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Not So Great Expectations

What Foreign Aid Can and Can't Do In the Arab World

A sign on the wall at the American University in Cairo. (Hossam el-Hamalawy / flickr)

Shortly after assuming the presidency, Barack Obama set his sights on reorienting the United States' relationship with Pakistan. For decades, Washington had been a fair-weather friend to Islamabad, eager to work together when its own security interests were at stake, but otherwise indifferent to Pakistan's domestic challenges. But recognizing that the fates of South Asia and, ultimately, U.S. security are inextricably linked with Pakistan's stability and prosperity, Obama signed into law the Enhanced Partnership for Pakistan Act (the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill) just a few months into his first term. The bill authorized up to $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan's civilian government over five years and was meant to usher in a new era of partnership and bolster democracy.

 
Nearly three years later, reality has set in. The partnership, although initially energized by the late Richard Holbrooke,

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