Biting the Hand that Feeds

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I was reading the Financial Times this morning and saw another slam at the "tardy" response of America to the tsunami disaster in South Asia. Ned Martell, their TV critic, lives up to his title by critiqueing the American news organizations coverage of the disaster. He ties it in ot the slow response of the United States in responding to the needs. While American news personnel can be a bit tedious in their coverage it is hitting below the belt to keep carping at our aid response.

Once America ramped up a response it leads the world in providing tangible help to these poor people. It is our troops, ships, copters and planes who have converged with supplies to alleviate the immediate suffering. Where has the Indonesian response been except to ask that we leave our guns on board ships and please be gone by the end of March. Some gratitude.

Western values are different that those of the east. That much is evident from this crisis. Look at what one blog, Diplomad, reported.

"I see, however, no outpouring of support in most of the world's countries. The oil-rich Arabs? Where are they? But most frustrating and even angering is the lack of concern exhibited by average and elite members of the societies most directly affected. This was driven home in the course of an interminable meeting a few days ago discussing some silly resolution or another calling on the UN to appoint a "Special Representative for Tsunami Relief." A relatively senior Sri Lankan official leaned over and said to me, "Why do we want to bother with this? We all know you Americans will do everything." A nice compliment, I suppose, but on reflection a sad commentary not only about the rest of the world but presumably about Sri Lanka, itself. One would expect the affected countries to take the lead in relief efforts. None of the most seriously affected countries (Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives) is a dirt poor country; all have well-established governments and national identities.

In Jakarta, aside from flags at half-staff, we have seen no signs of mourning for the victims: while employees and dependents of the American embassy spent their holiday loading trucks and putting together medicine kits, the city's inhabitants went ahead with New Year's parties; nightclubs and shopping centers are full; and regular television programming continues. At least 120,000 of their fellow countrymen are dead, and Indonesians hardly talk about it, much less engage in massive charitable efforts. The exceptionally wealthy businessmen of the capital -- and the country boasts several billionaires -- haven't made large donations to the cause of Sumatran relief; a few scattered NGOs have done a bit, but there are no well-organized drives to raise funds and supplies."

There is a reason America was the first to respond and with the largest amount of aid to the victims. It is a part of the rich legacy of humanitarian work which stretched back to the biblical patriarch Joseph. Genesis 41 shows that when the famine struck the land of Egypt it was to Joseph the people of the nations came to get food aid. They are still coming to "Joseph" for aid and help in a crisis. A little less criticism would seem in order.