Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti: What’s at Stake

haiti_relief Tyler Cowen:

Maybe you thought Obama was the "health care President" or perhaps the "Afghanistan President", but to my eyes right now he looks like the "Haiti President."  I predict we'll have over a million Haitians living in refugee camps for the foreseeable future.  (It depends how many of the homeless of those can be absorbed by northern Haiti.)  If people don't make it into camps they will be sleeping on the street with little or no means of food or water or employment.

It's a mistake to think there's any brick-by-brick way out of that predicament.  It's not like the earthquake in Armenia or for that matter eighteenth century Lisbon.  Haiti has no functioning government, no working legal system, and very little remaining infrastructure.  There's no formal means to make decisions about reconstruction and no capital to clear away the mess.  As I've written, the country as we know simply doesn't exist any more (view the second video or try these photos).  Port-Au-Prince is destroyed and the city was the heart of the country, economically, politically, and otherwise.  Léogâne, Jacmel, and other significant locales are mostly destroyed as well and they're not receiving much assistance.

Obama will (and should) do something about this situation.  First, I believe he sincerely wants to help but also he cannot ignore his African-American constituency, especially after former President Clinton devoted so much attention to Haiti and especially if health care reform doesn't go through as planned.  Yet he will have a festering situation on his hands for the rest of his term.  If "looting" (a bad word in this context) increases or continues, how quickly will the American people lose sympathy with the Haitians?  How can the "reconstruction" possibly go well?  Ugly gang rule isn't even the worst case scenario.

Read the whole thing.

Also, here is Cowen with more ways to help Haiti and on the state of Haiti’s law enforcement before the earthquake.

1 comment:

thinking said...

First, this shows that the hurting and suffering in the world cannot be ignored, nor can they only be addressed in the short term during times of immediate crisis.

Second, I think America feels far better about helping Haiti than being in Iraq.

Third, I disagree with Cowen's premise in his full article that this could be some hot button political issue in 2012. I think by then this will have faded from view, and even the cost of the aid will be small in comparison to the total foreign aid budget, let alone far more expensive ventures.