Of Cabbages and Kings
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax
--Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)
And so the debate goes: Did Bush provide Leadership in the crisis in South Asia? Is the US "stingy?" Are we as a people unconcerned about others unless they have "white skin or oil?"
What utter and complete nonsense. I make no bones about being somewhat chauvinistic regarding my country, my government. I am unabashedly patriotic but I am also more than willing to call foul when the government or someone in the government pulls some stupid and/or dishonest stunt
The carping of the left has reached the same intellectual level of discussion as suggested by the Walrus above. Let us look at the facts.
- The Complaint: "Bush sits at home and does nothing/says nothing for three days following the disaster. The Fact? Some of the first relief planes to land in the stricken area were C-130's from Yokota Air Base, Japan. No, that's not a Japanese effort, but an American Air Force effort. That's right folks, AMERICAN Air Force. And does the USAF engage in massive relief effort without the OK of the Commander-In-Chief? I don't think so.
- The complaint: "The rich nations are stingy" in their pleges to help. The Facts? It is clear from our initial announcement $15 million as an "initial" amount until folks on the ground could assess what was needed to the raising of that to $35 million and subsequently to $350 million that the complaint is nonsense. Further, private donations from the US are rapidly approaching the $300 million range. Regarding the initial amount John Podhoretz in the New York Post says "Any rational person would have understood without having to be told what the president told the world on Wednesday morning, which is that the $35 million pledge "is only the beginning of our help."
- The complaint: Only the UN has the moral authority to organize relief efforts (a complaint made by former International Development Secretary Clare Short - via Michael Totten's blog): The facts? Well, Mr. Totten has said it far better than I can, the telling graf (by the way, read the whole thing):
The UN has no moral authority. None. Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch. But the UN still manages to pull off some decent crisis relief once in a while. If even the UN can do that, surely the US, Japan, India, and Australia can do something, too.
"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.
Over a hundred thousand people are dead. This is not the time to seethe and whine about process. Process means absolutely nothing to people who need help and need it right now. Speed and results, Clare. Speed and results. Roll up your sleeves and stick a sock in it.
- The complaint: Mr. Bush, by waiting several days before making public remarks shows unconcern about others and a decided lack of world leadership in a time when the US needs to step forward. The Facts? This one is so easy, I'm almost ashamed to note it. In a previous presidency, such "leadership" was noted by words of piety, a pursed lip, a tear gently wiped away and an expression of feeling your pain. That is style, the substance was noticeably lacking in stopping the killing in Rwanda where over 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days. Leadership sends C-130's within hours and in less than 72 hours, those planes are landing with supplies, medicines, food and relief personnel! Style bemoans the loss but does nothing
- The Complaint: The UN pitched in right away, the US delays the process for many unconscionable days. The facts: From The Diplomad come this:
Well, we're heading into Day 7 of the Asian quake/tsunami crisis. And the UN relief effort? Nowhere to be seen except at some meetings and on CNN and BBC as talking heads. In this corner of the Far Abroad, it's Yanks and Aussies doing the hard, sweaty work of saving lives.
Check out this interview (on ghe UN's official website) with SecGen Annan and Under SecGen Egeland shows, Mr. Egeland: Our main problems now are in northern Sumatra and Aceh.
In Aceh, today 50 trucks of relief supplies are arriving. Tomorrow, we will have eight full airplanes arriving. I discussed today with Washington whether we can draw on some assets on their side, after consultations with the Indonesian Government, to set up what we call an "air-freight handling centre" in Aceh.Tomorrow, we will have to set up a camp for relief workers, 90 of them, which is fully self-contained, with kitchen, food, lodging, everything, because they have nowhere to stay and we don't want them to be an additional burden on the people there.
I provided this to some USAID colleagues working in Indonesia and their heads nearly exploded. The first paragraph is quite simply a lie (emphasis added by GMR). The UN is taking credit for things that hard-working, street savvy USAID folks have done. It was USAID working with their amazing network of local contacts who scrounged up trucks, drivers, and fuel; organized the convoy and sent it off to deliver critical supplies. A UN "air-freight handling centre" in Aceh? Bull! It's the Aussies and the Yanks who are running the air ops into Aceh. We have people working and sleeping on the tarmac in Aceh, surrounded by bugs, mud, stench and death, who every day bring in the US and Aussie C-130s and the US choppers; unload, load, send them off. We have no fancy aid workers' retreat -- notice the priorities of the UN? People are dying and what's the first thing the UN wants to do? Set up "a camp for relief workers" one that would be "fully self-contained, with kitchen, food, lodging, everything." The UN is a sham.
This is enough for the average intelligence to grasp, there are problems to be sure, but leadership, generosity, caring etc. on the part of our President, our efforts and our people aren't part of the problems, they are part of the solution.
That members of the left have immediately jumped on the "Jump on Bush" bandwagon says far more about their need to discredit Bush than it says about any thing else.