U.S. Must Match Tsunami Relief Effort in Pakistan
The United States reaped huge political benefits from its generous
response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. But it's in danger
of falling short now in strategically vital Pakistan.
after an earthquake killed an estimated 87,000 people and left
2 million homeless with savage weather descending, the U.S. government
has committed $156 million to relief in Pakistan, compared to
$1 billion after the tsunami.
donations for Pakistan so far total $47.7 million, according to
the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. That compares
to $600 million a month after the tsunami and $1.6 billion total.
A week after
the tsunami, President Bush enlisted his father and former President
Bill Clinton to lead private relief fundraising. It took 20 days
for him to appoint five corporate CEOs to lead a similar effort
after the earthquake.
with the CEOs - including the heads of GE, Pfizer, Citigroup and
Xerox - in the Oval Office yesterday and dispatched them, along
with Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, to visit Pakistan next
In an interview,
Hughes disputed the notion that the U.S. response has been slow.
"I started working on this on Day One," she said. "We
committed $50 million the first weekend, which was a really substantial
effort and more than we originally did in the tsunami."
acknowledged that word about relief efforts, and especially the
CEOs' private-sector campaign, has gotten lost amid coverage of
the CIA-leak scandal and other news.
A group critical
of U.S. efforts, Terror Free Tomorrow, found that 71 percent of
Americans believe they've heard less about the Pakistan quake
than about the tsunami. When informed about the disaster, a majority
favors more U.S. aid.
publicized poll by TFT, whose advisory board includes Sen. John
McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Reps. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) and Tom
Foley (D-Wash.), found that tsunami relief cut Indonesian popular
opposition to the U.S. war on terror from 72 percent to 36 percent
and confidence in Osama bin Laden from 58 percent to 23 percent.
director, Ken Ballen, a former aide to Hamilton, told me "The
United States is indeed helping Pakistan, but much more needs
to be done, given the scale of the disaster and the strategic
importance of the world's second-largest and only nuclear-armed
president, Pervez Musharaf, has been a staunch U.S. ally in the
war on terror and has been targeted repeatedly by Islamic radicals.
Ballen wrote in a paper on Pakistan that "the U.S. must now
do nothing less than spearhead a response similar to the one that
followed the tsunami - for self-evident and overwhelming humanitarian
reasons and for the long-term national security of the United
the Pew Global Survey this year showed that 51 percent of Pakistanis
have a favorable impression of bin Laden and only 23 percent are
favorable toward the United States.
to Ballen, "the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan is deepening,
yet the world's response is not. For the tsunami, there were about
4,000 helicopters donated to ferry life-saving aid, and in Pakistan
there are only 70 - even though there are almost three times as
many people who need food and shelter to survive.
Ballen said, "80 percent of the [worldwide] aid that was
pledged for the tsunami was given within the first two weeks,
while Pakistan so far has received only about 12 percent of the
aid pledged, or some $17 million."
As both Hughes
and Ballen told me, the tsunami and the Pakistani disaster present
different aid challenges - and the situation in Pakistan is more
tsunami was a one-time event," Hughes observed. "A wave
came in and swept all these people away" - an estimated 200,000
- "and there was very little need for ongoing disaster operations
such as providing medical assistance and transports.
this case, we have a much more extensive ongoing operation ...
in terms of delivering supplies, rescuing people and saving lives.
It's very expensive, which is why we're launching the public-private
time is of the essence in Pakistan. An estimated 500,000 people
are without shelter, and the fierce Himalayan winter is about
to close in. The United Nations appealed for $550 million in international
aid, but only $131 million has been pledged, separate from the
U.S. contribution. And the U.N.'s relief coordinator, Jan Egeland,
said, "it's no good to pledge money for reconstruction if
people die before you reconstruct."
A CARE International
official told Newsday that "we can see a second
crisis coming. Winter is on the way and the danger is that people
will freeze to death."
To the extent
that the United States and the rest of the world fall short in
providing aid to Pakistan, Ballen said, the void will be filled
by Muslim groups tied to al Qaeda.
Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao had to acknowledge that the
radicals are now "the lifeline of our rescue and relief work,"
Ballen wrote. Despite budgetary pressures and domestic disaster
reconstruction expenses, he urged Congress to authorize Bush to
spend "whatever sums are needed" for Pakistan relief
and for the United States to "take the lead."
we are serious about truly confronting what President Bush rightly
called 'the murderous ideology' of radical Islamicists,"
he wrote, "then we must also take the concrete steps required
to weaken support for the radicals among the people themselves."
The post-tsunami effort shows that we know how to do what's right.
Now, we need to do it again.
Kondracke is the Executive Editor of Roll Call.