Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan and the Demonstration of National Character

American is at its best when it is subtle, the "Speak softly and carry a big stick" school of national greatness. We set the example by our actions - actions based not of naked national interest of misty-eyes utopian wishfullness, but on simple Menchdom; doing the right thing because that is what a free republic does.

That is the source of "power" in the oft used phrase, "Soft Power."

That is the other side of the coin from the equally important "Hard Power" for what a great nation of free people must do. 

No modern nation can truely have global influence unless it has both the ability and the inclination to execute hard or soft power when the opportunity or requirement presents itself.

I great nation never cowers from a threat or an attack by aggressive evil, but also does not ignore need. It does not strive to do for others things they can do themselves, but to give a boost and an assist to those who have been knocked down and need that helping hand. By doing so, not only does the nation do good, it accrues good will credibility that it may need when the more risky hard power is called upon.

As a nation, American has always helped other nations. This is the "no greater friend" side of the "no worse enemy" phrase.

Culture matters as well. Other nations and cultures may play the game, but responding to natural disasters is ingrained in the culture we inherated from the Mother Country, as have all those in the primary and secondary part of the Anglosphere. In the USA, the very brutal nature of our weather also gives us a baseline understanding of what Mother Nature can do to even the most wealthy and gifted. Tornadoes, fires, hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes; we have that. 

As we often see on the globe, as the big player in the Anglosphere, we have stepped up in response to the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan with the best of the usual suspects. It is also instructive who has not stepped in. Not so instructive to ourselves, but to others.

Hard power can send a message when needed, but in times of peace - soft power is essential. Because it has the organization, equipment, training, and discipline - the tool of hard power is also the best initial tool of soft power.

If you are a small to medium sized nation in the Pacific and want to see who wants to be a friend and who is being petty or opportunistic; look to see who is acting like a friend. Or, just follow the money. Via the WSJ;
The U.S. has donated $20 million in disaster relief, ... On Friday, Japan increased its offer of aid to $52 million. The country is dispatching 1,000 troops to the Philippines in what Japanese officials have described as the largest-ever deployment by the nation's Self-Defense Forces for disaster aid. ... The U.K. has pledged $40 million in aid, while Australia has earmarked $12 million. South Korea has pledged $5 million worth of assistance and offered to send a medical mission.
Indonesia offered $2 million in relief,...
Again at the WSJ, our friend Jim Holmes puts it well;
Naval analysts believe internal politics or China's simmering territorial dispute with the Philippines over islands in the South China Sea could explain Beijing's sluggish response to Typhoon Haiyan.

"China doesn't appear able to act apolitically, even though it could make itself look like a responsible great power in the process," said James Holmes, a professor of strategy at the Naval War College.

Mr. Holmes said the U.S. could benefit. "Glowering diplomacy by China drives Asians toward the U.S., the balancer of first resort, whereas smile diplomacy had Asians sitting on the fence," he said.
In a good strike of planning and thought, looks like we were ready.
U.S. Marines are tweaking the way they equip, train, and deploy their expeditionary units to better handle these kinds of missions. The III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, last year began stocking supplies needed for humanitarian assistance, such as water-purifying equipment, in the Philippines, a Marine spokesman said.

Other changes, such as the addition of cargo ships to Maritime Prepositioning Forces squadrons, are meant to make it easier for expeditionary units to carry out disaster-response operations.

"The faster Marines can get the right force, personnel and equipment, ashore, the faster we can mitigate human suffering," said Lt. Col. Maria McMillen, the deputy director of the Marine University's School of Advanced Warfighting.
While it is nice to get all Care Bear about this - and that is fine - over at FP they boil it down to the real importance.
The response to Haiyan could be a turning point for the United States in Asia: an opportunity to re-up the pivot, and to pour cold water on the narrative of a dominant China.

The world is well aware of what we can do with our military as designed - but we should also make sure that we remind everyone our real national character as a representative republic made up of a free people founded on Judeo-Christian values.

Oh, China?
China is the world's second largest economy and closer to the Philippines than other major donors of assistance to the typhoon-ravaged archipelago.

Yet the paltry $1.6 million in aid it pledged to its neighbor was less than the check written by Swedish furniture store Ikea.
Pick your friends. None are perfect - but some are less perfect than others.

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