Hurricane Sandy and Joplin Tornado Victims Are Getting Disaster Aid From a Persian Gulf Country

The slide of American prestige in the world is one of the most debated topics in international relations. Is America the single super power in a uni-polar world, or is it part of a multi-polar world with many super powers?

A whole lot of blahblahblah fills the debate, with proponents on both sides pointing to this and this metric, using massively big words and convoluted language to hammer home their often flimsy point.

There is little agreement on the central question: Is America still the most powerful country in the world?

This story doesn’t answer that broad, sweeping question that only history will ever answer, but it could add perspective.

As the Washington Post reports, the United Arab Emirates is giving significant aid to help build up and develop some of America’s most down-trodden communities. This aid ranges from disaster relief for the tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., and Hurricane Sandy-stricken Northeast, to urban community development in New York and Los Angeles.  

Pump the freaking brakes, because that last paragraph was like driving 60 mph in a 25 mph zone, right? America needs foreign aid to rebuild after major disasters? America needs Persian Gulf donors to solve its own domestic problems? What Bizzaro world is this?

From the Washington Post: “Two weeks after a mile-wide tornado tore through Joplin, Mo., city in 2011, killing 161 people and rendering a landscape of apocalyptic devastation, the public school system here received a telephone call from a man working for the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington. 

“’Tell me what you need,’ the embassy staffer said. ... Today, the nearly 2,200 high school students in Joplin each have their own UAE-funded MacBook laptop, which they use to absorb lessons, perform homework and take tests. Across the city, the UAE is spending $5 million to build a neonatal intensive-care unit at Mercy Hospital ... Motivated by the same principal reasons that the U.S. government distributes foreign assistance — to help those less fortunate and to influence perceptions among the recipients — the handouts mark a small but remarkable shift in global economic power. For decades, the United States has been the world's largest provider of foreign aid ... It still is, but the level of donations has been increasing among nations with new financial clout, including China, India and oil-rich Persian Gulf states. ...

“‘We spot needs and we try to help,' said Yousef al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States. During the past two years, the UAE government has paid for the construction of all-weather artificial turf soccer fields in low-income parts of New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. The embassy wants to build three more fields this year. Otaiba hopes to break ground on the first of them this spring in the Washington area ... Otaiba said he also has promised New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) about $5 million apiece to help rebuild [from] Hurricane Sandy. ... Otaiba, who received a master's degree in international relations from Georgetown University and has a nuanced understanding of American politics, [in 2009] helped facilitate a $150 million gift from the government of Abu Dhabi, the largest emirate, to Children's National Medical Center in Washington to establish a new research center to develop innovations in pediatric surgery.”

If there was ever an indication of shifting global powers, than this is it. Countries across the world, now developed economically to a point where they can use foreign aid to leverage political capital, are spending money to buy influence. IN AMERICA’S HEARTLAND.

Foreign aid itself is a heavy topic, defined in often not so clear terms. America does not receive financial aid from other countries. And it is still the biggest giver of foreign aid across the world. 

But this story indicates that newly-empowered nations like China, the UAE, and India are showing that the giants in the global arena need their help as much as any African nation does. 

Welcome to the 21st century, America.

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