"Impressive. Most impressive."
-- Darth Vader

Approaching infamy

Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose four or five hundred feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire…I don’t say to him before that operation, “Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it.”… I don’t want $15–I want my garden hose back after the fire is over.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
December 17, 1940

That was then. Today, we apparently have to decide if it’s cost-effective to send help to those in need.

4 Responses to “Approaching infamy”

  1. Suppose my neighbor’s house catches fire, and I rush in to offer him my garden hose free of charge (I’m even going to let him keep the hose when he’s done). Then we realize the fire is too hot to get near the outside tap for the garden hose. Or I realize that what I really needed was the first aid kit to help the friend, which I left in the kitchen in my haste to bring him the hose. Now, imagine that this is all happening out in the country, and my house it three kilometres from his.

    Your post applies Roosevelt’s quote in a context in which it does not apply: Ensuring that use of the DART team is cost effective is very different from requiring payment for it. The resources required to deploy them could potentially be used more effectively.

    As well, the news article takes issue with Canada’s decision to take time to do the job well. The situation around the Indian Ocean is at least chaotic and potentially dangerous. What is not needed is anyone rushing in and doing a poor job for lack of adequate planning, potentially endangering themselves. Imagine the news sites’ reaction then.

  2. DART is supposed to be our rapid-response team, so I’m assuming that they have everything all setup to leave on a (relative) moment’s notice without having to worry about forgetting something. This isn’t me showing up at Grabber’s house to fix a door and realizing I need my drill, this is a 200-plus member team that trains and prepares for many different scenarios, natural disasters among them. I don’t believe that the team needed a week and a half to make sure the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed.

  3. DART may have everything set up to go at a moments notice, but that does not mean that the intelligence pinpointing the right place for them to go is ready that fast. Given the complete and utter communications breakdown, I’m amazed that it only took 1.5 weeks to send them, and not longer! Personnaly, I’m glad that the time was taken to make the RIGHT decision, instead of making any old decision as long as it was fast. Dad used to come home from work at CIDA and tell us stories of the aid orgs who blew all kinds of money because they were doing what they thought they needed to do in a place that didn’t need them, instead of doing what was ACTUALLY needed in the place that ACTUALLY needed them. Helping others is well and good, but it serves no one if that aid turns into a waste of resources. “Fail to plan = plan to fail” even in emergency situations.

  4. If it really was a question of whether or not they’re being sent to the right place, I’d agree with you — but I don’t think that’s it. If that’s why the time was being taken, they would have said so, but instead they said that one reason was that they needed to determine if it was cost-effective. I think both of you are falling into the trap that the Canadian government relies on so heavily — that is, giving our elected representatives the benefit of the doubt. Personally, I’d rather see some evidence that they’re acting responsibly, rather than assume they are when we have small indications that they aren’t.

    Also, if you look at the article, you’ll notice that Martin took a moment in this tragedy to mention the need for having ways to move people around quickly — this is a political comment aimed at garnering support for enhancing the heavy-lift capability of our armed forces, something that is on Martin’s agenda. Don’t get me wrong, I think we need that capability (and I’ve been saying so for years), but using a tragedy like this for political maneuvering strikes me as disgusting opportunism. So, please don’t ask me to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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