e-Research: A Journal of Undergraduate Work

Article Title

The Powell Doctrine of Foreign Policy: International Development as Homeland Security


Despite mixed response by voters to the idea of sending tax dollars to other countries for any purpose, administrations since Franklin Roosevelt have used foreign aid as part of their economic and foreign policy. The Bush administration and the Department of State under Colin Powell's leadership were no exception, and even raised foreign aid levels. However, many (see, for example, Mertus, 2008) argue that the Bush administration's primary goal was creating a strategic power balance and stable world system, with alleviation of poverty and disease being just a side effect to be used for public relations advantages. In his most recent public writings (coauthored with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and published in the Wall Street Journal), former Secretary of State Powell stated, "Our country's economic health and security are inextricably linked to the prosperity and security of the rest of the world" (2009). However, once this link is established, policymakers must assess how, and whether, foreign aid can contribute to that global prosperity and security. Both the idea of humanitarian aid and that of strategic economic assistance have proponents and skeptics, and there is a narrow school of people who believe that foreign aid in any form is a faulty proposition. Powell is a strong proponent of both forms of foreign aid; in announcing a seminal new foreign aid program, the Millennium Challenge Account, he called the MCA "a challenge to America to use our great power for good, and a challenge to developing nations to empower their people to build a better future." This statement is perhaps the foreign aid counterpart to the Powell Doctrine of military force: intervention for humanitarian reasons with overwhelming force that betters the US security position. This paper will make an effort to lay out enough information to assess this foreign aid doctrine, and to come to a conclusion about the efficacy and responsibility of Secretary Powell's foreign aid policy.