Words and Deeds

Has it escaped notice that the brunt of the tsunami catastrophe has fallen on the world’s most populous Muslim country? One that has an active branch of al Qaeda?

This is an ideal time for Western governments — especially European ones — to do well by doing good. Conspicuous aid to suffering Muslims can only be to Europe’s benefit in the struggle against Islamic radicalism.

As spokesman in Indonesia for UNICEF said, “It needs to be almost a military campaign. … There need to be airports set up. What we’re looking at is re-establishing a social infrastructure.”

Right now, there’s a vacuum, something abhorred by both nature and politics. If the West does not fill it, bin Laden’s allies will. Sure, that’s a cynical thought among so much suffering, but here’s hoping that someone on Solana’s staff, or in one of the national chancelleries can summon the necessary cynicism to do well while doing good.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Europe and the world and tagged by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

33 thoughts on “Words and Deeds

  1. As Hamas did in Palestine?

    Something to be weary of, although reality will be complicated by the role of Gerakan Aceh Merdeka.

    Let’s hope that these horrible events actually help bring the people of Indonesia together, as see seem to have done in Sri Lanka.

  2. “This is an ideal time for Western governments — especially European ones — to do well by doing good. Conspicuous aid to suffering Muslims can only be to Europe?s benefit in the struggle against Islamic radicalism.”

    Wake up. The U.S. was active in protecting Muslim populations throughout the 1990’s and it still led to 9/11.

    I think in order for your theory to work, the majority of Muslim governments have to actually care about their fellow Muslim first.

  3. I don’t think Mr. Merrill’s point is that we want to warm ourselves to the Indonesian governemnt, but rather that acts of generosity toward afflicted Muslims, especially those that don’t involve the dropping of bombs (as that taints even the best of intentions for obvious reasons), can only help to counter the message of Radical Islam, which is that it is the sole source of morality for all mankind. If we are interested in convincing all muslims this is false, and I hope to god we are, than acts of unquestionable benevolence can only advance our goal.

  4. Nay. We should aid them because it is our humanitarian duty to do that in the vake of catastrope. Chalking aid up to “fighting terror” is messed up, and in any case it is self-defeating. If our acts of charity are seen as a self-interested attempt to gain stature they will aid our reputation little.

  5. To demonstrate the resolute commitment of the US administration to aid, I venture to suggest switching Rumsfeld from running the Pentagon to heading up the US relief effort around the Indian Ocean. I’m sure that would convince al-Qaeda that President Bush really has a caring, charitable disposition.

  6. >If our acts of charity are seen as a >self-interested attempt to gain stature they will >aid our reputation little.

    Quite right. But that’s precisely what Doug wanted to say, in my opinion. Doing what’s necessary without agenda will be helping our agenda. Cynics will thus always be able to say that the cause-effect relation was the other way around. Luckily not too many people are that cynical.

    The disaster will open more opportunities, in my opinion. For a while, it will cover ethnic and national conflicts in the region and allow to work on these – if distribution is handled appropriately. There is also the important factor that the understanding of “globalization” is immensely enhanced by this. Moreover, I hope it will lead to an improved understanding of risk in today’s society and help to teach us – and our representatives – how to deal with it appropriately.

  7. Unfortunately, the Indonesian military isn’t doing a very good job of providing relief effort to Aceh. Since Aceh has always been more strict in its interpretation of Islam, this could have bad effects no matter what outside people do.

  8. Well known idiot FelixUSA states “Wake up. The U.S. was active in protecting Muslim populations throughout the 1990’s and it still led to 9/11.”

    9/11 was not the result of massive world-wide hatred of the US by Muslims; it was the result of a few fanatics. You may recall that on that day the whole world sympathised with the US, including most Muslim countries.

    It was the post 9/11 lunacy that led the whole world, Muslim and otherwise, to hate the US, to the extent that I suspect a second such attack would result in dancing in the streets in every other country in the world, starting in Canada and Mexico and working outwards.

  9. “It was the post 9/11 lunacy that led the whole world, Muslim and otherwise, to hate the US”

    The San Franciscan nutjob is at it again. The US was hated worldwide before 9/11; that was what led to the attack.

    I doubt that the tsunami will lead to opportunities to build bridges to Muslims in Indonesia. Most of it will be forgotten, eventually; goodwill gestures tend to be forgotten when ideology rules.

    The west should continue with charity relief, though, because it makes us feel good, – not because we expect anything in return.

    Let us keep in mind, however, that charity is a form of imperialism: it is an expression of power over the weak. No wonder India, – the country that seems to understand this point the most – has publicly declared that it does not need any disaster aid from the west, that it is wholly capable of taking care of its own.

    Kudos to India for making an important point.

  10. we welcome any discourse of how empire pervades a resistant worldwide humanity.
    the new year indeed.
    empire stumbles in its paltry attempts to act ‘human’, compassionate.

    bush had to be shaken to the fact that the world was more than his dismal trailer park in crawford. three days to awaken him from his medication and bike tours.
    humanity was dying and is dying on a unpredendented scale. i think he could not comprenhend the seriousness and dimension of the reality of the situation. i think he must have taken up the children’s book ‘my little goat’ so as to help him gain equilibrium’. we in nyc are in a sorry state. we got brains and see fascism for what it is. no matter much strength and clarity in the new year. he will fall in two years. cool.
    orange revolution all around. execpt gitmo the prisoner color is orange.

  11. “Well known idiot FelixUSA states…”

    I’m well known? I have commented in maybe 8 entries on this blog. Way to make things up just so you can sophomorically insult a fellow poster.

    “It was the post 9/11 lunacy that led the whole world, Muslim and otherwise, to hate the US, to the extent that I suspect a second such attack would result in dancing in the streets in every other country in the world, starting in Canada and Mexico and working outwards.”

    It was a shorter trip for some than for others, wasn’t it Maynard? I’ll bet it’s a safe assumption that you, for example, were already there.

    Also, notice that the “post 9/11 lunacy” didn’t piss off the majority of Afghans or Iraqi’s. They are looking forward to their own democratic governments.

    Obviously that leaves you and the rest of the America haters quite disgruntled.

  12. felixusa,
    “They are looking forward to their own democratic governments.”, when is that going to happen?
    Saddam was elected remember, so apparently elections mean nothing to you.
    As to your supposed fame, I would think you’d like that people know you otherwise why would you keep the name felixusa. You could just as easily change it everytime you post. The whole point of keeping the name is to acquire credibility.

    Also,”notice that the “post 9/11 lunacy” didn’t piss off the majority of Afghans or Iraqi’s”, Could you define “piss off” and cite the survey that would suggest that your statement has validity?

    Thank You.

  13. ladder, you are behind the learning curve. Afghanistan had successful elections this fall.

    And polls show most Iraqis favor elections.

    Both countries are shaping up nicely, after their liberation, much to the disappointment of MSM, and anti-American bigots throughout the world.

    Hopefully, we’ll have more liberations in store for 2005. Here’s hoping for more such successful wars.

  14. Oxymoron? Wars in the last 15 years have shown to be quite effective in providing positive social change, – as long as the US conducts them.

  15. We can have hours of fun arguing about positive changes coming out of wars. However, whatever one’s own favourite list of social benefits includes, those improvements could and should have been obtained without war. War represents a failure to achieve objectives peacefully. And, given that war is by definition a failure, a “successful war” is an oxymoron.

    This, of course, ignores the military itself and the industrial and political complex behind it for whom a “successful war” is a tautology.

  16. “We can have hours of fun arguing about positive changes coming out of wars. However, whatever one’s own favourite list of social benefits includes, those improvements could and should have been obtained without war. War represents a failure to achieve objectives peacefully.”

    I agree, but unlike you I apply it equally. Which is why I am comfortable laying the blame for Afghanistan and Iraq on Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Saddam Husseins Baathist regime instead of the countries who reacted to their aggressions.

    If we were to uses your double-standard, the history books would blame WW2 on Poland…

  17. Disingenuous of you FelixUSA. Blame is not something you find me laying in this thread, and very rarely, if ever, in any other post. Playing “But, he hit me first, mummy!” isn’t my style.

    If you do apply my standard to WW2, you would recognise a large number of contributing mistakes and failures by many parties long before the invasion of Poland. And, as it happens, the history books agree.

  18. What’s disingenuous? I used 3 examples, all of which had a clear aggressor government/country. Explain how the countries who defended/reacted against the aggressors “failed” by reacting with force, and let’s keep it realistic please.

    You’re the one who claimed a “succesful war” was an oxymoron. Tell it to the Poles(or the French, or the Chinese) who survived WW2 with their country and/or government intact. Tell it to the Kuwaiti’s, for that matter, or tell it to people who were in New York on 9/11.

  19. Tell it to the Poles … who survived WW2 with their country and/or government intact.

    I think you will find that, for many Poles, things really only began to look up during the 1980s.

    On a broader note, may I remind commenters that afoe’s policy (to the minor extent we can be said to have one) is this: discuss the matters brought up in the post and other related comments as energetically as you like. But those commenters who use the comments box for a slagging match or mere trollery are at peril of disemvowelment, banning, forced re-education in Siberia, etc. If you try really, really hard, you just might be able to conduct a discussion without resort to ‘nutjob’, ‘idiot’, etc.

  20. …unlike you [..] I am comfortable laying the blame…

    Please, do not attribute things to me that are untrue.

    Explain how the countries [..] ?failed? by reacting..

    My assertion was that the fact they were forced to react at all represents a failure.

    As for your examples:

    – Afganistan
    Was a battle, not a war, according to the US president. That the US was forced into war it didn’t want involved “systemic failure” according to congress.

    – Iraq
    Most of the free world thought (those asked) that an invasion of Iraq would not be an appropriate solution to the Saddam problem. Recent polls indicate that most Americans now think the same.

    – WW2
    Many (most?) historians “blame” the treaty of Versailles 20 years before the invasion of Poland as the primary failure leading to WW2.

    As for discussing these issues with any survivors of conflict, I’m sure that the vast majority would prefer to have had no reason for war.

  21. “I think you will find that, for many Poles, things really only began to look up during the 1980s.”

    Versus life in Nazi-occupied Poland? I think you are mistaken.

    And, I hope you are not claiming the Poles would have been better off/would have been more responsible by not fighting against the invasion of their country.

    I think the treatment even passive Jews received in Nazi-controlled lands would be proof enough that not every situation can be resolved through diplomacy and persuasion.

    “My assertion was that the fact they were forced to react at all represents a failure.”

    I understood your assertion, I’m telling you it’s too simplistic to be useful. Saying every participant in a war shares equal responsibility for conceiving the conflict unfairly assumes that attacked countries were even aware of the danger, or could do anything about it even if they knew.

    I can think of several historical examples where your theory would only be valid if the victims had some sort of precognitive ability, or some super-human diplomatic skills. Or they simply surrendered before they could be attacked.

    What’s really dangerous about your assertion is the moral equivalence it unrealistically imposes on every situation, such that Imperial Japan’s plans for a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and various Southeast Asian countries’ attempts to remain independent from that plan and self-determined are simply reduced to two opposing views.

    “As for discussing these issues with any survivors of conflict, I’m sure that the vast majority would prefer to have had no reason for war.”

    I’m sure they would too. I’m also sure you understand that wasn’t my point.

    Your assertion holds those people as responsible for the conflict as the aggressors. I doubt many of the people we’re talking about would agree with you, or, with hindsight, would rue their decision to defend their country.

  22. Since the subject of WW2 was raised, it’s interesting to note that WW1 arose from a terrorist act. And indeed the Austrians did not sit idly by.

    They set in motion a war that accomplished nothing except the removal of three monarchies, the October Revolution, the basis for Hitler’s rise to power, and the groundwork for WW2.

    Unintended consequences, anyone?

  23. Aceh, the region worst hit by the tsunami in Indonesia, is
    largely christian. The government of Indonesia has been
    waging war in Aceh for many years.

    In one of its first acts after the tsunami hit the Indonesian
    government proposed a ceasefire. Some people believe that
    tsunami casualties in Aceh are being significantly understated.

  24. Mark, I believe that I heard somewhere that Aceh is in fact mostly Muslim (and indeed, of a stricter sort of Islam than the easy-going Indonesian norm). The strife between Aceh and the central government involves, I believe, both Aceh separatists and Islamist militants (they may be a degree of overlap). I could be wrong about this, but might you be thinking of East Timor, a largely catholic former bit of Indonesia?

  25. FelixUSA,
    I finally get to buy my wife that expensive ring she always wanted and I show everybody what a great husband I am. Problem is, somebody sneaks into my office and takes the ring before I have chance to give it to my wife. However, ever the intrepid detective, I track down the miscreant, deliver him bound and trust to the correct authorities, and I even recover most of what remains of my present to my wife.

    Success! I proclaim to my wife. A nasty agressor is thwarted; I turn a disaster into a reason for celebration; and, look, I even help feed the children of the judiciary.

    No, failure! Says my wife. Your primary objective is managing the family and its assets. You have cost the family time, resources and valuable emotional stress. Your “success” is simply making the best of a bad job.

    Good job she liked the ring 🙂

  26. Mrs. Tilton,

    You are correct and I was mistaken. There are christians in
    Aceh, but they are a tiny minority.


    “The authorities gave no reason for these closures that have
    deprived over 10,000 Christians of places to meet for worship.
    One congregation has tried to meet in the open air in a palm
    oil plantation. Christians in Aceh have been under increasing
    pressure since the implementation of Shari?ah (Islamic law) in
    the province in March 2002. Although Shari?ah regulations were
    only supposed to apply to Muslims, Christian women are being
    forced to conform to Islamic dress codes. Aceh is a strongly
    Islamic province and the implementation of Shari?ah was allowed
    by the national government as part of a special autonomy agreement
    aimed at countering a violent separatist movement fighting for
    an independent Islamic state in Aceh. As a result Christians
    are facing increasing difficulties and opposition.”

    from http://www.barnabasfund.org/News/Archive/Indonesia/Indonesia-20021004.htm

    Most Acehnese are muslim and not only are they muslim but
    apparently they perceive themselves to be truer muslims than
    other Indonesians.


    “Another motivation for the Free Aceh movement is religion.
    Although Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any
    country (87 percent of the 180 million inhabitants are Muslim),
    it is not an Islamic state. Many inhabitants mix their faith
    with Hindu, Buddhist, or other beliefs.23 The Acehnese, however,
    are devoutly Muslim and are considered to “take their religion,
    their manners, and their morals very seriously.” According to
    a 1993 book on Indonesian history, “the more than 3.4 million
    Acehnese are most famous throughout the archipelago for their
    devotion to Islam and their militant resistance to colonial
    and republican rule….[Aceh is] the part of Indonesia where
    the Islamic character of the population is the most pronounced.”

    from http://www.refugees.org/news/crisis/indonesia/aceh.htm

    And there are other factors:

    “Two-thirds of Indonesia’s population of 180 million is
    concentrated on the fifth-largest island, Java. Transmigration,
    by which Jakarta helps residents of overcrowded Java to migrate
    to outlying islands in the Indonesian archipelago, partly
    addresses the issue of population density. According to Jafar
    Siddiq Hamzah, an Acehnese human rights lawyer currently living
    in New York:

    “In Aceh’s industrial zones on the coast, and in the mountains of
    Aceh, the people are primarily Javanese transmigrants and workers.
    So the Acehnese have no access to the coast or to the mountains.”

    from http://www.refugees.org/news/crisis/indonesia/aceh.htm

  27. Maybe the most significant point to realize about Doug Merril’s
    essay is that the United States is in fact mounting a large effort
    to help people in Indonesia and that Doug wasn’t aware of it.

    The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln plus 10 other US ships plus
    the Third Marine Expeditionary Force are off the coast and running
    rescue operations around the clock.

    See http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2004/nr20041228-1905.html

    They are working closely with the Australians and as I understand
    it Singapore, New Zealand, Spain, The Netherlands and India have
    now joined the effort.

    Here’s a site with some 19,346 photos of what specifically they
    are doing:


    From a public relations point of view I’m not sure how much
    it matters, though. The designated hero in the world media’s eyes
    is probably the U.N. even though the reality on the ground is
    a bit different.


    Aussies and Yanks continue to carry the overwhelming bulk of the
    burden, but some other fine folks also have jumped in: e.g., the
    New Zealanders have provided C-130 lift and an excellent and
    much-needed potable water distribution system; the Singaporeans
    have provided great helo support; the Indians have a hospital ship
    taking position off Sumatra. Spain and Netherlands have sent
    aircraft with supplies.

    The UN continues to send its best product, bureaucrats. Just
    today the city’s Embassies got a letter from the local UN representative
    requesting a meeting for “Ms. Margareeta Wahlstrom, United Nations
    Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General’s
    Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-afected
    countries.” Wow! Put that on a business card! And she must be really,
    really special because she has the word “coordinator” twice in her title!

    The letter, in typically modest UN style, goes on to explain that
    “Ms. Wahlstrom’s main task will be to provide leadership and support
    to the international relief effort. She will undertake high-level
    consultations with the concerned governments in order to facilitate
    the delivery of international assistance.” Oh, and she’ll be visiting
    from January 4-5.

    Once, again, a hearty Diplomadic “WOW!” She’s going to do all that
    in two days! The Australians and we have been feeding and otherwise
    helping tens-of-thousands of people stay alive for the past ten days,
    and still have a long, long way to go, but she’s going to wrap the
    whole thing up in a couple of days of meetings. Thank goodness she’s
    here to provide the poor lost Aussies and Yanks with leadership. The
    Diplomad bows in awe to such power and wisdom. The letter is signed,
    by the way, by the same UN official who suggested a couple of days
    back that the Australian and US air traffic controllers in Aceh
    should don UN blue (see our post of January 2.)

    Ok, enough with the UN; you get the picture. Now to the EU. The EU
    could copy the Australian-American model of acting quickly and
    effectively to save lives, or they could copy the UN model of meeting
    at a leisurely pace to plan for the possibility of setting up a
    coordination center that will consider making a plan for the
    possibility of an operations center to consider beginning to request
    support for the tsunami’s victims. Ah, my wise friends, guess which
    model of “action” the EU chose? No need to emulate those “cowboys”
    from Australia and the USA with their airplanes and loading crews
    working round-the-clock; oh, no, much too tacky, sweaty and dirty.
    No need to feed into the system those goofy Aussiyankeebushowardian
    New World Anglo-Saxons already have created. No, they’ll follow the
    much more elegant Kofi Annan model. A couple of EU planners have
    shown up to begin making arrangements for an assessment team to
    arrive, etc., etc., you know the rest. Meanwhile, people die.


    See http://diplomadic.blogspot.com/

  28. Hi Mark, if you can give us five minutes from digging trenches for mass graves, rather than feeding us references (we have already seen and discarded these), please, can you give us your view of the picture from ground-zero…


  29. My comment to Mark above was not constructive and ill-thoughtout. I apologise. (If someone wants to reduce my embarassment and delete it, please do.)

  30. Michael,

    Your comments are welcome. We all get irritated and angry at
    times and say things that with reflection we wish we hadn’t.

    Part of the internet experience for me has been realizing what
    a human universal this is. If you insist on perfection
    from yourself you’ll never do anything.

  31. There must be a full moon or something, even you Michael put some pepper into this thread.

    We are all observers when we comment on these blogs, and if someone actually is involved, it just adds to their credibility.

    Concedrning the thread … my cynical side and disgust with graft makes me not even want to think about how much of the “administering of funds and relief” will be an excuse to pilfer, assign contracts or otherwise partake of these donations by locals for thewir own benefit, their families, friends, tribes, or affiliated groups. Here at home in the USA and elsewhere (they say 30% of Americans have contributed-we do like to rally behind causes of late)internet and other scammers are also stealing funds. BUT ANYONE who helps, Tamil Tigers, UN, US Military, Local muslim “radicals”, visitors, citizens…must be thanked by those of us not in a position to help.

    If one is affiliated with a benfactor group, and the benafactor’s representatives are so stupid and crude that they gloat or brag about the assistance they provide, therby reducing the efforts of the groups they represent in the eyes of others, then the most disheartened people will be the very people they represent AND the people they helped (who truly wanted to say thanks from the bottom of their hearts, not with hesitation).

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