Derb, Doesn’t it depend on a lot more variables? I’m generally sympathetic to your point, but it kind of does depend on what you mean by aid and the like. Efficiencies must be taken into account. Private citizens cannot send rescue ships and helicopters at a moment’s notice. Plus there’s the public relations factor. I do think, for example, that Bush should have said something earlier, even though it would have been on the substance a largely meaningless gesture. Similarly, while we may sometimes wish to think that the President is merely an administrator of one of our many governments, the President is also the voice of a people and a nation and other nations pay attention to what our government does. This may be a shortcoming in their attitudes and the way the press covers things, but it is also a fact of life.
That said, I think the phenomenon of the web generating so much support so quickly could be hugely significant.