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I’ll see your bid and raise it

The tsunami disaster in Asia appears to have spawned something of a pissing contest in the West:

The US plans to increase by 10-fold – to $350m – its contribution to help the survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The largest pledge so far was made just before talks between senior US and UN figures on co-ordinating aid efforts.

HMG may now be forced to raise its own bid. And the French. And the Germans, And the Japanese. And the Australians. And then the Americans will feel obliged to up the ante again in this unseemly ‘my-foreign-aid-dick-is-bigger-than-yours’ antler-lock.

And people call me cynical!

24 comments to I’ll see your bid and raise it

  • MeMyselfAndI

    If we can spend billions on Iraq to help them after Saddam, we can spend a few hundred million on others after a natural disaster. If we have a moral responsibility to save Iraqis from being killed by the likes of Saddam, we have the moral responsibility to save people from the aftereffects of a major natural disaster, particularly one that may wind up killing the same order of magnitude of people Saddam did.

  • arcticfox

    Actually the vast amount of foreign emergency aid comes from individuals,religious and charitable organizations and corporations. For example in 2000,(the last year for which I have data) private US foreign aid charity totalled 33.6 billiondollars. Since almost nothing, certainly nothing comparable comes from any other source (with the modest exception of Japan I believe), considering US generosity based upon governmental spending doesn’t even get close. Moreover, private aid is far more effective than government aid. The point is that govt. competition is irrelevant

  • Mike

    “[T]he Americans will feel obliged to up the ante again in this unseemly ‘my-foreign-aid-dick-is-bigger-than-yours’ antler-lock.”

    Sad, but true. And it’s pretty easy to pinpoint the origin of the emerging money-flinging free-for-all: Jan Egeland’s silly and obnoxious jeremiad about generosity and taxation levels in the West. Before that, there was a chance the governments would ramp up aid as clear needs emerged. No more. Thanks yet again, UN.

  • D Anghelone

    Powell told Stephanopoulos this is not an auction but he may have spoken too soon.

  • Julian Morrison

    There’s two seperate events going on here. There’s private charity. And, there’s international tax-and-welfare. Shouldn’t confuse the terms – it’s no more “charitable relief” than is a dole payment. And it’s a problem for all the usual socialist reasons.

    This whole situation does worry me. Partly, because of the principle it’s yet again reinforcing, that it’s OK to tax over here because there are needy people elsewhere in some foreign country. Partly because the UN, government aid agencies, and big charities are utterly cold-blooded tranzi organizations and I don’t trust them as far as I can spit.

  • Rob

    Jan Egeland’s silly and obnoxious jeremiad about generosity and taxation levels in the West.

    Source please.

  • James

    I had a feeling we were heading into such a bidding war, and it’s one the U.S. can’t win. No matter how much they give above anyone else, they’ll simply say “Oh, but they were shamed into giving that much to cover themselves”. And they’ll claim credit for supposedly pushing them into donating more, as if the “extra” money came from their pockers. Cynical on this special day of the year, but probably true..

    Speaking of the day, just want to wish every last one of you a very Happy New Year. I’m in an unusual situation this year that when the fireworks start in a few hours time, I’ll have difficulty deciding which ones are fireworks, and which ones are firearms.

    All the best to you in 2005!

  • Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn why the money is being raised, just that the planes on their way.
    Get the immediate life-saving aid in now, start the ball rolling for mid-term relief, and start planning for rebuilding of infrastructure. As long as that’s done, I don’t care who does it, worry about that later.
    The only thing I care about as regards source of relief is “bang for buck”. Oxfam and UNICEF have piss-poor records there, but video reports show that these 2 organisations are doing a far better job than they normally do. Maybe 50% of donations actually getting through to people who need them? Far higher than normal, anyway. Regardless of efficiency, it’s the total amount getting through that’s important.
    The need now is helicopters for supply distribution, and the USN is bringing lots, the Aussie (lacking any heavy airlift) have already chartered an Antonov to bring in some of theirs.
    If the chattering classes want to jaw-jaw about things, that’s background noise, easily filtered out as irrelevant.
    In the long term, showing their vast unimportance and irrelevance is the most painful thing we can do to them, anyway. But right now, we have work to do, and as long as they don’t get in the way, they may as well not exist.

  • Col. Hogan

    I’m wondering when they’ll start sending disaster aid to our poor California. We’ve had over seven inches of rain in the past few days and, dammit, we have cars to wash!

  • teri

    I’m wondering when they’ll start sending disaster aid to our poor California. We’ve had over seven inches of rain in the past few days and, dammit, we have cars to wash!

    wow. you’re an ass. get out of my state.

  • . . . just don’t try and drop some of that aid money on the Andamans. . . and yes, the press will whip this into a pissing contest, but this will be a test to see what is the best delivery system, the U.N. bureaucracy or like-minded governments pooling resources. . . Spear Shaker(Link)

  • Mike

    ” ‘Jan Egeland’s silly and obnoxious jeremiad about generosity and taxation levels in the West.’

    Source please.”

    Try googling Egeland + tax + stingy; the search yields 1400 hits, approximately all of which pertain to the same speech.

  • Julian Taylor

    Might be a bit more of a help if, instead of getting into a dick-swinging contest over charitable donations, the US killed 2 birds with one stone by also assisting Indonesia with their islamic terrorist problem. Much of the aid already delivered is sitting on the tarmac because of either the inability to get fuel into the trucks or because of the reluctance of many drivers to have to pass through known terrorist-occupied areas.

    Oh, and to cut off the “USA doesn’t get involved where there’s no oil” cynics, Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest, and certainly one of the oldest, oil exporters.

  • Alice

    Here in France, we have the right level of taxation and donation and I can’t remember a compliment from Ian Egeland. Or maybe our media didn’t find them strong enough for first class taxist like us. Try again Ian.
    David, I don’t think you’re cynical, donating states, like the US, are only seeking to strengthen their “soft power” as Joseph S. Nye calls ability to attract others by the legitimacy of their/U.S. policies and the values that underlie them. (Nye is former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Dean of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is author of “Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics”). So it is indeed a demonstration of virility.
    I wish this soft power would result in strong birth control. This disaster is directly due to the overpopulation of these countries and maybe indirectly to the change of climate induced by the basic life of more human beings.
    I wish donators had a long term projects rather than food and drugs for all these countries. I’m afraid living on a beach serving westerners, being unemployed or single develops the aggressiveness of a predominantly male population (thanks to pregnancy scanning). Else, the next and biggest hecatomb will be caused by grown up orphans that will show their manliness at war.
    In short, I hope that this time we will give more ideas to develop their independence than examples of consumption.

  • Al Maviva

    On the threshold question, whither aid, I’m in favor since I think it would pass Hayek’s muster. Hayek, you will remember, believed that some level of common human decency was appropriate for even the most inhuman and indecent of our institutions, government. He did postulate that a basic security net was not incompatible with a minimalist government. As long as we are talking about incident-related relief, and not establishing a steady, long term dependency, I’m not opposed to it. I’ll side also with Orwell here – with between a fifth of a million and a half million dead, extending a helping hand (even if it is the grasping hand of government) is the decent thing to do. Being a libertarian doesn’t necessarily require renouncing your humanity…

    Government largess isn’t the only answer or the only source of aid, of course. Last time I checked, Amazon.com was bumping up against $10 million, CARE was hitting $5 million, Catholic Charities U.S. had hit $25 million pledged within three days of the tsunami, and I know UK charities were performing equally, or more spectacularly, never mind all the religious & secular groups that go underneath the radar. In this case, I don’t think the success of one form of aid proves the redundancy of the other. I’ve worked with the UN in responding to a couple of humanitarian disasters, and as in business, the most successful efforts often come when there is private/public partnership. Some public works are too big to foist off on the shoulders of a John Galt and actually require massive teamwork to pull off effectively – on an ad hoc basis, the individual isn’t always the most effective economic unit. And let’s face it – when the U.S. Marines pull into town to secure the relief supplies and establish a logistical train to get supplies to areas that have lost communications with the outside world, you can count on the stuff getting delivered effectively, with less waste than occurs when private charities dither about the lack of roads and the security threat to the supplies.

    On the Islamacist question – I’m sure the US and British aid will go unremarked upon by most of the Islamic world, but those on the borders of that world, who pay attention, will notice. The same voices for democratic (or simple good government) reforms in the Islamic world who noted the beneficial effect on Muslims of US/GB involvement in Bosnia and Kosovo and Kuwait will also note that the bulk of our aid is going to help Muslims yet again. This doesn’t win the war on terra, but it is another battle we can win in the “Hearts and Minds” theater – a theater of conflict in which most of the U.S. actions in the last couple years have been inadequate. Naturally, the “Arab Street” can’t be expected to take much notice – nothing is as volatile or impervious to reason as the opinion of the uneducated masses in the Middle East. But if news of our efforts reaches the middle class, the educated & opinion leaders from whence the modern (democratic) and pre-modern (Islamacist) movements stem, then it is an advance in the war on Islamacism.

    It is also worth noting that one of the first things the Indonesian government did after the wave hit, was to refuse an offer of aid from Israel…

  • Edward Teague

    How about the Disaster Emergency Committee (that’s the UK consortium of do-gooders, Oxfam etc.,) having a fund for the relief of the Victims of Fallujah.

    Perhaps Msr Chirac could start off the pissing contest ?

  • Julian Taylor

    Edward Teague,

    Perhaps you may want to reconsider saying such a foul, disgusting thing especially considering the events of the past week. No doubt that was due to the effects of lingering alcohol poisoning from the night before.

  • Faust

    I have not heard what the Moslem world is contributing. Any comments on that? Anything co-ordinated? Saudi or Iranian led? What’s the big picture there?

    Lots of Moslems drowned I am sure. Indonesia the hardest hit and lots of Moslems there. I saw the videos. Huge tidal waves crashing into the beaches and lots of bodies floating in the water. Creepy stuff.

    Survivor that I am even I would have had a hard time getting out of that one. This disaster is as far out of scale as a meteorite strike. Once in a hundred years?

    Krakatoa? The Siberian Comet impact? Bizarre.

    And on another note…

    Clare Short accuses Bush of undermining the UN relief efforts.

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

    It’s not a rival coalition, it’s an option to use what works instead of waiting on an army of headless chickens to arrive from Belgium.

    The president has announced that the US, Japan, India and Australia would coordinate the world’s response.
    Since all four have navies and resources in proximity, that would make sense.

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

    Stupid fat old Cow!

    The reason she’s a FORMER International Development Secretary is because she’s a nutcase backstabbing mealy-mouthed windbag whose heart is said to hemorrhage rather than just bleed and ooze.

    The UN is an incompetent and venal organization which skims money from the gullible. It is slow, incompetent, and dishonest. Give any money to the UN and it disappears. The UN would expound pious platitudes and keep the money and leave the refugees to rot on the beach.

    The French know this. They will promise the moon and not deliver. No one will notice anyway.

  • Alice

    The Moslem world is contributing by giving birth and life is priceless, but very costly for the reputation of the West. As for seducing a Muslim street, whose average age is under 18, we could pour sweets and weapons on them and fail. Teenagers are too versatile to be affordable, especially when they’ve been deprived of education and dignity. If an honest man ever manages to seduce one of these streets as Chirac did, could he tell us, knowing that they double their population every twenty years, how much to spend on them without looking stingy and irritating them even more. And please let him write the answer to Chirac because he can’t hear and his friends have never wondered about that.

    Indeed the responsibility for the rescuing should be left to the UN, for never having warned and threatened the leaders and the “intellectuals” of these countries, not the funds.

  • _As a Canadian, I’m a bit disappointed by the U.S. led emphasis on a selective Core group of aiding countries. In this situation, our gov’t (and private donors) have made very similar moves (including being stingy at first).
    _After 9/11, ‘we’ were livid over being completely snubbed. This US vs. Them aid (Core vs. UN) approach has a similar potential to fester int’l animosities.

  • Lionstone

    _After 9/11, ‘we’ were livid over being completely snubbed. This US vs. Them aid (Core vs. UN) approach has a similar potential to fester int’l animosities.

    How DARE you help people! We were going to help them! I don’t care if your Navy was already in the region, we would have gotten around to it eventually once we were done sounding out the resonances of talking about a potential future discussion on a response!

    Doing something never solved anything, anyway. Harumph!

  • Dave F

    In the light of your remarks about the starving, Mr Carr, may we take it you don’t give a toss about tsunami victims? You would give no assistance?

  • “If we can steal billions for Iraq to help them after Saddam, we can steal a few hundred million for others after a natural disaster.”

    There you go, “MeMyselfAndI”; the edit is squared-away now according to the actually extant referents of the concepts.

    At your service, I am lways happy to help.

  • Dave F,

    “In the light of your remarks about the starving, Mr Carr, may we take it you don’t give a toss about tsunami victims? You would give no assistance?”

    Speaking for myself: I’d reach into my own pocket for any charity I wanted to dispense. Do you see the problem with “contributing” what’s in other people’s pockets?