Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The terror of water vs. the terror of war

U.S. spending so far for the Iraq war alone: almost $200 billion.

U.S. spending committed thus far for tsunami relief: less than half of $1 billion.

Some pundits are drawing a crazy parallel between U.S. spending on the "war on terrorism" and what we might call the war on the tsunami. But it seems sinister to lump these expenditures together as humanitarian - as investments in building America's good will around the world. Apparently, some pundits and politicians are still stuck in "greatest generation/World War II" mode, thinking we are gaining good will by occupying exotic lands. It's just not true. It seems our priorities are sadly confused.

Are we seeing this outpouring of tsunami relief merely as an investment in good will to win over the Muslim world? Are we seeing this week's delayed rise in donations as acts of shame, after Japan donated over ten times what the United States had donated?

Lots of politicians, including John Kerry and John McCain, have been calling for an escalation of the war in Iraq, suggesting we send in even more troops, which it seems would certainly speed up spending on the war. They want it both ways. They want an expensive war to be affordable, if not downright cheap. There is nothing, not a single aspect about the Iraqi war and the war on terror that is affordable or cheap.

Military spending is not the same as humanitarian aid, no matter what. It is offensive that anyone, politician or pundit, would equate the two - and say they are like candy to the ravaged recipients.

Humanitarian aid and spending on health, infrastructure and education abroad should be more in line with military spending. As it is, we are spending over a hundred times more for war and control than we are for peace and prosperity.

Over one hundred times more.

For a week, the Bush administraton offered less than $40 million even as Japan offered $500 million. Then the Bushies noticed that people were really paying a lot of attention to the tsunami victims. They didn't seem to have a clue for a week, because their vested interests in the region were vague and not a top priority.

No matter how generous we become now, some of us will recall the reluctance of warring nations to contribute - nations such as the U.S. Israel and many Arab nations more interested in the business of war than the immediate goodheartedness of peace.

Obviously, it would be well worth our while, as a nation, to not only increase our humanitarian aid at this time but to take that money from the war-making machinery.

It is time, for many reasons, to reduce the Pentagon budget by 10-20 % and spend that money on programs that are constructive, not destructive.

That sort of shift would bring us some real and lasting good will - and make us a better nation.


At 1/05/2005 6:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is does renew one's faith in mankind to see the outpouring of money to aid victims of the tsunami. American's weren't asking who was Muslim or who was Dutch. They saw PEOPLE in need and color and creed didn't matter. The spin-doctor's were the ones who came up with the idea that we were sending aid to Muslims. Good, meaty post. Keep up the good work. RQ

At 1/05/2005 9:59 AM, Blogger Lawrence said...

Yes, I agree with you about the spin, though I'm sure the spin is not completely unrelated to secret talks that go on in the hollowed halls and corridors of the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon. The U.S. is having to concern itself with its image abroad to counteract the dark face of the blood for oil campaign going on in the Middle East.


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