Saturday, June 25, 2005

Mark Steyn: "Action Stations"

The "The tsunami may have been unprecedented, but what followed was business as usual - the sloth and corruption of government, the feebleness of the brand-name NGOs, the compassion-exhibitionism of the transnational jet set. If we lived in a world where 'it's what you do that defines you', we'd be heaping praise on the US and Australian militaries who in the immediate hours after the tsunami struck dispatched their forces to save lives, distribute food, restore water and power and communications.

Whether or not it has ‘moral’ authority, the UN certainly can’t do the job. It becomes clearer every week that Western telly viewers threw far more money at tsunami relief than was required and that much of it has been siphoned off by wily customs inspectors and their ilk. If you really wanted to make an effective donation to a humanitarian organisation, you’d send your cheque to the Pentagon or the Royal Australian Navy.

Getting things done requires ships and transport planes and the like, and most Western countries lack the will to maintain armed forces capable of long-range projection. So, when disaster strikes, they can mail a cheque and hold a press conference and form a post-modern ‘Task Force’ which doesn’t have any forces and doesn’t perform any tasks. In extreme circumstances, they can stage an all-star pop concert. And, because this is all most of the Western world is now capable of, ‘taking action’ means little more than taking the approved forms of inaction.

Any large gathering of world leaders is a waste of time, especially if there’s any kind of permanent secretariat or bureaucracy involved. Mr Bush will be polite at Gleneagles, but it’s no coincidence that his closest relationship is with a man he hardly ever meets in person, and never at the big talking-shops — John Howard of Australia, who doesn’t get to go to the G8 or Nato or the EU and yet works more effectively with America than Canada or any of the so-called ‘major European allies’ like France and Germany. Summits are, so to speak, one huge bluff.

According to my favourite foreign minister these days, Australia’s Alexander Downer, ‘Iraq was a clear example about how outcomes are more important than blind faith in the principles of non-intervention, sovereignty and multilateralism.... Increasingly multilateralism is a synonym for an ineffective and unfocused policy involving internationalism of the lowest common denominator. Multilateral institutions need to become more results-oriented.’ "
Since it's Steyn, read it all and see how a good writer writes.

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