The latest Tsunami count is 141,000 dead, according to CNN. My wife and I felt we had to donate. Amazon is a convenient way to get money to the Red Cross and says it is taking no cut of the donations.
I think it may also be while to look at the even larger context. The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting piece on the last day of 2004. It's worth quoting from extensively:
Here's some context for 2004: The number of human beings who died of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa was about two million. The number of people who died of bad water and bad sanitation was more than two million. These deaths broke families and even whole communities with a force as hard as that in Sumatra this week. What is the answer?
The simple and obvious answer sits inside this final piece of disaster data: The Red Cross estimates that for the past 10 years when a natural disaster occurred in a developing country, the number of people killed was 589; but in what the Red Cross calls a country of "high human development" it was 51. That's 11 to 1. (Also, there's no full-time throat-slitting in countries of "high human development.")
The answer is to compress this ratio. We won't do that with aid, important as that is right now. We will never do it with the United Nations. The way we move the world's most vulnerable people away from the high risks of 11 and toward the relative safety of 1 is with the meat and potatoes of politics.
I may believe that liberal market economics joined to repeatable free elections is the way to a safer, more prosperous life for the Sri Lankas and Iraqs of the world. But belief alone never turned rocks into silver, even when all the world believed Poseidon caused earthquakes. Political work is the means the civilized world has for replacing men and ideas that are dumb or dangerous with something better. In the aftermath of 2004's too-numerous unnatural deaths, the only resolution possible is to re-enter the arena of politics and fight the good, slow fight. It's all we've got, and it is enough.
The typical WSJ-conservative slant on the U.N. expressed above will be counterintuitive to many readers. But consider this: if you don't consider the U.N., how many truly effective organizations are there where the main power resides in five entities, each of which has veto power? Answer: None. Effective organizations don't have that kind of veto power because if everyone has to agree, there is too much of tendency toward inaction. For instance, imagine that the U.S. Presidential elections required unanimity. Obviously no one would ever get elected. That's a very extreme example, but the same bias toward inaction holds, to lessening degrees, as the number of voting entities decreases, and is only eliminated when the number of voters is 2. You won't find any successful corporation that is managed that way, because such a corporation would have such a bias toward inaction that it couldn't compete effectively.
We can't expect a organizational structure that could not even lead to a successful corporation to be the agent that solves all the world's problems. To do so would be overoptimistic at best.
Such a structural detail might seem like a small thing, but it is not. It is the foundation from which everything else grows. It biases the U.N. toward inaction except in humanitarian areas where no one could reasonably have any objection.
The only reason the U.N. has the structure it has is that the Security Council powers didn't have the courage or faith in U.N. ideals that would have enabled them to accept majority rule (as voters in any democracy do, in order to enable elections to complete successfully). If they had had that faith, and continued to, the potential for the U.N. would be very different. But, alas, that is not the world we live in.
No, we can't rely on the U.N. But we can't remove ourselves from world affairs either: "In the aftermath of 2004's too-numerous unnatural deaths, the only resolution possible is to re-enter the arena of politics and fight the good, slow fight. It's all we've got, and it is enough."