Monday, January 18, 2010

Call In The Calvary, Just Make Sure They Exit Stage Right

Wanna make a deal
Angel Vs Eel
Owl Vs Dove
Every living thing
Pushed into the ring

The tragedy of Haiti continues as the situation turns even more dire:
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Rescuers pulled three survivors from the rubble Sunday five days after the Haiti earthquake, but tensions were growing among a desperate population as police opened fire on looters, killing one man.

After hours of painstaking digging through the ruins, a team from Florida unearthed a seven-year-old girl, a man aged 34 and a 50-year-old woman in the ruins of a store as dawn broke in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Later hundreds of rioters ransacked Hyppolite market in the heart of the devastated city as survivors besieged hospitals and make-shift field clinics, some carrying the injured on their backs or on carts.

If we thought Katrina's aftermath was devastating, this one will take the cake. The American, UN and even Chinese response (perhaps the start of positive internationalism on China's part?) has been fast, effective-ish and positive, so far, but this ordeal won't be over by the time 2011 rolls around. Not by a long shot.

The '04 Tsunami that buried entire islands spread destruction across the entire Indian Ocean, meaning that the concentration of the menace was far and wide. Reconstruction continues to this day, while radical social change and resistance against aid groups and developers endures. The Haitian disaster is concentrated in Port Au Prince, with 3M citizens at risk, meaning that a comparable citizenry is affected, but in a much smaller area. An massive international-size disaster within one tiny country.

However, for many reasons, I'm hoping the US does not have an over-arching control of the relief effort. Money, fine. Air craft carrier to supply rations and fresh water? Perfect! But if the same aid groups and mercenaries that overwhelmed the coastal third world after the '04 Tsunami appear, it could end badly. While many Thais were forcibly converted to Christianity at the threat of withheld food, Sri Lankans were forced from their seaside homes that were bulldozed in the name of development.

And it won't be Obama, or the good intentions of the vast majority of US citizens that will turn tragedy to continued abuse of the traumatized. It will be the rampant opportunism seen in a blank slate state that will be too enticing for some. It will be the force of history and habit. As the world has been told, the Haitian President barely survived, while his ministers are feared dead. The government no longer exists, and nature abhors a vacuum (see: Somalia, circa now).

At first, the Haitian decision-makers will welcome the relief, and public pronouncements to that affect will be spouted. But disillusionment and mixed emotions with the long-term US effort is as predictable as Monday following Sunday. How do you come out against the country that saved you from the brink but pushes you to lesser one? As time goes on, young Americans will be ones re-writing government policy, law and possibly the constitution as they did in Japan and Iraq, seeing an opportunity to imprint their way of life on another country. Again.

My own hope will be that if the US has to be the leader on rebuilding Haiti, it will recognize a line where positive intervention becomes negative interference. Obama, with his own ties to 3rd world, may be keenly aware of this line but it is doubtful he can control all the levers of the mechanized Leviathan.

And if Eisenhower couldn't, who can?

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