At the end of February, the White House proposed cuts across a range of government expenditures to allow for a $54 billion boost to national defense. The most notable cuts are to be made to the State Department and to foreign aid programs.
The cuts were strongly opposed by the Senate, with multiple senators using terms like “Dead On Arrival” when asked about them. For the most part, both sides of the aisle strongly opposed what the cuts would attack and the effects that they could have.
There were also questions as to the relevance of these cuts, especially those to foreign aid, due to the small budget reduction of about one percent that they bring to the table.
Whether you support the cuts or not, their proposal does provide yet another interesting look into how Trump will try to run the country and how he will tackle problems while in office.
Why is this interesting?
While foreign aid is a small part of the budget, it is very important because of the role it plays in soft power. Soft power applies to foreign policy because it is a way to influence another country’s culture and government without war or buying out anyone. To positively help a community, the idea is to rub off on the affected culture in a way that would lead them to sympathize with and maybe adopt the way the aiding country does things.
Soft power is the introduction of ideals without the destruction of the established culture. Think of it as remodeling a kitchen. The framework of the kitchen itself stays the same, the structure and foundation of the kitchen remain the same, but the counter is upgraded, the faucet is the new addition and the fridge is stainless steel. When the U.S. offers foreign aid, it hopes that some things about the area change, for the benefit of both governments. This is a way that the U.S. can spread influence in a positive way without taking over.
Trump is choosing to cut this particular aspect of government because of his character. Not because of how much is spent, but because it is the opposite of how he runs things. He is an abrasive and confrontational person who, above all else, wants to assert his dominance over others. From the way he constructs speeches, proclaiming how much better he does things than you, to his power handshake, Trump wants to enforce his will.
To his credit, he comes as advertised. This should surprise none of us as this was all part of the criticism that swirled around his campaign. If you agree with the cut or not, if you agree with the use of soft power through aid by the U.S. or not, if you agree with Trump or not, one thing is very clear: throughout his presidency, Trump will look to enforce first and politic later. He will look to use a strong fist as his first recourse, which will affect almost every part of how this president interacts with the branches of government as well as with foreign affairs.