During the early days of Asia's tsunami crisis, CNN showed a distraught Indonesian pleading "Where is America?" His plea was quickly answered with a massive US naval and financial aid operation.
Tuesday, however, the United Nations firmly took the lead by convening a conference of donor nations to coordinate the $4 billion-plus in pledged money for tsunami survivors. The UN will even use an accounting firm to track the pledges and how the money is spent.
Unlike the Iraq situation, this crisis has found the US and UN dancing together pretty well. At first, the Bush administration was tempted to simply coordinate aid with a few other key nations in a sort of "coalition of the willing." But it backed off as a reform-minded UN stepped up to the huge task - likely its biggest-ever aid effort.
This making-up between the two shouldn't be ignored after nearly two years of estrangement. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan can't afford to be tagged with any more mistakes like the mismanagement of the Iraq Oil-for-Food program or his regular jabs at US policy on Iraq. He's lost much support in Congress, and jeopardized popular American support for the global body. The unflappable UN chief has been advised by close US friends to patch things up with Washington.
One big test for a revived US-UN relationship will be the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq, which the UN is helping manage. With the US providing some security for the voting, and the UN handling logistics, the two could look, again, like a pretty good team promoting world peace and development.