Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Let us dispose quickly of the Yank-bashing

Aaro lays it on the line, strongly scolding "tinges" in "some of the coverage" and "two of our three letters page correspondents". One entirely salutory contribution of blogging to the media is that these days, when people start arguing with a non-specific "they" without giving names, it's very very obvious.

In actual fact, I am coming up very small on actual citations for people criticising the USA for "gaucheness" or whatever it is Aaro is wittering on about. Decent demigod Bernard Thefounderofmedecinssansfrontieres [1] has criticised the US Army for failing to co-operate with other agencies, and the Brazilians in the UN mission have expressed reluctance to give up and let the US Army take over, but these look much more like substantial differences on operational matters than "Yank-bashing" (in fact they look like the normal consequences of frustration and institutional chaos as a result of people working long days under incredible pressure). In any case, I kind of think that one of the world's most famous humanitarian workers and the United Nations peacekeeping mission might make more suitable debating partners for Aaro than "people who write letters to newspapers".

Of course, in the hands of a confirmed Labour Atlanticist and interventionist, this sort of propagandising for the desirability of a unipolar system and attempting to create strawman "Yank-bashers" for whom even relief work is an occasion to criticise the USA[2], is hardly harmless. It all leaves a rather sour taste.

Medecins Sans Frontieres Haiti Appeal

[1] His middle name is Kouchner.

[2] Bring me examples of any such people and I will condemn them in terms stentorian. But I don't actually see any examples of anti-American imperialists using the Haiti earthquake as an occasion to promote their politics. I do see one example of a pro-American imperialist doing so.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet more Frenchmen complaining:

The French minister in charge of humanitarian relief called on the UN to "clarify" the American role amid claims the military build up was hampering aid efforts.
Alain Joyandet admitted he had been involved in a scuffle with a US commander in the airport's control tower over the flight plan for a French evacuation flight.

"This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti," Mr Joyandet said.



1/19/2010 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Probably still on topic:

Let us dispose quickly of the Yank-bashing; 71 per cent of Haitian exports go the US, Haiti has tariff-free access to the US market and remittances from Haitians in the United States account for a quarter of Haitian GDP. This crisis is not America’s fault


a country where 80 per cent live in poverty, much of it rural, where half are illiterate and which had not managed to repair the severe damage from hurricanes and storms in 2008

aaro recently:

in Cuba itself what has helped hold the thing together is the Yanqui threat: it is the Americans who cause shortages by their embargo, it is the Americans who create the security crisis that necessitates heavy policing.

1/19/2010 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

"the US, though not obliged to, has put in the lion’s share of help and effort in a way that the other parts of our now celebrated multipolar world still cannot or will not match"

Perhaps it's not obliged to, but one would think the Superpower and its enormous navy only 600 miles away should be expected to play the lead role.

1/19/2010 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1/19/2010 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The navy in question is sending a mobile port. Apparently there were a total of five aircraft diverted over the weekend, which compares well to a typical day with a north wind at Heathrow.

1/19/2010 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

It's not just the US out there; Cuba's contributed quite a lot - or, proportionate to available resources, Cuba's contributed a stupendous amount.

As for tariffs, what Aaro doesn't mention is that the US has more or less tariff-free access to the Haitian market, which makes it a bit tough to develop Haitian production.

But this is a dialogue of the deaf; the critical voices I've seen aren't saying that US forces aren't getting stuck in and helping people, or that they haven't finished the job already (which seems to be the criticism that got Aaro spluttering in the first place - "Well of course they didn't get it done really quickly! It's a difficult job!"). They're saying that

a) US forces are doing the job badly in particular ways, which suggest policy decisions rather than difficulties on the ground
b) the US has goals for Haiti which are in the best interests of US capital rather than the Haitians, and they're taking advantage of this crisis to further them
c) past interventions by the US have a lot to do with why Haiti was in such a dreadful state before the earthquake, which obviously affects its ability to recover from it.

There's room to criticise some of what's come out on Haiti from this angle - the great temptation is always to massage away the details that don't fit. (Aristide, frex - even if the US got rid of Aristide, it seems a pretty good bet that lots of poor Haitians wanted rid of him too.) But it's quite a developed & coherent viewpoint, and I'm not sure what Aaro would put in its place other than "dreadful tragedy, brave men doing a valuable job under difficult circumstances, now shut up".

1/19/2010 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

To be honest, I'm sure the USA's doing its best and don't really think that this is about the USA one way or another.

1/19/2010 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Hmm. There is an air of Self-Righteous Brothers about that column - you get the feeling there wouldn't be any point providing Aaro with evidence, because his main argument is that if people did say awful things, then that would be awful. And he's right, of course.

1/19/2010 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brusch: yes. Everyone outside Haiti has immediately seized the opportunity to assume their standard ideological positions and assert that it's *really about them*.

Aaro and the Decents (which sounds like a band) are lining up for yet another battle with the Pol Pot memorial dinner party in their heads; junior French government ministers are indulging their fantasy of still having an empire; Pat Robertson is being an egregious, racist, religiose buffoon; no doubt, on the nutpicking principle*, there's someone on the left who believes the Americans are distributing poisoned chocolate to Haitian children.

But it's not about any of them.

*i.e. it's always possible to nutpick because every conceivable opinion attracts at least one nut - it's a corollary of the Crazification Factor.

1/19/2010 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

This bit of Decent introspection was wonderful:

Like many other middle-aged Westerners, I was brought up on Thunderbirds. International Rescue and its flap-mouthed heroes had a vehicle and a gadget for every situation — under the sea, space, boring holes through mountains, whatever. It leaves you feeling that it shouldn’t be beyond the world’s capacity to create an intervention agency ...

Harry's Place is Go!

1/19/2010 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

what a brilliant idea! The Harry's Place International Democracy Force would also have "a vehicle and a gadget for every situation", except that it would always be a helicopter and cluster bombs.

1/19/2010 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'd think, what with the USN pulling hospital ships and anchor handling tenders and god knows what ugly-hookpots-with-bits-sticking-out out of deep reserve, Aaro would be able to dispense with the Arse Full Of Armies this time.

1/19/2010 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Yes, it's rather strange - this is exactly the sort of thing that gives the US military a good name, it appears to be working and so many of their usual supporters are strangely flaccid and unsatisfied.

1/19/2010 05:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

It's not really that strange. Decency isn't really an "America! Fuck yeah!" philosophy. It's about the necessity of making common cause with people who do think like that - for Decents, lining up with America is the mature, reasonable, honest thing to do, if not the only mature, reasonable, honest thing to do. But what it's mainly about is the necessity, not the actual "making common cause": denouncing other people for what they're not doing is far more important than actually doing anything oneself. Decency, if it means anything, means the right to judge people and find them wanting.

1/19/2010 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Is there any truth to the rumour that the airport was shutdown so that Joe Biden and Clinton could visit, or is this just scurrilous rumour mongering? Honest question, not had much time to follow this.

When it comes to Haiti my reflex is to assume the US is guilty until proven innocent. As Phil says, there is a history there.

1/19/2010 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Dunno. Can't seem to find any sources for it other than rather odd-looking far-left blogs (which I hereby condemn! I condemn thee!). Even if it was true, it might not have actually made that much difference - since there are all sorts of bottlenecks in an operation like this, it could easily be the case that enough stuff had built up at the airport that they had to shut down cargo flights for three hours while they shifted it.

1/19/2010 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks to the Ackerman Spencer, what happened with the MSF airlift. An aircraft ahead of them in the stream went tech in Haiti and missed its 2-hour window on the ground.

1/20/2010 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

There might in principle and at some future date be legitimate concerns, btw, about the USA's role if we get mission creep and start seeing a load of "but what the Haitians truly need is not food and water but good governance ..." sneaking in (into US govt policy, that is, for it to sneak into neoliberal and thereby Decent op-eds is surely in the post and I'm frankly surprised we haven't seen it yet). But that's certainly a bridge to cross if we come to it.

1/20/2010 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/20/2010 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Yank-basher ahoy!

"This is a time to respect the resiliency and courage of the Haitian people. It is a time for aid, not charity, for solidarity not a U.S. military take-over. And it is a time to return President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to his homeland."
- Robert Roth, Haiti Action Committee

1/21/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Robert Roth, for committing the sin of aggravated punditry, for misunderstanding the role of the US military in humanitarian operations and for trying to tack on a personal agenda to a natural disaster ...


1/21/2010 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

But surely, because Robert Roth is a leftie, the whole leftist consensus falls apart, and we now have to admit that we were wrong about everything. That is how it works, isn't it? 1 bloke attaches his personal agenda to Haiti and the Iraq War was right all along, terrorist lovers!

1/21/2010 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gregor said...

I've never been certain where internationalist neo-liberalism ends and where decency begins. Subsequently, I don't know if Russophobe creep Luke Harding cuts it as a decent (though the way he always refers to 'Vladimir Putin' rather than 'Dmitry Medvedev' implies that he has the Hitler fixation of many decents). Still, this was an interesting article by The Exile:


1/23/2010 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

That was eighteen months ago. What happened next?

1/23/2010 12:58:00 PM  

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