NATO should put its resources to work in Nepal

It is gratifying to see the Canadian military's Disaster Assistance Response Team wheeled promptly into action in the international effort to prevent Nepal's catastrophic earthquake, its worst in eight decades, from becoming an even more devastating humanitarian calamity.If only global disaster response generally weren't such a chaotic, inadequate mess.To watch the response to Saturday's Nepal quake, which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and has left a country already desperately poor in ruins -- with many thousands dead, thousands more hurt and half a million homeless -- is to see an agonizing, slow-motion replay of the Haiti earthquake response in 2010. Only this time, if anything, it will be worse.As in Haiti, transportation in Nepal even before the earthquake was basic. But Nepal is landlocked. This makes mass-scale shipment of aid impossible. And the state of the one international airport at Kathmandu is unclear. If there isn't already there will soon be a bottleneck, as there was in Port-au-Prince, with private aid teams and aircraft from around the world queued up like dominos at the airfield.Delays will be exacerbated by by Nepal's geography. The country is all cliffs, ravines and valleys, every path punctuated by steep staircases, meaning even all-terrain-vehicles are of limited use.The paved road between Kathmandu and Pokhara, Nepal's western hub, was a harrowing, narrow cliff-side marvel of engineering pre-earthquake, and reportedly is impassable now. There are small air strips in Pokhara, Jomsom and Manang in the western Annapurna region, and Lukla in the east, which should be accessible to military aircraft that can land and take off in short distances. Helicopters, more than any other conveyance, will save lives.The challenge will be co-ordination. Given the haphazard way in which an international relief effort comes together, it is impossible for there not to be major overlaps and gaps. With each day, casualties due to lack of emergency medical care will mount. At higher altitudes exposure to cold will take a toll. And then will come the waterborne disease, as people with no other option drink fouled water to stay alive.The patchwork of private disaster-relief agencies is a testament to the best in human nature and the shortness of our attention spans. The Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Global Medic, World Vision, Save the Children and many others have teams either in Nepal or en route. The Canadian government has established a Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund, private donor contributions to be matched dollar-for-dollar by Ottawa until May 25, which it will disburse to aid agencies it deems worthy.The reality, however, is the deliverers are effectively competing with one another for donor money, particularly during the first days following a disaster, when international media coverage is at its peak. As coverage wanes, donations drop off -- so there is a rush, again with mainly noble intentions, to be first on the ground, brand prominently on display. This puts agencies at cross purposes, when they could be working more closely together.The remedy? If if were obvious it would be happening. But surely wealthier nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the G-20 or some combination thereof, should field a co-ordinated disaster response global in scope, and equal to the task of getting there fast, with lift capacity, emergency medicine, potable water and shelter.NATO's bulked-up Response Force, to comprise 30,000 troops, is primarily answer to Russian aggression in Ukraine and the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But it is also expected to have disaster-relief function. Perhaps it's idealistic to imagine a significant share of NATO's military heft being deployed just to save lives. That doesn't prevent a person wishing, href='' - -