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Germany's Fast Aid after Katrina and "Role Reversal"

[Update: Anne Richard, author of Role Reversal, has published an op-ed in the IHT (PDF file at SAIS Transatlantic Center) describing how useful some foreign aid was and that others was rejected and others wasn't needed and concludes that much more international emergency response cooperation is necessary. The Washington Post quotes her saying "I think most Americans have little understanding about the extent to which other countries were moved and concerned" and mentions also the amount of aid Kuwait and Saudi Arabia donated. IMHO: Political motivations play a significant role, since those countries donated little for Darfur, whose people need the money much more...]

One year ago, ninety experts from Germany's Technisches Hilfswerk or THW (Federal Agency for Technical Relief) were quickly deployed to pump floodwater out of New Orleans and nearby parishes. The American Quaker Economist was "truly surprised by the silence with which this help has been greeted in the American media":
President Bush and Ambassador Timken have officially thanked the German government for this timely and effective assistance. But has any trace of these official communications made it into print, or into our wall-to-wall television coverage? (...) The only significant mention of the German effort that I found anywhere in the US media was an eight-paragraph press release from US Northern Command. As far as I can tell, no actual news stories were written based on that press release.
The Washington Times wrote about Germany's contributions as well. Was Germany's contribution significant? The Quaker Economist:
Remember those estimates that it would take three to six months to pump the water out of New Orleans? Just ten days after those estimates were made, the city is more or less dry. There is a story behind this news. It has to do with a large contingent of German volunteers who came to play a major role in the rescue of New Orleans.
 
It is understandable that the US media did not find the time to write about Germany's contributions in this crisis. I don't want to exaggerate the German aid, but point out that Germany's good deeds tend to get much less press coverage than any (alleged) bad deeds.

The Atlantic Review also described how Americans provided great help to Rudina Jasini, a Fulbrighter from Albania, who studied at the Tulane Law School in New Orleans. Here's the German embassy's Fact Sheet (pdf) about various forms of Germany's assistance. We linked to a report about a new solidarity with the United States after recent differences over Iraq and quoted President Bush thanking Chancellor Schroeder:
The generosity with which the German People and their Government have responded to the catastrophe is a testament to the human spirit as well as the bonds of our nations.
The US blog Dialog International was angry that the US refused to grant entry to a German airbus with military meals as well as to Swedisch water purification equipment.

The The Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University is today releasing the report "Role Reversal: Offers of Help From Other Countries in Response to Hurricane Katrina." From the emailed media advisory:
After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States on the morning of August 29, 2005, offers of help from other countries poured in to the US Government. Not used to being a recipient of foreign aid, the federal government replied slowly and with mixed signals. Role Reversal tells the story of these generous foreign contributions and slow U.S. response. Anne Richard summarizes lessons from this experience and makes recommendations to improve crisis response, arguing that the US emergency management system needs to get in sync with the rest of the world. US policymakers must recognize that effective crisis response is an important part of international security and that America could suffer catastrophic disaster in which foreign help might be necessary or useful.
Although the press release is not online yet (Aug 29), here's the homepage of The Center for Transatlantic Relations.

UPDATE:
The press release and the invitation to a roundtable discussion with the author Anne Richard in Washington D.C. on September 7th is now online.


Since this post was about German solidarity with the United States during a natural disaster crisis: Is Germany supporting its NATO allies enough in other matters and participates in international burden sharing? The Atlantic Review's post "The Evolution of Resurging German Power" about a New Republic article of the same title has led to an interesting debate in the comments section about German solidarity within NATO and Germany's contributions to international peacekeeping efforts. Keywords are: No Bundeswehr troops in Southern Afghanistan, small defense spending, ignoring Darfur etc. Check out Bill's comments here and here in particular, but also read what the other commentators are saying. And keep in mind that Germany seems to be ready to contribute 1,200 military personnel (under
a robust UN mandate) to prevent arms smuggling to Lebanon via the Mediterranean Sea.

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Clarsonimus on :

Germans DO NOT mess around when it comes to stuff like this. Totally organized, as always. Of course it doesn't hurt when you make (arguably) the best machines in the world, too - those pumps were frightening.

Isolationist on :

Germany and Germans got all the recognition they deserved and more. We stood by Germany for 50 years and spent a sum of money on their defense as well as ours that is beyond imagination, and now they treat us like dogs. To hell with Germany, with Germans and all Old Europe for that matter. Besides, the amount of Katrina aid wouldn't fill a thimble.

Anonymous on :

How do you treat your dog?

Who paid on :

The German government paid the US billions every year for being stationed in Germany. http://www.swp-berlin.org/common/get_document.php?id=1345#search=%22deutschland%20us%20stationierungskosten%20%22 (Seite 21) http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/allied_contrib99/rs99-chpt2.html

mamapajamas on :

This is a grave injustice. And it is, of course, our news media that is responsible. I am also aware of sightings of Dutch and French rescue teams that were barely mentioned in the news media, and there were probably many more from other countries who escaped notice. But then the US news media was too busy looking for excuses to blame Bush to look into the rescue operations.

Fuchur on :

I wouldn´t complain that the help would not have been appreciated - and I´ve heard no such complaint from anyone else in Germany. After all, it´s not as if the THW guys had single-handedly saved New Orleans :-) . And there even was an official "thank you" note from the President. One thing that really angered me, though, was the cheap attempt to play on isolationist resentments from some US conservatives, most prominently [url=http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,168045,00.html]Neil Cavuto from Fox News[/url]. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,168045,00.html Here´s from his [url=http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,168045,00.html]blog entry from August 31, 2005[/url]: "The silence is deafening Maybe I missed it, but I have a question: Where's the global relief effort for us today? (...) Maybe some countries have offered rescue personnel. I just haven't seen them. I'll keep looking. I'll keep waiting. I'll keep wondering." Honestly! On August 29, the levees broke in New Orleans, and only gradually it became clear that instead of a "normal" hurricane season, there was a catastrophe in the making. And just two days later, Cavuto already complains that the foreign help isn´t already flowing? Any idiot can understand that it takes at least a few days to oversee what´s actually going on, and to find out what help is actually needed. And of course, one should also keep in mind that one has to be tactful in offering foreign help, because you don´t want to embarrass the US president by suggesting that he isn´t capable of handling things. Hugo Chavez "generous" offer was a good example of how not to do it.

Don on :

A shocking omission. But not surprising given the way in which Katrina was reported around the world. Fuchur, I'm afraid I have to agree with you about Cavuto, although it should be noted that the Washington Times (which seems to have been the only major US newspaper to report the story) is a notoriously right-wing 'rag' - as much or more so than Fox News. It should be noted that the Cavuto quote wasn't 'hard news' - it was a chip shot in a blog; albeit a Fox network blog. The reporting of Katrina in the US and also by the BBC was - abysmal. Everything and anything negative was played up. Innaccuracies were printed in enormous headlines and then 'corrected' weeks or months later in the back pages. The response of the National Guard to Katrina was actually faster than in past hurricanes. After Hurricane Andrew (the most recent category 5 to hit the US) the Guard took 6 days to arrive rather than the 4 days it took for the bulk of the forces to arrive after Katrina. The difference was that local government in South Florida was immensely more effective before and after Andrew than the Lousiana State and local government were before and after Katrina. They evacuated more effectively (so fewer people were in the path of the storm), kept public order, and effective local relief efforts were in force long before the National Guard arrived. There was a similar story during Katrina which was underreported - the relief efforts in Mississippi. Mississippi is where the center of Katrina actually hit and the worst damage was done. The difference was that local authorities never lost control of public order in Mississippi as they did in New Orleans, where the local police department largely deserted their posts! Positive stories concerning Katrina were wither underreported or not reported at all. That included the help Germans gave and the extraordinary efforts of the National Guard as well as local efforts outside of New Orleans (and in New Orleans for that matter). Rank ingratitude all around. To the Germans (many thanks from me personally), to the National Guard (also), and to the Mississippi authorities. The worst part of the news coverage is the way virtually all blame attached to those who weren't most at fault. The Army Corps of Engineers went virtually unscathed despite the unsound levies being their design. Local and state politicians went largely unblamed despite corruptly diverting funds which should have gone to making sure the levies were sound. Instead all blame was attached to Bush and FEMA and the National Guard - and the Germans went unnoticed. Except locally I think.

Don on :

Total cost to the US taxpayer of NATO (meant to defend Germany, Italy, and the rest of Western Europe - $5 trillion. Do you still wish to complain about the base costs?

Martin on :

Whatever you do it is wrong: Offering help publicly is seen as a plot to deliberately humiliate the US. That's what some blogs said last year. Do it politely on a low-key level and the idiots at Fox News and their trizillions of viewers don't notice it and complain about how ungrateful the world. And they remind us that the US saved the entire world dozens of times, especially Europe. They have the guts to claim that US support for Europe during the Cold War was entirely altruistic. No US self-interest whatsoever. Americans just stationed their military here for the good of their hearts.

Don on :

Do it on a low-key level, and the idiots in the US media either don't notice it or don't bother to report it. Whether said idiots are at Fox or the NY Times! I think it's in the journalism culture by now that good news and positive stories don't get reported. They would have mostly behaved the same if it had been Clinton on Kerry. The only difference is that some of the early coverage of Katrina might not have been as harsh had Kerry been in office. But that doesn't mean the Germans would have been covered because: "If it Bleeds, it Leads". Conversely if it doesn't bleed it doesn't hit the headlines.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

First the book "Role Reversal" mentioned in the post, arguing "that America could suffer catastrophic disaster in which foreign help might be necessary or useful." And now a workshop about this: "In the wake of 9/11, the U.S. saw an outpouring of international support on its behalf. From the now-famous "We are all Americans" headline in Le Monde to the [b]unprecedented Article V invocation by NATO[/b] to the unanimous condemnation of the attacks within the Security Council, the U.S. enjoyed rare universal support. In principle, that support extended to U.S. retaliation through the use of force, and indeed, key international states agreed that the U.S. had "the right of individual or collective self-defense." Yet in practice, the U.S. exercised its self-defense almost entirely individually, intervening in Afghanistan with minor participation from the UK but otherwise with its own financial and personnel resources. [b]With overwhelming levels of international support, and numerous offers for operational assistance, why did the U.S. undertake the Afghanistan intervention almost entirely unilaterally? [/b] What explains the willingness to engage the international community at later phases of the operation, and the degree to which it did so along the way? This workshop addresses those questions by focusing on security cooperation in Afghanistan; it concludes by discussing prospects for future cooperation, specifically between the U.S. and its European allies." [url]http://www.aicgs.org/eventlist/view.aspx?ID=193&top_parent=156[/url] Organised by Ms. Sarah Kreps, who "was on active duty in the United States Air Force, serving as a foreign area officer for European and sub-Saharan African affairs as well as an acquisition specialist for the U.S., NATO, and UK E-3 airborne surveillance program. Her most recent military assignment was as a reserve captain in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs, where she served as a Western European desk officer. " [url]http://www.aicgs.org/about/scholars/kreps.aspx[/url]

Don S on :

""In the wake of 9/11, the U.S. saw an outpouring of international support on its behalf. From the now-famous "We are all Americans" headline in Le Monde to the unprecedented Article V invocation by NATO to the unanimous condemnation of the attacks within the Security Council, the U.S. enjoyed rare universal support. In principle, that support extended to U.S. retaliation through the use of force, and indeed, key international states agreed that the U.S. had "the right of individual or collective self-defense." Yet in practice, the U.S. exercised its self-defense almost entirely individually, intervening in Afghanistan with minor participation from the UK but otherwise with its own financial and personnel resources. With overwhelming levels of international support, and numerous offers for operational assistance, why did the U.S. undertake the Afghanistan intervention almost entirely unilaterally?" Oh, that IS amusing! Most amusing, but somehow I'm not amused.... This is a serious attempt to rewrite history to supply a lack and to spare European feelings. I can't blame theml had my country behaved as many of the Europeans did I would be ashamed too. The reason why the US didn't make use of that 'support' is that support was never really there in more than token ways. There was an initial wave of shock and revulsion at the 9/11 attacks; Le Monde did publish that infamous headline. But in less than two weeks Le Monde was back to their old games attacking the US and Bush for warmongering in Afghanistan. The Euro-left generally followed. I was there; I saw it. The US acted unilaterally in Afghanistan because the rest of the NATO membership (apart from the UK) were not prepared to support their oldest and best ally. Either militarily (which was forgivable) or politically, utterly unforgiveable. NATO has been exposed for the rotting corpse that it is (as an alliance); it is a lesson which will not be forgotten in the US, I think.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

You write: "were not prepared to support their oldest and best ally." First of all NATO is now in Afghanistan. Second the former member of the Air Force wrote: "unprecedented Article V invocation by NATO" and "numerous offers for operational assistance." So why don't you tell her that she is all wrong? Third, if NATO were rotten, why are there no calls by Americans to cancel membership? (Apart from a few bloggers with very little expertise)

Don on :

Oooh, ouch! Why no calls to exit NATO? Because it's a tricky thing to do without leaving the Poles and other Eastern Europeans in the lurch. I think NATO is dying a death of many small cuts - mostly in the cut of US personnel at German bases. Yes, NATO is in Afghanistan in mostly non-combat roles - but the major NATO partners opted out of Iraq almost completely. I don't think we're going yo get any agreement on this Joerg. You think I am wrong, I think you're forgetting a lot of things that were said and done - and weren't done. I am telling you that attitudes have shifted in the US; on the left toward pacifism (see Leiberman campaign). On the right a significant group of ex-internationalists are less inclined to stick their necks out for the EU, but I don;t think you wish to hear that. Very well, then let the consequences come as a complete surprise....

Anonymous on :

JW: "Third, if NATO were rotten, why are there no calls by Americans to cancel membership? (Apart from a few bloggers with very little expertise)" Uhmmm... because we're too busy screaming to have the UN thrown out of NY?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

You seem to be a very lonely and timid voice. Apparently nobody hears you, neiter me nor any US Congressmen/women. The UN is still there. And the UN diplomats still don't pay for their parking tickets in NY. Some years ago the US even started to pay their fees again. Let's face it: The Americans, who want to get out of NATO and the UN are a tiny minority. They whine a lot and blame every problem on somebody else (the UN, NATO, the Europeans, the Anti-Christ, the cheeseeating surrender monkeys, bigfoot, etc), but don't take action and start a petition to get the US out of the UN, NATO, WTO, IMF etc. Do you take someone serious, who constantly complains about a something, but does not do anything to change it or get rid of it?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Don A reader emailed this positive assessment by United States Central Command. No date is given. Some numbers have changed (ISAF size has gone up). [url=http://www.centcom.mil/sites/uscentcom1/CoalitionPages/Germany.htm]"Germany provides a significant contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom, including the Army, Air Force and Navy up to a total strength of 3900 soldiers. Additionally, Germany is the main contributer to the INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE FORCE (ISAF). The total personnel in ISAF rounds up to 5500 soldiers, 2500 of which belong to the German Armed Forces. Germany runs a field hospital for ISAF, open to civil patients as well, operates an air staging unit in TERMEZ/ Uzbekistan, and provides substancial support in operating Kabul International Airport. Training of the Afghan Police: Germany, supported by many nations, took over the lead for reestablishment and training of the AFG Police. Coordinated by the Ministry for Interior Affairs, a German Project Office was established in KABUL April 3, 2002 and 12 German police instructors started to work. ISAF-CIMIC- Projects: In close and successful coordination with other Coalition Nations, the German ISAF CIMIC Detachment conducts reconstruction in the KABUL area. Many projects are already finished, while others are either ongoing, or planned. The German Liaison Team to HQ USCENTCOM was first established shortly after the cowardly attacks on 09/11/2001, to support the global war on terrorism. It was established in order to be a point of contact for all matters/ issues related to the German contribution to OEF and ISAF, be a reliable source of information for other coalition partners and promulgate the exchange of information between HQ USCENTCOM and German Headquaters. The German contribution to the “Coalition Village” at HQ USCENTCOM contains currently: 1 Brigadier General, 3 Staff Officers and 3 Non Comissioned Officers""[/url] The US political and military leadership sees the need for allies and appreciates their contribution. If you disagree, I think you should write to your represenatives and ask them cancel America's membership to the UN and NATO and WTO etc.

Don on :

Well done, JW! I haven't seen that good a straw man in ages. Every country needs allies the US most definately. What no country needs are allies who fail to help when they are attacked and who try to balk them diplomatically at every turn. The tate of the alliance with Germany and France is doubtful because relatively little help and much hindrance have been offered by these two countries. Until recently anyway. Merkel seems to be making a difference and even Chirac is behaving differently, sensing perhaps that he went much too far in 2003. All this helps - somewhat, but I think a lot of trust is gone on both sides of the Atlantic. I don't think Schroeder killed NATO; the collapse of the Berlin Wall is what started it and the disintegration of the USSR completed it. Suddenly the threat from the east was risible which meant that German and US interests began to diverge almost immediately. This was not too visible at first due to old habits and personal contacts among the leadership of the two countries. It's only in the next generation of leadership it has really shown up. The next step was the refusal of much of Europe to help in the Iraq war. Coming so soon after the US intervened decisively in Kosovo the contrast shows in bold relief. NATO has bow become optional. So be it. But don't expect the US to show up for the next big European crisis, Joerg. Why should we? NATO is now a much looser association, really a different alliance completely. Without a single document being signed or discussed; France and Germany showed the way.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"I haven't seen that good a straw man in ages. Every country needs allies the US most definately. What no country needs are allies who fail to help when they are attacked" Isn't that a strawman? Iraq did not attack you...

Don on :

Touche, Joerg! Serbia did not attack anyone outside the borders of Yugoslavia, whose legitimate government the Serbian leaders claimed to be. Remember? Neither did Afghanistan attack the US, right? A private group of terrorists based in Afghanistan. I remember vociferous protests at the time that the US could not attack the Taliban because the Taliban had not attacked the US! NATO specifies an attack. So I guess the next time Europeans come to the US asking us to help fight a war we should ask whether the Red Army has crossed the Vistula? By the standard you imply that is exactly how the US should respond - if it doesn't wish to get involved. And after the experiences of the last 5 years - the US won't want to get involved! Trust me on that.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

The US was attacked on 9/11 and your allies responded with the "unprecedented Article V invocation by NATO" and "numerous offers for operational assistance." The US decided to go alone in Afghanistan and to trust some Afghan warlords rather than your NATO allies. You did not catch Osama Bin Laden. If you had accepted NATO's offer to help, you could have blamed us Europeans (preferably the French as usual), if Bin Laden had escaped. This scapegoat option alone should have been reason enough for you to accept NATO help ;-) ;-) Alliance does not mean: Member xyz says I'd like to bring democracy to the Middle East by military regime change in Iraq and all other members have to send troops. "Allies are people or groups that have joined an alliance and are working together to achieve some common purpose." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allies Most Europeans (and many Americans) did not think regime change in Iraq is common purpose.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Katrina "attacked" you one year ago and your allies offered a lot of help, but you refused a lot. Fine, if you don't want it. Perhaps you did not need it. Perhaps more prior cooperation and planning is required to really make good use of foreign aid in a Katrina type crisis. Fine. Though, please, don't complain about a lack of solidarity in a time of crisis.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Don "the refusal of much of Europe to help in the Iraq war." Do you know that [url=http://atlanticreview.org/archives/274-NYT-German-Intelligence-gave-U.S.-Iraqi-defense-plan.html]"The United States awarded a medal to one of the two agents of the German Federal Intelligence for his support to combat operations in Iraq? He got hold of the Iraqi defense plan, according to the NYT. Besides, German ships guarded the sea lanes near the Horn of Africa as part of Task Force 150, an effort to deter terrorist attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, for example. The patrols helped safeguard the waterways the United States used to build up its forces in the Persian Gulf for the invasion of Iraq. German troops were also part of a "consequence management" team, at the United States military base at Camp Doha, Kuwait, which was charged with protecting Kuwaitis after a chemical attack. The measure was justified as defensive. German personnel also guarded American military bases in Germany, freeing United States soldiers to go to Iraq. When NATO debated whether to send Awacs radar planes and Patriot missile batteries to Turkey, a move the United States was promoting to help persuade Ankara to open a northern front in Iraq, Germany initially was opposed. But it soon dropped its objections. Germany later provided the missiles for the Patriot batteries sent to Turkey."[/url] I don't understand why we should have provided any more support. Most Americans would not have supported the war in hindsight. Thus, why was it wrong that we did not approve of the war? [url=http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/home_page/179.php?nid=&id=&pnt=179&lb=hmpg1] "Asked, “If, before the war, US intelligence services had concluded that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction and was not providing substantial support to al-Qaeda,” a clear majority of 71 percent said that the US should not have gone to war, while just 27 percent said that the US should still have gone to war with Iraq for other reasons.” This is a bipartisan majority. Fifty-three percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Democrats think that in this case, the US should not have gone to war."[/url]

JW-Atlantic Review on :

[b][url=http://transatlantic.sais-jhu.edu/CTR_in_the_News/anne_richard_oped_iht.pdf]Anne Richard has now published an op-ed in the IHT describing how useful some foreign aid was and that others was rejected and others wasn't needed and concludes that much more international emergency response cooperation is necessary. http://transatlantic.sais-jhu.edu/CTR_in_the_News/anne_richard_oped_iht.pdf[/url] [/b]

VinceTN on :

It may be necessary for Germany to make some noise of their contributions in the future. You aren't shy about proclaiming your disagreements. News of German help here at home as well as in peripheral roles militarily would do much to reduce our parnoia about European intentions. Perhaps an effort towards friendly contacts with Americans announced in our media would be just the thing to improve relations. Would the political elites allow themselves to do it? Is America worth that kind of positive effort? At this time every negative is going to be trumpeted and the positives are obviously going to be downplayed. That is mainly the fault of our dysfunctional media and incompetent "journalists" that America produces. They want scandal not facts. Your leaders created this hateful communication breakdown by personally attacking us during a pivotal time in our relations with the world, some of the resolution should come from your side as well. Get over the silent martyr complex and speak up for yourselves in a way that includes us instead of denigrating us. Surely someone in Europe can be pro-Europe without attacking the US in the same sentence.

Angel on :

But then the US news media was too busy looking for excuses to blame Bush to look into the rescue operations....exactly!..interesting post!..:)

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