Friday, April 13, 2007

You Can't Eat Money

In the United States, we can't live without money. Even your typical homeless person on the street panhandles for money so they can buy food (among other things). Other than oxygen, which comes free with every breath we take (unless you're scuba diving), we Americans have to buy what we need to survive.

So, naturally, many Americans think that money could solve the problems found in some of the poorest countries in the world. But the truth is that you can't eat money (never mind drink it). Although money is the best way Americans can help in cases like the 2004 tsunami, since the logistics of shipping food is too difficult, it's not enough to fix the problem.

The core problem we're trying to solve with our funds is to build capacity in these poor, developing, countries. Poor means absolute poor which is easy to spot because these people are skinny. In my travels through out East African villages I quickly noticed that I could usually spot the village chief since he was the person with the most body fat.

How do we aid these countries to help build capacity so the locals can have potable water and food? Unfortunately, the problem can't be solved simply by writing a check. Ignoring the problem and doing nothing is even worse; leading to failed states such as Afghanistan and Somalia.

In the 1980s, as Americans, we thought that nothing could be worse for Afghanistan than Communist rule by the Soviet Union. Yet, as bad as that seemed, the failed state left behind when the Soviets pulled out gave Al Qaeda a perfect, lawless, training ground to launch an attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, followed by other attacks such as the Khobar Towers (American barracks in Saudi Arabia) in 1996, simultaneous attacks on the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the USS Cole attack in 2000, simultaneous World Trade Center & Pentagon attacks in 2001, and the simultaneous attacks against the Paradise Hotel in Kikambala, Kenya coordinated with a shoulder fired missile attack against an Israeli airliner about 20 kilometers away in Mombasa.

My point is that all these attacks were made possible by a single failed state ignored by the first world and we can't just give them money to solve their problems.

No comments: