With the official death toll now uncomfortably above 100,000, John Budd of UNICEF said, of the relief efforts in Indonesia, “it needs to be almost a military campaign.”
ALMOST? Pull your head out, John. The ONLY organizations in the world equipped for this kind of operation are major militaries. You need aircraft carriers, infantry transport, massive supply lines, portable airfields, mobile hospitals, and that most maligned of temporary governments, “martial law.”
In Lucifer’s Hammer (Science fiction about a meteor-spawned tsunami that wipes out all Pacific coasts, among other things) Niven and Pournelle tell us that “civilization is three meals away from collapse.” The greatest danger the survivors, the refugees, the millions of homeless in Southeast Asia currently face is not pestilence nor famine. Those horesmen have already ridden into town, and they’ll reap their share. War, however, is the apocalyptic rider we must now concern ourselves with. The survivors are at risk from each other. Not all starving people will resort to murder to save their own lives, or the lives of their children, but not all of them have to. It only takes a few, maybe one in 20, or even one in 100. The only way to stop them is to be better armed, highly visible, extremely organized, AND able to feed everyone.
I’m not trying to make the survivors out to be warmongering, savage rabble. I’m simply pointing out that they are people, just like you and me, and they won’t just lie down and die if there’s no food to be had. Civilization is three meals away from collapse.
The UN, UNICEF, the Red Cross, and others are ill equipped to deal with the complete fall of civilization across a large swath of geography. They don’t have the full suite of tools at their disposal. I hope that the United States, for one, doesn’t make the mistake of simply handing the UN a wad of cash. We should be leading the charge with ships and planes, with personnel and materiel, and demonstrating that the most powerful military force on the planet is good for more than just hurting people and breaking things.