Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thanking the United States

The United States is the country much of the world loves to hate. Whether it is socialist disgust that the US prefers not to hand over it's assets to a decidedly anti-American U.N, or Chinese anger that those Americans actually seem determined to allow Taiwan to remain independent of the imperialist Communist crusade, or European elitists' despair of persuading Americans that is is better to be dhimmis than stand up for one's beliefs and culture, there is a plethora of anti-American opinion in the world. Almost every American venture, whether it is the occupation of Iraq or the U.S.'s peculiar insistence that it, like all other countries, has the right to control its own borders, meets with a shower of international criticism.

It is interesting, then that despite all of this international criticism, the United States is consistently the first and best responder to disasters in nations other than their own- a reaction which is curiously not mirrored by any other nation toward the United States. And even when the United States engages in these operations that clearly bring it no material benefit, such as the disaster relief it so often spearheads, these critics cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the generosity of the United States.

However, in today's online edition of The Australian, columnist Janet Albrechtsen makes a brave attempt to make amends. She writes that,
THERE is a certain familiarity to the concomitant series of actions and reactions when disaster strikes in the world. The US stands ready, willing and able to offer assistance. It is often the first country to send in millions of dollars, navy strike groups loaded with food and medical supplies, and transport planes, helicopters and floating hospitals to help those devastated by natural disaster.

Then, just as swift and with equal predictability, those wedded to the Great Satan view of the US begin to carp, drawing on a potent mixture of cynicism and conspiracy theories to criticise the last remaining superpower. When the US keeps doing so much of the heavy lifting to alleviate suffering, you'd figure that the anti-Americans might eventually revise their view of the US. But they never do. And coming under constant attack even when helping others, you'd figure that Americans would eventually draw the curtains on world crises. But they haven't. At least not yet.

So it was last week. The US stood ready to help the cyclone-ravaged Burmese people. It did not matter that Burma's ruling junta was no friend of the Americans. With more than 100,000 people feared dead and many more hundreds of thousands left destitute, US Air Force cargo planes loaded with supplies and personnel started arriving in nearby Thailand to begin humanitarian operations in Burma.

A US Navy strike group in the Gulf of Thailand sent helicopters ashore, ready to arrive in Burma within hours. Alas, Burma's military leaders left their people to die for 10 days before finally accepting help from the evil empire. Even if the Yanks are allowed to boost their assistance to Burma, they can expect a groundswell of criticism.

There is a sad truth to this, but it is refreshing to note that at least some people realize how misplaced this criticism is. If China or Russia, or the European Union, would actually take on some of the heavy lifting involved in these efforts, I doubt that Americans would stop. But it would certainly be welcome.

Albrechtsen goes on to clearly recognize the emotions at the root of much of the criticism- people simply don't like to realize how dependent they are on the US when a true disaster strikes. She writes,
The resentment that comes from needing the military and economic might of the US translated into the most absurd criticism. Jan Egeland, the former UN boss of humanitarian affairs, cavilled about the stinginess of certain Western nations. His eye was on the US. Former British minister Claire Short was equally miffed, describing the initiative by the US and other countries as "yet another attempt to undermine the UN", which was, according to her, the "only body that has the moral authority" to help.

I love moral authority as much as the next guy, but the UN's moral authority is a mighty hard sell given that the UN club includes the most odious regimes in the world, such as Burma. And notice how the UN's moral authority did not quickly translate into helicopters laden with food and water?

When the UN finally does anything of use, it's propelled in large part by US dollars, with the US contributing more than any other country. Those other giants, China and Russia, are not filling the coffers of the UN's moral authority.

In turth, states like the members of the EU are far too weak militarily to be able to project their formidable economic muscle and translate it into action. States such as China and Russia are too busy lining their own coffers, and third world states (which include the oil-rich states of the Middle East) mostly lack the technological know-how, as well as not being known for contributing to infidels. That leaves the United States, and the rest of the world hates being reminded that it is the US, not the UN, that holds the real power, and whose resources are so vital to the UN's many desires. This of course is why the UN is trying so hard to bind the US into treaties that would give the UN access to the US's resources without having to go through that annoying medium of the American people and their elected representatives. What is stunning is how many Americans, particularly Democrats, seem to think that handing over sovereignty to the UN is a good idea!

But I wonder why it took an Australian newspaper to recognize and print this patent truth. Where were the US media? Or does printing stories complimentary to the United States not fit their template as long as a Republican President occupies the White House? In either case, I wish to thank Ms. Albrechtsen, both for her clarity of thought, and her willingness to write it at a time when much of the world's media are busy doing their best to diminish the United States, not compliment her.

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