sum in perspective, it makes up much less than one percent of total federal spending, and that percentage hasn't changed much over the years. Even compared to what we spend in our total defense budget, the amount is modest.
It's also important to keep in mind that some of this money, and in some cases all of this money, ends up back in the U.S. The case of Egypt is instructive. While Egypt has received more foreign aid from the U.S. since 1946 than any other country except Israel and Vietnam, most of the $57 billion has been spent on weapons purchased from American defense contractors and the U.S. military.*
Besides helping U.S. industry, what does that money buy us? According to this 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in Cairo obtained by Wikileaks, "The tangible benefits to our [military] - [military] relationship are clear: Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the U.S. military enjoys priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace."
- *Paul Solman adds: This was also true of America's famously generous Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II: much of the money was spent on U.S. food, goods and services.