When United States Navy helicopters swept down on the school in a ruined Japanese village, survivors first looked hesitantly from the windows. Then they rushed out, helping unload food, water and clothes. They clasped hands with the Americans. Some embraced them.Across the US, civilian efforts to help the victims of Japan's natural disasters have also been significant. Donations of medicines, foods, cash, and other needed goods have been flowing out from a typically generous American populace.
...Soon after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, the United States military began what it calls Operation Tomodachi (Friend), one of its largest relief efforts in recent years. At present, about 20 American ships have massed off Japan’s northeastern coast, including the Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered carrier whose helicopters are busily ferrying supplies to survivors.
That relief is getting through to sometimes difficult-to-reach coastal areas devastated by the March 11 double disaster. They are also the latest showcase in the Pentagon’s efforts to use its forces to win good will for the United States abroad, a strategy that it used successfully in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami there.
...Much of what the Americans have handed out are goods taken from their own ships: extra food and blankets, and even the sailors’ own clothes.
There were stuffed toys for children, too.
To alleviate food shortages in the shelters, the Ronald Reagan sent 77,000 frozen hot dogs to a Japanese warship, which boiled them and gave them out. _NYTimes
China's relief efforts have been rather limited in comparison, and funneled through government channels. Given China's history of poisoned food exports, the Japanese should be cautious about testing all aid from China before consuming it.
The competence and capability of the US military to assist a distressed civilian populace is considerable. The US military spends a great deal of time and money training its personnel, and providing them with quality tools to do their jobs.
Most American servicemen would far prefer to go on humanitarian missions than on wartime missions -- particularly in situations such as Japan's recent disasters.
Of course, Japan received significant aid from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and several European countries. The impulse to assist the suffering and make the world a better place is widespread among European peoples, and has been so for centuries -- since the industrial revolution and the coming of affluence. It is just that almost all of the outside aid sent to Japan had to be funneled through the Japanese government bureaucracy -- which can be unwieldy, like most civilian government bureaucracies.
The US military, on the other hand, was able to provide the necessities on a large scale at the point of need, in a timely manner. That should receive far more comment than it has gotten.
Cross-posted from Al Fin