America’s Dilemma

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Okay, I’ve been reading on a number of bulletin boards and blogs from Americans complaining about how they send relief to help other countries, but no countries are returning the favour with the hurricane situation, or are not reacting fast enough.

I can’t help but wonder, how much better would the situation be if you had, say, another million troops in country – rather than running around in a desert somewhere?

How about, wouldn’t there be more money for relief if you weren’t spending a billion dollars every year on the occupation of another sovereign state?

Look, I never asked the US to act like super-heroes of the world – and I certainly appreciate that their hearts may be in the right place. The problem is that all of that self-righteousness that the US has put on international display recently is coming home to roost. You actually expect help from France or Germany? Are you kidding me? The kicker is that many of these countries are in fact preparing relief efforts (Canada is preparing huge amounts of help).

Like all things American, this is fast becoming a ‘we could do this so much better than you’ situation. The only problem this time is that the US can’t very well step in and show us all how it should be done this time. Oh my lord, give me a break.

I love our neighbours to the south. We are intricately linked in so many ways. I’m embarrassed for these people shooting off their mouths, and I think they’re trying to pick a fight when there’s work to be done.

47 thoughts on “America’s Dilemma

  1. Interesting you should mention this, rick. Mary and I were discussing this very thing this morning.

    What is even more interesting is when you look at total amounts donated, the US always seems to be in the lead (or close to it). When you look at percentage of GNP or amount per capita, however, they are often one of the lowest. Sort of reminds me of the two mites parable.

  2. Are people really whining about other countries being stingy after the shoddy “donation” we originally tried to give to the tsunami relief effort? I don’t know sometimes.

  3. A few people are. But after disasters stupid recriminations are quite common. You can see this in all the “blame Bush” comments along with some of the charges of racism. It’s sad these sorts of comments occur.

    BTW – Jeffrey, I think that the Tsunami relief amount is a bit of myth due to the way the accounting goes.

    As to how it gets reported in Canada, I wouldn’t be surprised if the CBC tries to put the worst face on things. Every time I got home I’m really shocked at the CBC wearing heavy bias on its sleeves. It make FoxNews seem positively objective and comprehensive.

  4. The sad part in all this is that those in the U.S. who are complaining are not paying attention.
    There have been a number of requests submitted to the U.S. gov’t with respect to sending in experts and medical help to assist, and the U.S. gov’t (FEMA) readily admit they have not even acknowledged the requests yet.

  5. Well, here we go.

    I realize this blog is run by Canadians, but I consider this post to be a throwdown – you have offended my Yank sensibilities. Bear with me while I vent.

    “another million troops in country – rather than running around in a desert somewhere?”

    Yup, that is exactly what they are doing. Four men from my ward are serving in the middle east right now. The letters they send home report that they spend about half their time building schools and hospitals and helping the Iraqis get on with their lives in a very dangerous environment. They are literally risking their lives in order to help people. If you repeated your trivialization of what they are doing – just running around a desert somewhere -in the presence of their mothers or fathers, you would deserve, and probably get, a fat lip.

    “You actually expect help from France or Germany?”

    Tens of thousands of Yanks died in Europe in a successful effort to preserve democracy, my uncle among them. My father landed at Normandy on D-day and carried shrapnel in his leg until the day he died. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that neither country would exist as a prosperous democracy today were it not for the US and its allies, including Canada. Today, both France and Germany continue to practice the kind of foreign policy that requires the Yanks to come over every generation or so and straighten things out. By my reckoning, they both owe the allies a debt that can never be repaid, but I’m not holding my breath. So, no, I do not expect a single euro.

    spending a billion dollars every year on the occupation of another sovereign state?

    I see no difference between Iraq, 2005, and Germany and Japan, 1945. All three countries are better off because the U.S. and its allies, including Canada, stepped in. Iraq was a huge gamble, maybe too much of a gamble. But I think you will agree, It was amazing to watch Iraqis vote, especially Iraqi women.

  6. One hand reaches out and pulls
    One lost soul from harm
    While 1000 more
    Go unspoken for
    And they say what good have you done
    By saving just this one
    It’s like whispering a prayer
    In the fury of the storm

    And I hear them saying
    You’ll never change things
    And no matter what you do
    It’s still the same old thing
    But it’s not the world
    That I am changing
    I do this so this world will know
    That it will not change me

    This heart still believes
    That love and mercey still exists
    While all the hatreds rage
    And so many say that love
    Is all but pointless
    And that man such as this
    Is like stopping a fighter
    With the moisture of a kiss

    I hear them saying
    You’ll never change things
    And no matter what you do
    It’s still the same thing
    But it’s not the world
    That I am changing
    I do this so this world
    We know never changes me

  7. “how much better would the situation be if you had, say, another million troops in country – rather than running around in a desert somewhere?”

    Looks like Bush changed his mind:

    “Hundreds of National Guard troops hardened on the battlefield in Iraq have landed in New Orleans.”

    At least some of them are back.

  8. I don’t see any point in other countries sending aid to the U.S. unless they consider it necessary for the good of their souls. Plenty of poor countries in much greater need out there still. Since the topic has been raised, though, do you consider Mark Steyn was an the mark with his Western Standard article “Nothing to See Here”? He was complaining that Canada is a large, prosperous, internationally irrelevant nation.

    “As of May 2005, the top contributors to UN operations were Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal at Number 4, good grief, and they’re practically on the brink of civil war. Well, okay, we’re not in the Top 10 with all that expendable Asian manpower but c’mon, we must be in there somewhere . . . Number 20) France; 24) Ireland; 29) United Kingdom; 30) United States . . . hey, how’d those two warmongers make the Top 30 peacekeepers? Wait a minute, here we are: Canada, rocketing into the Hit Parade at 33 with a lack of bullet, right between Togo and Turkey. But, to the best of my knowledge, Togo and Benin (28) and Senegal (12) don’t regard peacekeeping as so indispensable to their self-image that they stick it on their currency and brag about it in beer commercials.”

    “So we’re no longer a great military nation. But nor are we a great peacekeeping nation: we do less than notorious sabre-rattlers like Britain and America. Compared to the Scandinavians and the other niceniks we’re a poor aid donor, and our immobile rapid-reaction force is of no practical use in humanitarian crises.” “We have less influence internationally than we did in the 1940s–before we had a flag, an anthem, or our own citizenship.”

  9. Given that the rank is based on total number, I am not surprised that Canada is lower. What I am surprised at is as of July 2005, the US had only provided 38 more people to peacekeeping efforts than Canada. Canada committed 0.5% of its troops and the US committed 0.2% of its.

    Given the fact that the US military is 22 times the size of Canada’s, you would hope they would provide at least 22 times the troops as Canada. It’s unrealistic to expect Canada with 1/10 the population and 1/22 the military as the US to provide more troops.

  10. Your numbers don’t meet up; decimal error or something there. Steyn’s point was that for the U.S. and U.K., peacekeeping isn’t part of their international or self-identity. For the Canadians it is part of the self-identity but not part of reality. Canada is small compared to the U.S., but it is big compared to most of the world.

  11. You are correct. The USA’s is .02%. I thought that seemed a little odd. That makes much more sense now.

    My point is that Steyn’s pointing out the US ranked higer than Canada is skewed.

  12. It was what I read yesterday (it was online, but I don’t recall if it was The Post or G&M). Well, sort of. The article I read did not say that it was refused, only that Martin offered troops when he spoke to Bush yesterday morning and was still waiting to hear whether they need help.

    This report seems to suggest we still haven’t been asked, but the equipment and ships are being sent anyhow. as well, Martin has pledged nearly 100,000 barrels of crude per day to help alleviate US demand. Doubt it’ll make much of a difference since the Gulf Coast produces more oil than all of Canada.

  13. Actually, a number of countries (including Canada) have offered various forms of assistance. (I’m too lazy to look for links. Sorry.) For the most part, the U.S. has passed on the offers. Mostly we seem to be saying no thanks because they’re having a hard time getting the resources already available in place. It’s not a matter of ingratitude for the offer, but just logistics. The things I’ve read imply that the offers may be accepted a bit later. I’m a little unclear on that, though.

    Anyway, other countries are offering.

  14. “By my reckoning, they both owe the allies a debt that can never be repaid…”

    American hubris at its’ finest.

    “I see no difference between Iraq, 2005, and Germany and Japan, 1945.”

    …and there is the root of the problem. Most Americans don’t.

    If you honestly see no difference in the situations then you are under-informed in regard to at least one of these conflicts.

    Besides, this post was not an attack on the war in Iraq, it was about Americans being obnoxious and arrogant.

    If I read between the lines of the comment by Anonymous, I believe he’s proven both my points.

  15. You guys can go ahead and bad mouth us all you want. Go ahead! But no matter how hard you try to dissociate yourselves from us arrogant imperialists, we’ll still be there for you. And even though our offering may not be as acceptable as the widow’s mite, we’ll give what “might” we have for the security of our neighbors.

    Jack

  16. Jack

    Guess what. WE will be ther for you too. We are as well. Just becuase we didn’t go into Iraq, doesn’t mean we have NOT been there in the past. We have and always will. Sure, we badmouth the US, well, we are like the little brother who gets stomped on (a lot), but we are still there in the morning (sometimes we have to wonder why). In order to understand us, you have to be here. Americans who have lived here, see why we have the view we do. It’s not some arbitrary bashing. There are many intricate reasons why our relationship with the US is so comlicated (softwood lumber, fisheries, canadian beef, they jsut touch the surface).It’s not hatred or jealousy or anger.

  17. “we’ll give what “might” we have for the security of our neighbors…”

    …even if it means that you sacrifice the welfare of your citizens?

  18. Mary,

    Yes. It is a sibling rivalry of sorts, isn’t it? That said, I’ll be dmnd if I’ll let you boast of bigger warts than ours!

    Kim: “…even if it means that you sacrifice the welfare of your citizens?”

    There’s plenty to go around. After all, were are rather stingy aren’t we? Percentage-wise, that is.

    Jack

  19. “There’s plenty to go around”

    No doubt about that. It’s not an issue of there being not enough. It’s an issue of getting there, or not getting there soon enough.

  20. Rick,

    Do you REALLY think the U.S. is an imperialist power? Or are you just using our current tragedy as cover in order to get off a few cheap shots?

    Please consider the following points:

    1. Expansionist nations tend to look at their neighbors first.
    2. Nations rich in natural resources make very attractive targets, especially when the population could be easily assimilated.
    3. Nations that are militarily weak make very attractive targets.

    Let’s face the facts – If the United States truly wanted to occupy sovereign states(your words), the combined national guard units from Michigan, New York, New Hampshire and Vermont would occupy Ottawa within the next 24 hours and annex Canada as the 51st state.

    My apologies in advance if you think this is obnoxious and arrogant. Your schadenfreude at the current tragedy is worse than disgusting. I, too, am embarassed for certain people who shoot off their mouths.

  21. “If the United States truly wanted to occupy sovereign states(your words), the combined national guard units from Michigan, New York, New Hampshire and Vermont would occupy Ottawa within the next 24 hours and annex Canada as the 51st state.”

    That is, of course, if they wanted to occupy it militarily. Suppose, however, that they only wanted to occupy it economically—or culturally for that matter—would they use the same method?

  22. Do I think the US is acting like an imperialist power? Yeah, of course I do. They seek to force their morals and culture on every society on the planet.

    Do they think they’re acting like an imperialist power? Probably not. That’s the sad part.

    They do not, for the most part, see how they are a cultural juggernaut who bully the world into acceptance of their culture and world-view.

    Like a boorish uncle at a family barbecue, they’re more than happy to tell everyone how they should be acting and don’t suffer the least amount of embarrassment over their rude and offensive actions.

    I take no joy in witnessing the Americans’ bungling of the Katrina disaster, and my heart breaks every time I watch the news. It is terrible what is happening to the people in the south, and it has been incredibly frustrating to watch as well.

    My point is that the US has had, and will in all likelihood continue to have, its’ nose stuck firmly in the business of other countries. Some people, myself included, do not think it is a good thing.

    If the US were to concentrate half as much on its’ own backyard as it does the rest of the world, perhaps it would actually be the shining example to the world which it widely proclaims itself to be.

    I’m not sure, Mark if you are an American, but it would not surprise me in the least to find out you were. In the future, when you choose to bully me, why don’t you just threaten to knock my teeth teeth out? The whole invading my country thing was way over the top.

  23. Rick,

    Oh, OK. If you meant in your original post that the US is imperialistic only morally and culturally, I would probably have agreed with you, at leat partly. I happen to think that democracy and freedom are good things. But it was those words like “occupy sovereign states”, “running around in a desert somewhere”, “millions of troops” that threw me off. I’m just a dumb, redneck Americano, so I didn’t catch your subtlety. I thought you meant the US was militarily imperialistic. My mistake. I thought you were “trying to pick a fight when there is work to be done”.

    Seriously – don’t you think it is laughably silly for Canadians to accuse the U.S. of military imperialism?

  24. Suppose, however, that they only wanted to occupy it economically—or culturally for that matter

    Kim, I think I see your point, sort of, but I don’t think it can be attributed to some sort of evil design or imperialistic conspiracy. Mary was right – lots of our problems can be understood as a kind of little brother/big brother relationship. If the shoe were on the other foot, we south of the border would probably feel taken advantage of and give voice to our concerns, real or imagined.

  25. “I don’t think it can be attributed to some sort of evil design or imperialistic conspiracy.”

    If the US wanted to occupy Canada economically or culturally, you don’t think that would because of “some sort of evil design or imperialistic conspiracy”? Why else would the US want to occupy Canada economically or culturally?

  26. … don’t you think it is laughably silly for Canadians to accuse the U.S. of military imperialism?

    Silly in what regard?
    I really don’t know what you are referring to.

    Do you honestly think Iraq and Afghanistan had anything to do with democracy or freedom?

    I’m all for freedom.
    Democracy? Hmmm…
    I’ll have to think if I can remember any democratic countries before I touch that one.

  27. Kim,

    Does a bull in a china shop break things intentionally? I’m just saying – given the difference in relative size and power, lots of the issues my amigos north of the border experience are just part of natural order of things. Regretable, sure, but if the our size and power were reversed, I’m pretty sure Canada would be the big, bad guy.

  28. “Does a bull in a china shop break things intentionally?”

    Sure, if he was wanted to do it intentionally, as in, as you put it, “if the United States truly wanted to occupy sovereign states…the…national guard…would occupy Ottawa within the next 24 hours…”

    “lots of the issues my amigos north of the border experience are just part of natural order of things.”

    Lots? I’m not sure about that. Some? Perhaps. Certainly, many are a result of one Brian Mulroney, the best prime minister the United States ever had.

  29. Rick, now we’re getting to it. My whole problem with your original post was that you chose to make a cheap attack on our foreign policy under the thin veneer of caring for the storm victims.

    US foreign policy is a debate for another day. I’m fully willing to acknowledge that we don’t get everything right, and could very well be wrong right now. However, that discussion is immaterial here.

    We are often self righteous without cause. So what? Canada is also a net exporter of that commodity, in that it produces more than it can consume locally. Or do you disagree?

    Yes, I continue to think it is silly for Canadians, of all people, to accuse the US of military imperialism. There are certainly more attractive takeover possibilities than Afghanistan or Iraq. One of them is just to our north. The fact is, Canada remains a sovereign state. Do you think that is because a)the US fears the Canadian military, or b)the US respects sovereign states and has no interest in occupying them? If you do not think this is a serious question, please show me an example from anywhere in place or time where two countries of such military disparity existed side by side where the stronger one did not eventually occupy its neighbor by force.

    You have accused the US of acting like the boorish uncle at the family barbecue, who is unaware that his actions are offensive. May I suggest that you, sir, are like the inebriated distant relative at the funeral home, barging into the middle of a tragedy, loudly and offensively telling the family what they OUGHT to have done?

  30. …Brian Mulroney, the best prime minister the United States ever had.

    Kim, LoL!

    I agree – he did the US a lot of good. But please don’t blame his election on American imperialism.

  31. Mark,

    Canadians elected him in, but not because of any of the measures he took after being in office. My reference was not to who put him into office; rather it was to what he did once there.

  32. Mark,
    The problem is that the US would be faster in responding to a foreign threat than it was to respond to an internal disaster.

    The not-so-thinly veiled attack on US foreign policy is not cheap, it is the whole point.

    If the US were to spend less time spreading their own version of truth, democracy and the American Way to the rest of the world, perhaps they might have time to fix some of the problems in their own country.

    Do you honestly think you’re going to get more support from me by saying,”Hey, we could have taken over your country by now, but we’ve decided to let you keep it.”

    This is exactly the kind of attitude I was addressing originally.

    The reason the US hasn’t taken over Canada is not due to their respecting sovereign nations, it’s because it would be unconscionable to the American public.

    Let’s face it, the USA’s continued involvement in matters outside of its’ own borders has adversely affected its’ ability to respond to the fallout of the hurricane. Period.
    There’s no question that it was a factor.

    As to the militaristic or imperialistic tendencies of the US, I think that’s another discussion entirely.

    And as far as being, “… the inebriated distant relative …”, you’ve got a lot of nerve if you’re going to call me distant.
    :P

  33. “Let’s face it, the USA’s continued involvement in matters outside of its’ own borders has adversely affected its’ ability to respond to the fallout of the hurricane. Period.
    There’s no question that it was a factor.”

    How can you possibly know that for a fact? How can you possibly know that the U.S. would have responded any quicker had they not been fighting a war in the Middle East?

    You simply DON’T KNOW.

    The one thing we DO know is–if Canada had problems evacuating a major city, the U.S. wouldn’t be spitting on them because of they’re failure to get the job done perfectly.

    You know, we have enough critics within our own borders to supply us with all the criticism we’ll ever need. Why don’t you guys do something more adventurous like criticizing the French government for not installing enough airconditioners in their hospitals and retirement homes in the event that the sun should one day come out? Fifteen thousand dead! That ought to give you a real kick!

    Jack

  34. “spitting on them”

    “Fifteen thousand dead! That ought to give you a real kick!”

    A bit melodramatic, don’t you think?

    I’m not getting a kick out of the suffering of these people. I’m as upset as everyone else, and I think that many of my concerns would have been mitigated if the authorities would have acted differently.

    How can you possibly think that the additional billions of dollars staying inside America wouldn’t have helped?

    You’re telling me that having access to all those extra troops wouldn’t have allowed a better response to the relief efforts?

    If the US doesn’t like all the attention, maybe they should take a step out of the spotlight on the world-stage.

  35. “The one thing we DO know is–if Canada had problems evacuating a major city, the U.S. wouldn’t be spitting on them because of they’re failure to get the job done perfectly.”

    I fail to see how sending the following constitutes spitting: three naval vessels and a coast guard ship full of equipment (including divers, small boats, helicopters, and electrical transformers), supplies (including 1,500 cots and sleeping bags, 2,000 blankets, 3,000 coveralls, 300 tents that can house 1,800 people, 6,000 diapers, palettes of lumber for reconstruction, 36 generators, water pumps, medical supplies, 300 donated hand-knit teddy bears and about 1,000 body bags) and 1000 military troops to serve as disaster specialists; an Airbus airliner filled with bottled water and other supplies to also help with evacuation to Texas; a military transport plane to bring in more Red Cross workers; and nearly 100,000 barrels of oil per day.

    Actually, it sort of reminds me of the time nearly four years ago to the day that Canada opened all its airspace and runways to receive nearly all American aircraft prohibited from landing on US soil.

  36. “A bit melodramatic, don’t you think?”

    Maybe. But what about my performance?

    Rick, the response time had nothing to do with the number of troops available nor did it have to do with a lack of available funds.

    Kim, I should have been more clear. I know what our friends from the north have done to help and I’m grateful. My apologies.

    I was thinking more along the lines of this discussion forum and other media where it is known that folks from south of the border are listening in. I suppose you have a right to talk about whatever you like–that’s your prerogative.

    I, for one, would feel very uncomfortable digging up a bunch of dirt about Canada in order to prove my point when I know that some who I consider to be my friends from the north are listening in.

    Larry Bates, for example, has earned enough of my respect that I would never post anything demeaning about Canada anywhere in the blogsphere. And not only that, I’ve always felt that Canada was like family–you mess with them you’re gonna mess with us, that sort of thing.

    Maybe us Yanks are a little over-zealous about our loyalties, but there you have it.

    Jack

  37. Jack, Shhh. Rick apparently thinks that only people who live in the lower 48 are capable of being self righteous, obnoxious, and overbearing, although his own posts clearly prove that is untrue. We might as well save our breath.

  38. Mark,
    Finally, you post something we can agree on…

    But seriously, I’m intentionally painting with a wide brush for dramatic effect.

    There’s no point in personalizing the whole issue. I’m talking about foreign policy specifically, and Americans in general.

    I think to a large extent, you’re shooting the messenger. I’ll tell you right now that I’m not the only one talking about connections between Iraq and Katrina. These same sentiments are being raised by people in countries all over the world.

    If you don’t like the way Americans are described by the rest of the world, maybe you can do something to change it, rather than threatening to take over our countries. :P

  39. Hi Rick,

    You are right. I probably have been taking this personally, and I apologize. And thank you for maintaining a sense of humor throughout.

    Reading back through this thread, I think I can identify the main point of contention. You think the the US could have responded better to the storm if national guard troops and money were not tied up in the middle east. Is that a fair statement of your position? I, on the other hand, think this disaster is a failure of planning, communication, and clear understanding of who is responsible for what. The three guard units in my county are still here at home. It was not a matter of too few troops or too few dollars. It was a failure to use the ones we already had in place effectively. We are probably just going to have to disagree about this.

    You seem like a nice guy – maybe next time I am up your way we can go get inebriated together!

  40. Hi Mark,
    I think you’ve got my position nailed, and I think I understand your point as well.

    I guess I’d admit that I’m not as familiar with the micro-management of resources state-side as you would be.
    Point taken.

    Although I’d never advocate for the gross consumption of spirits, I’m always up for some social lubrication.

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