For students of government the annually recurring debates over foreign aid are a stethoscope held to the heart of the United States foreign policy process. They reveal in classic form the political strains and stresses that have come to afflict this country's postwar external relations. Foreign aid has required new concepts, skills, personnel, institutions, legislation, and funds. This modern brand of “dollar diplomacy” has not only jostled traditional structures and processes within the executive branch but has called upon the legislator and the man in the street to adjust to a new vision of the American mission and to what it involves in material terms as well. Herewith is a case study of that reappraisal.
The foreign aid debate of 1957, centering around the preparation and approval of the authorization and appropriation acts for fiscal 1958, was especially instructive because it was the occasion for a resounding collision between a greatly intensified crusade to redirect and reinvigorate the program, particularly in support of long-range economic development, and an equally determined campaign to bear down on the brakes. The present commentary focuses primarily on the roles of the official executive and legislative participants, as well as of influential non-governmental interests, during the course of this debate. The story sheds some light on both the foreign policy process in general and on some of the major substantive and administrative issues at stake in this particular case.