Madam Secretary

Clinton: Help Pakistan. Text ‘SWAT’ to 50555.

Clinton: Help Pakistan. Text ‘SWAT’ to 50555.

Secretary Clinton this morning encouraged Americans to text "SWAT" to 50555 to help with relief efforts in Pakistan and assist those devastated by the historic floods that have so far killed at least 1,500 people and adversely affected 3 million. You’ll be making a $10 donation to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees that will go toward providing tents, food, clothing, and clean water. (Reply with "yes" to confirm the gift.)

When news of the flood first broke, Clinton said the United States immediately donated an initial $10 million, and she offered her "thoughts and prayers." Today she said:

"U.S. helicopters have already airlifted hundreds of people out of danger and delivered critical supplies, including hundreds of thousands of halal meals.… We’ve sent boats to help with the search and rescue and water-purification units to provide clean water for thousands of people, as well as temporary bridges to replace the bridges damaged by the floods. All of this has been done in close coordination with the government of Pakistan and their disaster-management specialists.

There may be a lot of Americans out there rolling their eyes about their tax dollars going to a faraway country filled with millions of people harboring anti-American sentiment, but this is a U.S. national security issue, not just a humanitarian one. If the Pakistani government can’t provide satisfactory disaster relief, militant Islamic charity groups will step in. Consider these three paragraphs from Aug. 2’s Washington Post:

In past emergencies in Pakistan — including an earthquake in 2005 and the refugee crisis caused by last year’s army offensives — Islamic charities with close ties to banned militant organizations provided basic services, filling a void left by the government and scoring points in the battle here for the public’s affection.

Although that does not yet appear to be happening on a wide scale, analysts caution that the government should soon improve its performance.

"The government, unfortunately, seems to be mostly helpless," said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani army general. "I’m very concerned that the militant organizations will be jumping in."