Former President George W. Bush is defending foreign aid spending as a moral and security imperative in the face of massive cuts President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE has proposed to State Department and U.N. agency budgets.
In an interview with NPR aired Thursday, Bush said that the U.S. has an obligation to provide assistance to other countries faced with humanitarian crises. Failing to do so, he argued, only creates openings for extremists to spread an anti-American message.
"When you have an entire generation of people being wiped out and the free world turns its back, it provides a convenient opportunity for people to spread extremism," Bush said.
"I believe in this case that it's in our national security interests as well as in our moral interest to continue funding this program," he continued.
Bush touted the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. government's initiative to fight HIV and AIDS, which was implemented under his administration in 2003 and was renewed by Congress in 2008.
"I think the most meaningful moment for me was going to a maternity ward in Namibia," he said. "Seeing a room full of ladies, most of whom — if not all — had the AIDS virus, and every one of their babies was born without AIDS. Mother-to-child transmission efforts of PEPFAR have been unbelievably successful."
Bush's advocacy for foreign aid stands at odds with Trump's proposed budget, which seeks to drastically cut such funding in favor of greater investment in the Defense Department and U.S. "hard power."
The budget plan doesn't call for cuts to PEPFAR, but the State Department and the United Nations see a sizable loss of funding under the proposal, which has drawn criticism from Democrats and hawk-minded Republicans.