U.S. rides alone on disaster relief

Published December 30, 2004 10:57PM (EST)

Those looking for cooperation between the U.S. and the U.N. in aiding victims of the Asian tsunami disaster shouldn't hold their breath. The Washington Post reports today that the Bush administration is organizing a disaster relief effort entirely separate from that of the U.N.:

"Speaking publicly for the first time since Sunday's Indian Ocean tsunami, Bush told reporters that the United States, India, Japan and Australia are forming an international coalition to provide immediate relief and rescue assistance, as well as longer-term help with rebuilding."

"U.N. officials said they received no advance word about the U.S.-led aid effort. There was concern at the United Nations that this may have been a consequence of criticism that the United States had not been generous."

As with the United States' last coalition of the willing, the Bush administration has made it clear that it expects the rest of the world to play an assisting role. U.S. Undersecretary of State Mark Grossman told reporters yesterday, "Our expectation is that the European Union, the United Nations and other countries will also join in thisAlthoughwe make a substantial contribution, more than anyone else in these emergencies, this is certainly not for us to do alone."

That sort of sentiment would be justified if Grossman's assertion that the U.S. gives "more than anyone else in these emergencies" were true of its contributions to the tsunami relief. But it's difficult to understand how the U.S. is leading the relief effort while Spain, a country with only a sixth of the United States' population, has already pledged twice the amount promised by the U.S. to date.

It's telling to note that during much smaller past crises, previous administrations were more ready to open their wallets. As the Post reports, "After Hurricane Mitch in 1998, when about 9,000 people were killed and 3 million were left homeless in Central America, the United States provided $988 million in relief assistance."

By Jeff Horwitz

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