December 31, 2004

Great Moments in American Stinginess

TOTAL COMMITMENT, four years (1948-52). EXPENDITURE, $13 billion in post-war dollars.
$100 billion in today's dollars. REBUILDING WAR-RAVAGED EUROPE: priceless.

PEACE CORPS COMMITMENT: 43 years. TOTAL VOLUNTEERS: 178,000, in 138 nations.


WE COULD CONTINUE, but you already knew where we were going with that. So you are far ahead of America's Friends in the United Nations, who saw fit to criticize the United States for its "stinginess" regarding tsunami-related relief aid, before wisely deciding to shut up.

Already the United States Government has donated $35 million to relief efforts, a number that is certain to grow as the relief requirements are accordingly ascertained. The U.S. Government has said the $35 million will be the start of a "multiyear, multibillion-dollar international relief and recovery effort." Oh, and that doesn't count the cost of sending 15,000 troops, 16 warships, 17 winged aircraft, and 25 helicopters to help. We'll add that in later.

But Americans' private giving is also quite impressive. The total thus far has well passed the $125 million mark -- and $7.5 million alone has been raised on for the Red Cross. (The neat thing about that latter page is that one can refresh it: thousands of dollars are being donated each second).

In comparison, the Government of Britain has pledged $95 million in aid, Sweden has committed $75.5 million, Spain is offering $68 million, and France plans to spend $57 million. Other nations pledging aid include Japan ($40 million), the Netherlands ($36 million), Canada ($32.8 million), Germany ($27 million), Australia ($27 million), Portugal ($11 million), Saudi Arabia ($10 million) and Qatar ($10 million). But they have not committed the logistical resources which we have. (Aid figures are from the San Francisco Chronicle.)

Of course, it is no surprise that Certain People are complaining about the U.S. response even now. We note this Press Association report from The Scotsman, citing a BBC 4 radio interview:

United States President George Bush was tonight accused of trying to undermine the United Nations by setting up a rival coalition to coordinate relief following the Asian tsunami disaster.

The president has announced that the US, Japan, India and Australia would coordinate the world’s response.

But former International Development Secretary Clare Short said that role should be left to the UN.

“I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up,” she said.

“Only really the UN can do that job,” she told BBC Radio Four’s PM programme.

“It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.”

Ms Short said the coalition countries did not have good records on responding to international disasters.

She said the US was “very bad at coordinating with anyone” and India had its own problems to deal with.

“I don’t know what that is about but it sounds very much, I am afraid, like the US trying to have a separate operation and not work with the rest of the world through the UN system,” she added.

We would suggest this explains why MP Short is the former International Development Secretary. After all, if the United Nations was in charge, the millions which have been pledged for aid would conveniently disappear in a sea of waste and corruption. As such, to get the job done, the United States and its partners must do things on their own.

For those in Europe and the United Nations who would complain about our efforts, we have but one suggestion: stop whining, roll up your sleeves and give us a hand.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at December 31, 2004 10:17 AM | TrackBack

Since when does the UN have "moral authority"? There is no international law giving them the right/ability to do squat, especially since its authority comes from dues, which few nations actually pay. Even if we left it all to the UN, we would still be forced to send the additional resources and coordinate them.

Posted by: Chris at December 31, 2004 01:03 PM

Chris: You got it, all right. But hey -- that's why Short's the former Secretary.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at January 1, 2005 07:04 PM