I’ve read this article [newstatesman.com] on the hidden cost of Americas new adventures in Mesopotamia before, but someone just forwarded it to me again.
It’s very depressing. Especially this part about the Middle East Marshal plan that could have been:
In their main paper, Bilmes and Stiglitz come up with [a better way the money could have been spent]: “We could have had a Marshall Plan for the Middle East, or the developing countries, that might have succeeded in winning hearts and minds.”
What a historic triumph that would have been for Bush. Instead, his legacy to generations of Americans will be a needless debt of at least $2.5trn, what his own defence secretary describes as a four-way civil war in Iraq, dangerous instability in the Middle East, and increasingly entrenched hatred of the United States throughout the world.
I don’t think anyone in the current government—Republican or Democrat—can think like that. I don’t think most Americans can think like that and they would tar and feather—if not burn at the stake—anyone who suggested we give half a trillion dollars to a Middle East development effort that did not include gun toting patriotism and cheep oil. I think most Americans are generally uninterested in what happens in the Middle East unless some fear monger stands up and says that if we don’t do something we will have suicide bomber on the streets of rural America. I think most Americans compassion stops at the border. And most Americans don’t want to see a large amount of money go anywhere but back in their pockets.
I heard a speaker in collage say that “humanitarianism is the product of Western leisure time.” (I thought it was Desmond Tutu, but I can’t find a reference now). The logic of that statement strikes me as inescapable: who has the time to worry about people who might be starving or freezing to death halfway around the world when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, if it’s coming at all. However I think that America, at least those who are not millionaires, who don’t have charitable foundations named after them, has moved beyond caring about less fortunate people in other parts of the world. Caring for those outside of your own family is rare in America, caring for those outside your community, church, town or country amounts to “oh, thats horrible.” And it takes something like the Boxing Day Tsunami—something that killed a quarter or a million people to make us dig into our pockets.
If you drive a BMW, a Hummer, a Mercedes or the like, if you own a house, eat out a few times a month, take vacations then you have no excuse for not donating [brandeis.edu] a few hundred dollars a year to some charity. Try the Red Cross [icrc.org], Oxfam [oxfam.org.uk], or any number or others. There are many excuses why people don’t donate but they all break down into only a few reasons: you’re too poor, you’re too lazy, you don’t care, you never thought about it.
America does not give a lot of money as a country to humanitarian efforts, it used to be able to rely on the charity of it’s citizens and not have to. Today most of it’s citizens don’t give and the government has not picked up the slack. If we can spend $2.5 TRILLION on Iraq we should be able to spend more, as individuals and as a country, on humanitarianism.