Bush Responds To Criticism On Tsunami

Bush Responds to Criticism on Tsunami

The Bush administration scrambled to repair the diplomatic damage done by the relative insouciance with which it had confronted the massive tsunami of last Sunday. The administration raised the aid now promised to an initial pledge of $350 million, and Bush arranged to send his brother Jeb with Secretary of State Colin Powell on a visit to the region. In Asia I think this gesture will be well received, since the brother of the president, himself a governor, will be seen as an important envoy.

I suspect Colin Powell was the architect of this about-face, and it makes you wonder whether future gaffes will be as swiftly or easily corrected by Condi Rice, Powell’s successor who is known to be much less independent of the president.

Meanwhile, a controversy raged about whether Bush’s promise of an ad hoc coalition of four nations to deal with the calamity was intended to undercut the United Nations. The UN has long experience in these matters and a standing bureaucracy ready to go; assembling ad hoc coalitions for every purpose may please American multilateralists, but it is highly inefficient.

Al-Jazeerah reports that Qatar has pledged $25 million to the relief efforts, and Saudi Arabia an initial $10 million. Other Middle Eastern countries, such as Iran, have already sent airplanes full of relief aid.

Pakistan sent money to India, its old enemy. Islamabad also sent emergency aid to Indonesia.

India mobilized its navy not only to aid its own citizens, but to help Indonesia as well.

It is very odd that nations cooperate to help each other in the face of natural disasters. But when they become angry over some minor dispute, they are perfectly happy to inflict far more damage on each other than mother nature ever did. Pakistan and India were seriously contemplating using nukes on each other as recently as 2002. Now Islamabad is sending rupees to Delhi, and Delhi is expressing gratitude.

Now that nukes are becoming so common, humanity has to find a way to move into permanent cooperative and helping mode. War is gradually becoming unthinkable. The massive tsunami’s toll has now risen to 150,000, but an Indo-Pak nuclear exchange would have killed 10 million.

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