The story emerged this week that Japan was increasing the funding of its annual whale hunt by roughly $29 million. The budget increase was said to be due to the need for increased security for whaling vessels (confrontations with environmentalist groups on the seas have increased over the past few years) and as a way of helping Japanese coastal towns who rely on whale hunting and whose economies were damaged by the March tsunami. While there has been an international moratorium on whale hunting for 25 years Japan has continued to hunt whales because they claim it is for scientific purposes while activists claim it is for commercial enrichment only.
What is interesting is that the increased funding was diverted from Japan’s tsunami reconstruction budget, originally meant to help Japan and its people rebuild after the destruction of their country, not necessarily to help whale hunting. While a country absolutely has the right to spend their money however they deem appropriate, this action may end up hurting U.S. interests.
After the tsunami, American private citizens showed their generosity and compassion and donated over $87 million in the first week alone to help relief efforts, and the U.S. Government gave an additional $32 million. This trend is nothing new; Americans have generally been quick to help those affected by natural disasters around the globe. However, upon hearing the news that Japan diverted money away from reconstruction to help hunt whales, Americans might not agree with Japan that it was a proper use of funds. While it seems that the internationally donated money was used by Japan only for reconstruction efforts and that this diverted money was from a different monetary pool, the conclusion that Americans might reach is that they could have indirectly funded whaling. A U.S. citizen could legitimately ask if their money was going for something many Americans would find repugnant, and even if it was not, why did they donate money to help rebuild a country that obviously has enough to divert money away from reconstruction and use it for whaling?
All of this might lead private American citizens to shy away from donating to future relief efforts around the world. Thus would be dangerous for America’s security, as aid and assistance have always been a powerful tool of goodwill and global stabilization. Programs like the Marshall Plan and USAID, when coupled with private generosity have helped the United States establish positive relations and perceptions internationally. Without the willingness of U.S. citizens to back future international assistance, negative views of the U.S. as being uncaring and unsympathetic to world suffering may lead to full-blown hostility in areas around the globe. Those with negative perceptions of the U.S. may be willing to ally with others hostile to America, endangering the nation, its citizens, and interests.