• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Haiti Catastrophe Requires Action and Reflection

    In Haiti three days after the earthquake, the terrible reality of death and destruction settles upon the nation and the world.  The preliminary estimates of fatalities appear to be range between 45,000 and 50,000.  Three million Haitians, one-third of the countries population, appear severely impacted. Access to clean, uncontaminated water and food is increasingly difficult. The principal port is ruined and the one international airport is overwhelmed.  The U.S. and all others are truly in a race against time.

    In his first major leadership challenge in the Americas, President Obama has launched an all-out, “whole of government,” effort to dispatch relief.  He has pledged $100 million in immediate aid.  A veritable armada of ships and aircrafts along with troops of the 82nd Airborne, the U.S. Marines, and civilian search and rescue teams are already on the ground or on the way.

    The generous response of the American people especially given through cell phone donations and the transforming effects of social messaging networks are being fully demonstrated. Often maligned U.S. companies have been invited by the Obama Administration to assist with food and other stocks and will surely help.

    The immediate response highlights the magnificent marriage between U.S. capability and compassion in the face of massive human catastrophe.

    Yet, as the immediate help is dispatched, Washington policy makers must grapple with what comes next.  Several questions already loom large.

    • Who’s in charge in Haiti? The absence of any visible sign of Haitian authority is disturbing.  In the hundred of photographs and footage one cannot detect a single policeman, fireman, or government official. There is at this moment, as Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack admitted, “no functioning government in Haiti.” In the days ahead, authority and sovereignty issues will loom large as efforts are made to stand up a workable Haitian government and develop appropriate interfaces and lines of authority between it, the U.S., the United Nations and other donors.
    • Who will rebuild Haiti? While the U.S. is taking the lead in disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, it alone cannot rebuild Haiti. Wisely, former Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega notes the U.S. must be careful about taking ownership of the Haiti situation.
    • Can Haiti be changed? From different angles, New York Times columnist David Brooks, the Washington Times, and others remind us of the deep-rooted historic, social and cultural factors that have kept Haiti poor and weak will not vanish overnight. As Brooks writes, referencing conservative thinker Samuel P. Huntington, “cultural change is hard, but cultures do change after major traumas. This earthquake is certainly a trauma. The only question is whether the outside world continues with the same old, same old.”

    Rescuing Haiti will not be easy, but getting Haiti right this time around may be even harder.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    Comments are closed.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.