The Berlin Airlift: a Case for Foreign Aid

By | September 30, 2019

[September 30, 2019]  Not well known is that the foreign aid provided by the United States covers a vast network around the world.  But that foreign aid from the U.S. continues to be under great scrutiny and controversy by its own citizens.  Juxtapose that with the Berlin Airlift.  Today is the anniversary of the ending of the Berlin Airlift; September 30, 1949; not only was it not controversial, it was highly popular.

“Foreign aid is neither a failure nor a panacea.  It is, instead, an important tool of American policy that can serve the interests of the United States and the world if wisely administered.” – Lee H. Hamilton, U.S. Representative

From the 20th Century, the Berlin Airlift was unquestionably the most well-known and effective foreign-aid program in the Western world.  While the U.S. led the initiative, England and France were co-equal partners in opposing the blockade of the city of Berlin by the communist Soviet Union.  A result of the blockade was the people of West Berlin were left without food, clothing, or medical supplies.

The airlift was a tremendous Cold War victory; without firing a shot.  The plans of the Soviets to hold West Berlin hostage failed to meet the demands the communists were making over postwar Germany.1  Due to the steady resolve of senior political leaders in the U.S., England, and France, the world came to see the Russians as international bullies, trying to starve innocent citizens.

Foreign aid is a political model that supports the interests of that nation.  The United States gives more money than any other nation because our leadership and citizens recognize, despite its faults, that foreign aid returns a benefit more than any other program; public or private.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “The Berlin Airlift: a Case for Foreign Aid

  1. Edward M. Kennedy III

    Certainly, the younger generation will neither remember this event, nor will they have learned about it in school. Our education system in the West is broken. Only thru examples like the Berlin Airlift will we see that the real enemies of the people is the socialist/communist ideology that destroys all things.

  2. Janna Faulkner

    I remember this from when I was a child. Great example of a time when foreign aid was necessary (and, by the way, not so obvious as one would think). Just read the history of the airlift and see what the struggles were and they weren’t all logistical.

  3. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    I do believe that the main reason that foreign aid is so controversial, in the USA, is that there are many programs within it’s own borders that need help. Why then, give aid to foreigners when our own people are in need. That is, I think, the crux of the argument against foreign aid; not that folks here are just against it because they don’t like foreigners.

  4. Bryan Lee

    Increased support for foreign aid is possible politically but requires dedicated leadership. The public foreign aid debate is woefully ill-informed. Most polls find that more than 80 percent of Americans favor some form of foreign aid, but few have any idea how much Washington spends on aid.

  5. José Luis Rodriguez

    I’m for foreign aid because it shows we are attempting to take a positive moral stand against the evils of the world.

    1. Kenny Foster

      Yes! The first and most obvious foreign aid “don’t”—for the United States but also for our allies—is not to provide aid to “rogue” states.

  6. Willie Shrumburger

    Just my thinking but ultimately, aid is most effective when it influences policy at the level of ideas: when reforms are endorsed by a critical mass within society and then implemented as sustainable policies.

    1. Georgie B.

      That is the perfect question that remains both unasked and unanswered. We should demand that we find a solution that doesn’t cost us too much and yet helps others in a long term fashion.

  7. Dale Paul Fox

    Although economic development ultimately makes societies better off, in the short run it creates winners and losers. As Samuel Huntington has noted, social unrest flourishes not in countries mired in poverty, but in those that are developing and changing, either for good or for ill, raising or diminishing expectations.

    1. Doc Blackshear

      Several 1990s studies of financial aid—given by both bilateral and multilateral donors and conditioned on recipient countries’ macroeconomic policies—found no positive link between aid and economic growth. Some research, such as recent work by William Easterly, even finds that aid hinders growth, particularly in low-income countries.

    1. Fred Weber

      It is not clear that the terrorist problem can be solved by foreign aid, even in the long term. As a starting point, we know little about the links between economic underdevelopment—more specifically poverty—and terrorism.

    2. Doug Smith

      This is the problem in a nutshell. Why should we, any nation, provide any foreign aid when the money comes back in the form of terrorism?

      1. Eric Coda

        Yes, and our politicians need to have a firm answer if they expect for us to continue to support others across the world without an equal support of our own people. The US (or Europe or any country) has zero obligation for the condition of others.

  8. Army Captain

    I’ve always been a supporter of US foreign aid for many reasons. First, it gives us a good name but we must also must provide support to our citizens. Second, I grew up knowing about US foreign aid because I saw it in the form of grain being delivered to Africa. Protecting the starving Africans and letting them know we helped. Third, it shows that we are not malevolent despite what the communists tell the world.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      Correct. You don’t see China or Russia providing ‘foreign aid’ without requiring the nation receiving it to give up something else of value. US foreign aid comes without strings attached.

    2. Nick Lighthouse

      Good to see you back here Army Captain. I agree that this is a good argument but we also provide aid to terrorist nations and this has to stop.

      1. Mike Baker

        👍 Thanks Nick. I too appreciate Army Captains’ comments.

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