Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand American Soft Power

06/04/2017 08:14 pm ET

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Colin Powell writes convincingly about American leadership and the importance of foreign aid and diplomacy.

Powell notes that “[i]ndeed, we’re strongest when the face of America isn’t only a soldier carrying a gun but also a diplomat negotiating peace, a Peace Corps volunteer bringing clean water to a village or a relief worker stepping off a cargo plane as floodwaters rise.”

He’s exactly right. I served as a Peace Corps volunteer and worked for a nongovernmental organization that brought clean water to villages in rural Guatemala. At the end of the first project I participated in, I remember the moment when some community members thanked me for helping them gain easy access to potable water. That remains among the most powerful, humbling moments of my life.

Through my experiences in the Peace Corps, I began to fully understand why foreign assistance – done responsibly – could be such an effective foreign policy tool. (The moral case for foreign aid is obvious.)

My time in Guatemala taught me that America’s “soft power” is an enormous asset and something that should never be taken for granted. An altruistic, open and internationally engaged America is good for both U.S. interests and the world. Donald Trump’s budget proposals are disgraceful and thoughtless. Proposed reductions to foreign aid and diplomacy deserve to be met with the highest levels of opprobrium.

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