Debra J. Saunders

 (Now, you'd think that $1 billion figure would be a big story. But in a show of unabashed solipsism -- in a world where what you say always trumps what you actually do -- Beltway pundits are more interested in the fact that Bush didn't hold a press conference on the tsunami until Wednesday than in the fact that the United States is talking about spending $1 billion to help tsunami victims.)

 This year, the United States gave more than $826 million to the United Nations' World Food Programme -- that was some $100 million more than the European Union and its countries combined -- despite the European Union's larger population and marginally bigger gross domestic product.

 Meanwhile, American taxpayers have bankrolled a defense apparatus that protects people around the globe. Our Betters in Europe should think twice before criticizing U.S. levels of humanitarian aid when Americans are carrying their water when it comes to defense. (Who was it that had to send troops into the Balkans because Europe couldn't manage a problem in its own backyard? The United States.)

 As for Americans wanting to pay higher taxes to provide more foreign aid, I think it is Egeland who doesn't understand voters. I won't speak for Europeans, but most Americans I know would rather keep the tax rate where it is and write personal checks to the humanitarian organization of their choice.

 Many Americans simply don't trust the United Nations. There was the U.N. oil-for-food program that scandalously funneled money to Saddam Hussein -- and that money was used against the U.S.-led coalition sent to overthrow him.

 There's the United Nations' reputation for fecklessness and, really, an alarming lack of seriousness. On the one hand, the United Nations and Egeland are engaging in heroic work as they try to save lives and restore order after natural disasters. But Egeland's rhetoric exhibits a lack of understanding as to who the real enemy is. The United Nations shows little backbone when it comes to confronting evil -- Hussein, Arab militias in Darfur -- but lots of cheek when it has to deal with its largest (not to mention well-intentioned) donor.

Debra J. Saunders

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