U.S. Disaster Response to Haiti

U.S. Disaster Response to Haiti

The U.S. has crafted an internal reputation as the kind of place where we are the bastion of hope, peace and democracy to the world. And in many instances, we do our best to be just that. In others, we use it as a front and just go and take whatever we want. And then, in times of worldwide humanitarian need, like hopefully the climate change disaster in many poor nations, we send in the aid that countries need to take care of themselves when things are beyond hopeless.

We didn’t do so well with Hurricane Katrina- in reality, Bush took too long, his administration and department didn’t do enough, and he basically dropped the ball. In a big way. If we had it to do again, we would do it differently. When Tsunamis hit southeast Asia earlier, we didn’t do so well either. No kudos, no hope, peace and democracy there.  

President Obama is stepping up the U.S. game in regard to aid, hoping to help the people of Haiti in a time of utter destruction, and in the process change the reputation of the U.S. as a fast reacting, helpful nation.

The earthquake in Haiti has been extraordinarily destructive- killing thousands of people and destroying government buildings. Newspaper articles are talking about people digging through the rubble for people and piles of bodies under white sheets. It’s terrible, devastating- tragic. My heart goes out to everyone affected, both there and here.

Obama, so far, has not dropped the ball at all. He has picked it up and begun to run with it. He mobilized national aid and aid groups and sent them immediately to Haiti, though travel there is at a standstill, with roads destroyed and communication in many places nonexistent due to outages of power and destruction in infrastructure.

In the process, Obama is showing himself to be a decisive, fast acter. Not that there is much to consider, outside of how much aid to send. There is no possibility of not sending aid, you know- it’s just how much, where will it come from, how will we pay for it- But it’s right here, so we have to play a major role in taking care of the people there.

It was also a chance for Obama to project an image of decisiveness after he was criticized for waiting three days before making his first public comment on the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner.

"We have to be there for them in their hour of need," said President Obama.

And that is exactly the premise that Obama moves from- he does not ask whether we should help or when we should begin helping- the point is, people need our help and we will go do what we can. Imagine him handling the New Orleans crisis of Hurricane Katrina- would be so much better. Now we get to witness what it is like for a caring, kind president does when a country encounters a time of need. Let us hope this is a reminder to all of us how we should be reacting to our own selves all the time.

Photo Credit: American Red Cross (via Flickr under CCL)