Saturday, September 03, 2005

Shaken Confidence

As our readers know, we are aggressively pro-American in our views. What follows then is cold analysis, not America bashing.

The New Orleans disaster is the third in a series of confidence-shaking events this millennium. The consequences are likely very significant.

Before 9/11, the world thought American intelligence was nearly omnipotent. After 9/11, this belief became untenable.

Before Iraq, the world thought American military was impossibly formidable with super-sophisticated civilian leadership. After Iraq, where brave American soldiers are somehow holding up a just war botched by their civilian leaders, this belief has become untenable.

Before Katrina, the world thought American government had near-infinite resources and infrastructure to protect and rescue its own people in trouble. After Katrina, where stranded people are starving and dying even as we write, this belief too has become untenable.

Because America is the long pole holding up our present (India-friendly) globalized world order, confidence in American leadership is a real big deal. At this dark moment, for all our admiration of America, even we are having a tough time sustaining such confidence.

No doubt, such cofidence-erosion will have significant political and geo-political consequences.


Nicole said...

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doubtinggaurav said...


You are being majorly spammned :-))

Primary Red said...

The spamming is funny!

Nitin said...

Primary Red,

You've made a very pertinent point. The Pakistani press has already begun writing editorials that purport to document 'an exposé of American society'

When disaster strikes, people in noisy democracies direct their anger at the government. People with no experience of living in a noisy democracy do not understand this. They take it as an exposure of weakness. What they underestimate is the ability of such societies to learn.

Primary Red said...

Great point, Nitin.

Ultimately, it is precisely the capacity to learn from error that gives long-term strength and victory to open societies -- ironically, this process of strengthening via error & learning is mistaken by tyrranies as fundamental weakness, which in turn causes them to be bolder than they otherwise might have been.

C'est la vie!

Laks said...

PR and Nitin:

As much as I would like to agree with you about the inherent strength of democracies, it assumes the correct dissemination of information for such self-correction to occur.

Just to be watching CNN coverage from Europe makes me wonder about their spin. First about the "courageous" NO mayor who did'nt follow his own evacuation plans in using school and public transportation buses inorder to evacuate poor and sick folks. Then the La. Governor who asked for National Guard help too late.

Thankfully the "John Wayne" dude is upon the situation and things are moving fast.

sanjay said...

Quite apart from what the mayor or governor should have done, there was a need for concerted & co-ordinated national response. India's response to the Tsunami is the type of official action that was needed, instead of nice sounding press conferences on CNN.

On December 27, 2004 — within hours of the tsunami — an Indian naval hospital arrived at Sri Lanka’s Trincomalee harbor, followed by helicopter-equipped corvettes and other ships for search and rescue. Medical camps were set up in affected parts of India as well as in Trincomalee, Galle and Hambantota in Sri Lanka.

The Indian air force used heavy-lift transporters to deliver fully-staffed field hospitals and clinics. It used its own Mi-17 helicopters to airdrop relief supplies in India & in Sri Lanka. The Indian relief mission soon included over 20,000 military personnel, 35 warships, 23 IL Gajaraj transporter planes (with twice the capacity of the C-130 Hercules), 40+ helicopters. All equipment was operating in shifts round the clock 24/7. This massive deployment operated in an arc from the Maldives to Indonesia.

By January 5, 2005, several hundred thousand tons of wreckage and debris were cleared from various parts of India including from Sri Lanka’s tsunami-crippled harbor of Galle, following round-the-clock operations by the Indian navy. This effort paved the way for a sea-borne lifeline, to enable both relief and delivery of heavy reconstruction materials.

A special crisis management cell was set up by the PMO to monitor relief measures. To help accelerate the transition from relief to reconstruction, the Indian Government expeditiously requested emergency support from various internation agencies set up for this purpose: ADB, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Bank.

The Prime Minister announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 1,00,000 (one lakh rupees) to the next of kin of each deceased. The ex-gratia payment to be made from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund which received over 91,000 contributions from organizations and individuals totaling Rs. 829 crores within the first 4 months of the disaster.

State Governments of Tamil Nadu announced ex-gratia payment of Rs. 1,00,000 (one lakh) to the families of each of the victims. Other State Govs announced similar packages.

India's Home Ministry deployed 2,107 personnel of Central Para Military Forces drawn from CRPF, CISF, ITBP, BSF and RAF (these comprise of specialists teams from CISF and ITBP who are also Medical First Responders) for search and rescue operation, road clearance, disposal of dead bodies, sanitation activities like spraying bleaching powder, DDT, Phenyl in relief camps, distribution of relief materials, unloading and guarding of relief materials etc.

The Ministry of Health mobilized 90 doctors (consisting of 32 physicians including 6 psychiatrists, 41 General Duty Medical Officers, 16 Public Health Specialists), 5 nurses and 75 paramedics (including fumigators) from various parts of India. These teams not only trained 34 volunteers at A&N Islands but treated a total of 27,537 persons affected by the disaster.

The Ministry of Shipping transported all the relief material to the Tsunami affected areas free of cost. This was immediately made available to NGOs, Trusts and to the Corporate Sector. This included material for rehabilitation and reconstruction after the initial relief efforts.

The Communications Ministry deployed point-to-point communication through Satellite phones, HAM Radio and Police Wireless in the affected areas. Free STD telephone booths were provided at the various relief camps.

The Ministry of Power made available a total of 595 portable Generator sets & power supply qas made available for at least 12 hours of the day. In some cases, 24 hours supply had been restored in many relief camps.

The Ministry Of Petroleum & Natural Gas ensured that petrol & LPG stocks are being replenished on priority basis. A team of officers of was deployed to monitor stocks and order supplies. Fresh stocks would be dispatched regularly from Haldia to provide upto 75 days cover in many affected places. Petroleum products were being regularly transported to remote parts of A&N Islands in barrels to meet local requirements.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation transported all the relief material to the Tsunami affected areas free of cost. This was immediately made available to NGOs, Trusts and to the Corporate Sector. This includes material for rehabilitation and reconstruction after the initial relief efforts.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways mobilized 14 permanent partially constructed Bailey bridges & provided all Cement and GI/Steel pipes for restoration of road links.

The Ministry of Railways transported all the relief material to the Tsunami affected areas free of cost. This was immediately made available to NGOs, Trusts and the Corporate Sector. This includes material for rehabilitation and reconstruction after the initial relief efforts.

The Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs established 390 work camps for relief and response in the affected States/UTs. 450 Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan volunteers are engaged in 20 relief centers in A&N Islands. The Ministry have allocated Rs. 3.41 crore for relief and rescue by the volunteers

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment focused on relief and rehabilitation of women, children and disabled people affected by Tsunami. Child Helplines have been set up, Short Stay Home for women have been opened; coordinated with NGO’s and State Governments for long-term rehabilitation of affected women and children. Central Adoption Resource Authority recognized agencies for adoption are being advised to provide care and protection to the orphans and make efforts for their adoption within the State/Country. District Disability Rehabilitation Centres in the affected States/UTs have been made responsible for providing aids and appliances for the disabled persons. A team of rehabilitation psychologists was deployed for psychological intervention to the suffering persons and trained local people on counseling.

The Ministry of Rural Development focused on the construction/reconstruction of or provided funds fordamaged houses in the rural areas.

A half dozen other ministries were also involved but this is enough to give a sense of the co-ordination, size, scope & range of work done.

Make no mistake about it, the american reponse has been pathetic to date.


Pankaj said...

Hello Primary Red,

This is just a weak moment in american history. The lootings and killings have exposed its other, brutal side not many have known.

The confidence might be shaken but it is not destroyed.

libertarian said...

Nitin, PR,

Excellent observations. Strengths of a system as opposed to strengths of the individual. I'd bet on the open system each time. It's self-correcting mechanisms make it much more resilient in the best Darwinian sense. America's down but far from out. As Bush said after 9/11, "our enemies have always made the critical error of mistaking our freedoms for our weakness".


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