In an attempt to make a case for foreign aid [“5 myths about foreign aid,” Outlook, May 1], John Norris used the same old tactics employed both by supporters and opponents alike of foreign aid: Build a straw man and then destroy it.

No one to my knowledge has claimed that in no case has foreign aid helped, or no Republican supports it, or no country has ever been weaned off foreign aid, or no foreign aid program has ever succeeded. These myths are the imagination of John Norris.

 The truth of the matter is that foreign aid has had a few notable successes but also a large number of failures.

If judged by the simple criterion of a modest increase in income of 2.5 percent per annum over the past 30 to 40 years, only 15 (out of more than 150) developing countries that have been the recipients of foreign aid can be deemed to have been successful.

 A closer examination of these countries shows that foreign aid succeeded because they had strong and committed leadership, a trait that is unfortunately not common in most recipients of foreign aid.

There would be a strong case for foreign aid if it were limited to countries that show a demonstrated record of good leadership.

Inder Sud, Reston

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John Norris cited a Cornell University study concluding that requiring 75 percent of U.S. international food aid to be shipped aboard U.S.-flag vessels costs American taxpayers millions in unnecessary transportation costs.

The reality is that cargo preference adds no additional cost to foreign aid programs and should be credited with sustaining an essential national defense sealift capability.

Cargo preference does not divert one dollar away from food aid programs. To the extent that cargo preference increases costs, the difference has been reimbursed by the Transportation Department. For example, reimbursements resulted in a $128 million net increase in available food aid funding in 2006. The Transportation Department reimburses these costs because a reliable U.S.-flag commercial fleet provides essential sealift capacity in times of war or national emergencies.

Approximately 80 percent of war materiel shipped to Afghanistan and Iraq was delivered by commercial U.S.-flag vessels. This capability is available to the U.S. government at a fraction of the cost of using U.S. Navy vessels.

The Defense Department estimates that it would require approximately $52 billion in capital costs and an additional $1 billion in annual operating costs to maintain similar capability.

Cargo preference is a sealift bargain.

James L. Henry, Washington

The writer is chairman of USA Maritime.

I would like to confirm that I am indeed the author of the below Letter to the Editor and we have not submitted this content to any other publication for consideration. I have three small changes to the edited version you have supplied below. In the first sentence strike the second “that”. In the second sentence the “C” in cargo should be lower case. In the fifth sentence add “has been” after the word difference (see the underlined wording below). We appreciate the Washington Post’s consideration and coverage of this issue. Please feel free to call me at (703) 801-7800 or (301) 423-3335 should you have additional questions or email me at jhenry@trans-inst.org.

Jim

info@usamaritime.org, jfloyd@clsdc.com

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