Building an Argument Around a Myth
First, let me clarify my credentials to discuss this subject: I'm a retired Air Force E-7 with 26 years service, mostly in the field of imagery intelligence, and a majority of those years spent in Europe. I've worked on a dozen projects that required my coordinating with the military services of a dozen European countries. I've been to Mons more than once, and twice briefed both the Supreme Commander and all the heads of the member nation's military departments. My experience is dated, but many of the decisions made during my career are bearing fruit now.
My main point is that Europe and Europeans have no idea what America is, or what it really means to its citizens. We are NOT "unsophisticated, confused, former Europeans", we are not "barbarians with poor manners and an excess of arrogance", but a free people - the freest people on planet Earth. We're a nation of 300 MILLION square miles - about the same land area as all of non-Russian Europe. We have citizens whose ancestors came from just about every nation that's ever existed, and who now are Americans. We all speak the same language, more or less. We can travel anywhere in our nation freely, the only restriction being how much travel we can afford to do.
Clare Short says the United States is undermining the United Nations by establishing an ad-hoc committee to coordinate aid to Southeast Asia. The United States is the only nation that has the airlift capacity to move tons of materials around the world by air on a moment's notice. The United States is the only nation with a FLEET of aircraft carriers, each capable of doing more, faster, than the entire navies of most nations. The United States has a dozen assault landing ships, each equipped with some 40 heavy-lift helicopters and a dozen or so assault landing craft capable of putting a squad of Marines on any beach anywhere in the world and supporting them while they're there. Those assault landing ships are also equipped with heavy equipment - bulldozers and such - to get the Marines off the beach and moving inland. What was designed for fighting a war is equally capable of supporting a humanitarian mission to relieve misery.
We're working with Australia, who has been a good friend and fellow traveller for sixty years. The US and Australia have developed common work practices that make it easy for us to work together. We share a common equipment pool, and the same can-do, will-do attitude. We're also working with India and Indonesia, two of the hardest-hit nations needing relief, and who are also the two military powerhouses in this part of Asia. They have the extra manpower that can be used to get relief supplies where they're needed. They speak the local language or dialect. They have the AUTHORITY to give orders and expect obedience that can translate "desire" into "action".
I'm sure that original coalition has grown as more and more people have decided how and where they can contribute. Thailand has given the US use of one of its military airfields. Other nations are sending warships - the type of vessel most likely to carry medical personnel on a routine basis - to assist. I'm sure that US military resources from Diego Garcia, the Middle East, and Europe, are also participating. I know they WOULD HAVE under the plans I helped develop 15 years ago, and I doubt the basic philosophy has changed.
Jan Engstrom's stupid statement that the United States is "stingy" is another piece of evidence that Europe doesn't understand the United States, and is especially clueless about George Bush. I've lived in an area similar to what George Bush calls "home". People there are slow to panic. They have a strong desire to wait until they have the facts before they do something. George Bush heard there'd been an earthquake and tsunami in South Asia. He asked someone to find out what happened, and how serious it was. He based his recommendations on what he learned. As more and more information became available, he revised his options, and made new commitments.
In the "Comments section of Diplomad's site we have clueless posters making statements like this one from "Colon":
"So much stupidity . . . Ms. Short and her ilk would rather have people die than have the US go it "alone" with its partners."
More contemptible defamation from the Cro-Magnum representives at the State Dept. She never intimated anything like that. She merely pointed out her preferences of what she thinks ought to be done. Simple logic: the US should coordinate with the UN, but if it does not, it should still assist in reparations.
Let me fisk this carefully, because there's a lot of "male bovine feces", as my old Chemistry prof used to say, in that short paragraph. First, Clare Short clearly said that the US was undermining the United Nations by "setting up its own coalition", and in so doing, was trying to "destroy" the United Nations. There is nothing here defamatory - it's right on the mark! Clare Short is one of the leftist loons who believes that the United Nations can "provide legitimacy" to actions, simply by being a part. What arrogance, what stupidity, what condecention! As the toll kept climbing, the US concluded that immediate action was necessary, worked out an agreement with several partners, and put a plan into action. Air National Guard troops were mobilized, active military units were put on alert, and things began to move. Within 48 hours, material, equipment, food and supplies were ON THE GROUND in the devastated areas from the United States, with more on the way. Once more, too, a leftist of note is screeching that the United States acted "unilaterally", when in fact there is a small but growing coalition of willing, able nations contributing what they can to alleviate as much suffering as possible, as soon as possible. Clare Short thinks such action is "illegitimate", because we didn't wait the two or three weeks for the UN to decide what to do.
"Colon Powell" is bad enough, but then another clueless European piped up, "Rene", supposedly from the Netherlands. Some of her comments are the result of just being uninformed, but later she gets milicious:
That the US is willing to divert some military resources and some money to help the global relief effort in Asia is welcome, of course. But at this stage of the aid effort, US planes circling with US rice or US blankets over sparse and crowded airfields is a huge waste for all involved. As the competent aid authorities have pointed out, what helps the most is money -- money to buy food and supplies in Asia, where it's cheaper.
First of all, the US didn't send planes to "circle over crowded airfields", but to a Royal Thai Air Force Base the US had constructed during the Vietnam War for B-52's. The aircraft they sent were C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft. I've flown about a half-million miles on this type of aircraft, and know them well. They can land on a runway only 2000 feet long (610m for my European readers) fully loaded, and take off in 1500 feet (~500m). It's the same kind of cargo aircraft the British, Australian, Thai, Malasian, Indonesian, and Philippine Air Forces use. It's got a cargo capacity of approximately 12 tons (>10mt), and a range of 2800 miles (4000km). As for "competent aid authorities" talking about buying local food - what local food? The tsunami destroyed almost everything within a half-mile of the coast, or it was consumed immediately afterwards. There's a huge need for pure water (something our warships do well, even distilling saltwater), non-perishable food, powdered milk, infant formula, blankets, tents, body-bags, and a huge long list of other "essentials" that just plain don't exist except in areas far away from the damage. Also, there aren't many nations in the area outside of Australia that have a surplus of food they can sell.
There is an idea propogated among some Americans that they know they're good people and they are more advanced morally and technologically than every single other country. Self-delusion is a wonderful thing when it stays at home, but there is a reality out there that has to be adapted to, and nationalistic chest-beating ain't going solve too many international problems.
Neither is leaving them to the United Scarfbags, er, Nations. Oil For Food was a great example. Or how about Darfur, where they've done a lot of talking, but taken no real action to stop the genocide? Remember Rwanda? How many people died? Hint - it's probably more than were killed by the tsunami. Then there's the rape, prostitution, and degradation forced upon women of the Congo by the UN continency supposedly "keeping the peace" there. Then there's Srebnica, Kosovo, and a half-dozen other places where the United Nations has failed to do what it agreed to do, and people died by the score.
The average American admits they're not perfect, not even close. But we do have the largest military in the world, some of the most capable technology, and an attitude that "if you say do it, we'll do it, and we'll worry about how when we get there". I've met too many Europeans who are only capable of functioning if they have a fully-detailed plan in front of them, with all the pieces identified. Real life isn't like that. The ingenuity and 'can-do' attitude of the United States isn't necessarily unique, but there's a larger share of it among our people than anywhere else in the world. It's not delusion when you can back it up by action, which seems to be what this entire argument is about - instead of talking the US took action, got things started the way they needed to go, and kept pouring it on.
The other thing most people don't seem to understand is the freedom people in the United States have to do things on their own. We don't feel we have to wait for permission to do what needs to be done. A friend of mine and I were driving back toward his home after a tornado struck. There was a huge tie-up in the middle of the main street, where two power poles were down. Nobody was in charge. We took charge, straightened out the traffic jam, and continued to direct traffic in the cold, driving rain for two hours. No one told us to do it, it was just something that needed doing. I've had similar experiences during my military career in a dozen different situations.
The only people who believe they're "morally superior" in the United States are the folks on the far left. The rest of us are intelligent enough to know better.
While there may be a reflexive criticism of US policy among prominent Europeans such as Clare Short, she does have a point: starting a duplicative, rival effort to provide aid where the UN has already the experience, personnel and skills to do so is a dangerous indulgence. Now whether this is part of short-sightedness on Bush's part or a true attempt to destroy the only global organisation that has promoted peace and cooperation since World War II is for later analysis. In the meantime, the US should assume its place as one of the main powers within the UN and act responsibly.
What experience does the United Nations have, what experienced people are on its staff, what skill-set exists, for the United Nations to deal with this contingency? It has no airlift capacity, it has no sealift capacity, it has no food reserve, it has no military, it has no deployable hospitals or civil engineering assets. Anything it does requires someone else contributing the material, manpower, and supplies to the United Nations. That kind of coordination inside a bureaucracy such as the United Nations takes time. Every minute wasted means someone else has died. The United States will get no credit, but its immediate action outside the United Nations may be the difference between life and death for several thousand people.
As for "being the only agency that has promoted peace and cooperation since World War II", I suggest you read any one of several very good histories that show beyond contradiction that the United Nations has been more a hinderance in promoting world peace than they've been a help. As for "the US should assume its place as one of the main powers within the UN and act responsibly", what's really meant is that the US should "do as it's told" by its (European) betters. WE'RE arrogant?
And then there's "Rogier", showing HIS prejudices and particular brand of idiocy:
Your country and Australia is next to Asia..Europe is collecting stuff and on their way to Asia...flights take almost a day. Holland contribute 27 million euro relief for Asia yesterday. Holland is as big as New York city. Dutch people are raising money right now and will hold a tv show next week to raise more.
We raised 52 million euro in 1 day in 1999 for Kosovo. And now i'm talking about Dutch people...not goverment.
In Holland we like to solve things peacefully and not to attack first and then come to the conclusion the country shouldn't have been attacked at all.
Europe is collecting stuff (what stuff?) and sending it where? Who's going to deliver it once it gets there? Chances are better than 10 to 1 it will be either a US aid group, one of the major charitable agencies with offices in the area (Oxfam, Salvation Army, Red Cross, USAID, etc.) or the US Military. The normal infrastructure is totally GONE. Roads no longer exist anywhere along the coast. Airfields have been damaged, and only aircraft capable of operating from "unimproved" (I.E., a cleared pasture) are able to land on them.
The Netherlands is 16,000 Square Miles (40,000km/sq) and roughly 18 million people. I live in El Paso County, one of 50+ in the state of Colorado, and by no means the largest at about 1000 sq mi. Our population is about 600,000. There are more military personnel in El Paso County than in all of the Netherlands armed forces (~40,000). I will admit, the Dutch military I worked with were the best of non-British Europe in the 1980's, but the majority of your defense was left to the United States.
I'm sure Theo van Gogh is thrilled to know you "like to solve things peacefully". Sometimes, peaceful doesn't work. We (our US Government) decided there was no way to achieve any real change with Saddam Hussein peacefully, and decided the world would be better off without him. Strangely, the majority of the Iraqi people agree with us. Rogier, when the Netherlands, and the rest of the Eurowusses finally decide that you're going to take responsibility for your own defense, come back and talk to me. Otherwise, you're being a horse's ass.
BTW, Amazon.com, just one tiny business among tens of thousands in the United States, has raised $9 in four days. The Red Cross, Salvation Army, WorldVision, and a hundred other charities have done as well or better. I don't belittle your country's contributions, but don't think that gives you the right to shake your finger at us. The cost of operating the amphibious ship convoy the US is sending to provide assistance to the area is more than the entire Dutch annual budget.
Look, the United States is a nation of fierce individualists. We know how we operate, we know what we're capable of, and we know how to use our equipment to the fullest extent possible. Why, then, would we give control of our operations to a third-rate bunch of nere-do-wells to screw things up? It's against our philosophy, it's against our character, and it's certainly against our better judgment. Everyone else in the world thinks they have the right to tell us how bad we are, how "unilateral" we are, and how we "need to conform". We are a non-conformist society. It would be much better for everyone if the world learned to accept that, to plan their activities accordingly, and to see how they can contribute to the overall effort, instead of trying to jerk the wheel from the busdriver and take over in the middle of a disaster. You also might find that if you quit treating us with contempt, we're a really nice, friendly but informal bunch of people that will do anything we can to help our friends.