EDITORIAL: America, everybody’s friend

Pakistanis should take note of U.S. humanitarian aid

The world hurts, America responds. Recent floods in Pakistan have killed at least 1,500 people and affected millions more. The United States is rushing aid to the scene, and hopefully this time the people of Pakistan will remember who their friends are.

U.S. response to the Pakistani disaster was immediate. In a matter of days, the American military has rushed hundreds of thousands of pre-packaged halal meals to the flood region, and the Pentagon reports, “Military experts in medicine, logistics, aviation, engineering and other fields are on the ground in Pakistan, and more are on the way to assist the Pakistan government.” Helicopters, inflatable rescue boats, water-purification equipment and pre-fabricated steel bridges are being deployed to assist in relief efforts and mitigate the suffering of flood victims. But will anyone over there give it a thought a year from now?

In October 2005, an earthquake in Kashmir killed around 79,000 people and devastated local towns and villages. The United States responded swiftly, mounting a highly successful six-month disaster relief mission costing more than $100 million. A CNN opinion poll taken after the U.S. relief operation began showed that U.S. favorability ratings in Pakistan had soared around 20 points to 46 percent approval and 45 percent disapproval. Likewise, polling in Indonesia delivered similarly happy news after the U.S. relief effort in response to the devastating December 2004 tsunami. These humanitarian missions spurred hope that durable gains in good will could be achieved in predominantly Muslim regions normally suspicious and hostile to the Land of the Free.

Unfortunately, the gains were short-lived. A Pew Center poll from 2007 showed that U.S. approval in Indonesia had declined to 29 percent. A 2007 CNN poll in Pakistan showed that America’s approval rating had plummeted to 19 percent, and a Pew Center poll from 2008 gave the same result. The United States is the least liked country in Pakistan, rating even below traditional adversary India. A June 2010 Pew Center poll showed that despite President Obama’s unprecedented and obsequious outreach to the Muslim world, U.S. approval has declined to 17 percent, below where it was in the closing days of the George W. Bush administration.

“It feels awesome to be able to help out those in need,” said Capt. Tim Goodwillie of the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron flying relief to Pakistan. “We have the capability to provide this support and we’re happy to do so.” The United States is the first responder of choice when it comes to global natural disasters. America devotes extraordinary technical capabilities, resources and expertise worth millions of dollars. Our wealth and power always have been used to benefit the less fortunate in the world in times of crisis.

The United States is the most beneficent country in the world and the most charitable nation in human history. It would be nice if more countries appreciated our efforts. Even when this nation faces economic uncertainties and record deficits, America finds the means to help abroad when help is needed. Whenever there is a crisis, our country is there for them. All we ask is that sometimes they be there for us.

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