I might even go further than this, though, and suggest that even when these sort of efforts turn out to be ineffective at fostering the sort of order we ought to be concerned with, their effectivness as public diplomacy shouldn’t be underestimated.
Ross is right about the effect on foreign public opinion of even limited assistance, especially in cases of disaster relief, whether it is the Kashmir earthquake he refers to or the assistance for the Southeast Asian tsunami over three years ago. In this respect, foreign aid to Africa has made Africa into an unexpected success story, if you measure success by how favourably many African nations view the U.S. relative to the rest of the world. Then again, there also seems to be a general correlation between how much Washington generally ignores a part of the world, except to give aid packages, and how much the people in that region view America favourably.
However, unless these programs really do help to foster some order and unless the goverments of the countries receiving aid are capable of maintaining some basic order on their own, I don’t think I have to tell you that American public opinion will sour on giving money to these governments over time. There was a strong and understandable reaction here to the chaos in Pakistan after Bhutto’s assassination, which was actually much less pronounced and grave than the civil strife going on in Kenya, and to the extent that the American public thinks about aid to Pakistan I would guess a large plurality, if not a majority, was asking itself, “Why are we giving them all this aid? What’s the point?” In the case of Pakistan, there are good answers to that question, but the damage done by civil disorder to American support for this kind of aid, even when it may be strategically justified (as I doubt it is in many parts of Africa), should not be underestimated.