International Rescue still a good idea

The bible says something about when you are a child you indulge in childish things but when you are a man you leave childish things behind you.

Children tend to simplify things – adults tend to complicate them. It’s probably true that all the great thinkers and statesmen were able to reduce the complications of the world down – in other words, they had the ‘vision thing’, which children have.

A great practical example of this is the old ‘Thunderbirds’ puppet show of the sixties. Whenever a catastrophe would occur anywhere on the plant, our heroes would jump into rockets and jet planes and zoom off to rescue the unfortunates involved.

Is it such a childish question to ask why no such rescue organisation actually exists in the world? Does anybody in Ireland think it odd or childish that we have fire brigades, ambulances, mountain rescue, lifeboats, doctors-on-call, and so on?

Yet when the worst natural disaster of our generation strikes the planet, absolutely no organised preparations have been made to deal with it or to bring relief to the people suffering. As we all know, in an emergency time is of the essence, yet in a real global emergency the first thing to be done is not to deploy assistance – it is to gather the assistance together.

The logistics involved required transport and personnel to be available on call. This is pretty much how the military of the world operates and it is a grim fact that we set aside an awful lot more time and money on ways to kill people rather than save them.

But, despite the obvious contradiction above, the military is the right place to start in providing emergency assistance in time of disaster. If we are going to have armies, why not put them to good use when they are not fighting wars?

So we have Nato. We have the EU talking about a Rapid Reaction Force. We still don’t have a dedicated international corps to deal with international emergencies. What is required is a dedicated core group with the power to draw in personnel and equipment from the world’s military when the need arises.

If the United Nations’ core goal is to beat swords into ploughshares this would be a good place to start. The victims of the next disaster deserve no less.

New internationalism

The deaths of many foreigners in the Asian tsunami disaster and the reaction of the ‘First World’ shows again how interdependent we are on this small planet.

There are two reasons to back aid for the Third World: fairness and self-interest. The first motivation should be fairness but the second might be the most important.

Poverty brings about instability, spreads diseases, causes wars and terrorism. As we have seen, we cannot always avoid these things because we are rich. A better way is to see that we need each other and that fair trade, justice and aid are not just nice ideas. They are vital to our interests too.