Save Haiti the smart way

Associated Press
Earthquake survivors, watched by UN troops from Argentina, helped to unload emergency supplies in the Haitian city of Leogane on Wednesday.

The natural progression of things after a disaster such as the Haiti earthquake is rescue, recovery and rebuilding.

As the rescue of survivors, and the recovery of bodies, went on this week, talk continued of rebuilding in Haiti.

A few questions at the outset:

- How much more can the United States afford to invest in Haiti? Estimates are we've sunk close to $3 billion into Haiti since the early 1990s. To what end? It's still the poorest nation in the hemisphere -- and it's clear in the aftermath of the quake that the government was shaky to begin with.

- What strings should attach to any rebuilding money we send there? If your uncle were bailing you out of a jam, would he not have the right to have some say in what you do with his money? How you live your life while you pay him back? Wouldn't he be irresponsible himself if he invested in you knowing that you'll blow the money?

- Even if Port-au-Prince were reconstructed -- with buildings able to withstand natural disasters -- what kind of human infrastructure would be left? Would the government be worth our investment -- and would we have any say in its infrastructure? Would emergency services and utilities be up to responding to the next disaster, without having to depend on airlifts from other countries?

The bottom line question is, is Haiti even a viable investment?

One other question: What are the constitutional limits of federal charity? And where is it provided for in the Constitution? This president and others before him have felt at liberty to promise other countries all sorts of our money for all kinds of reasons. We won't question the $100 million in humanitarian aid Mr. Obama has promised Haiti, though one legitimately could. But when it comes to money for reconstruction in Haiti, will our government again feel free to dig into our pockets in order to invest our money in a questionable enterprise?

"All the money in the world will be of no help should Port-au-Prince be returned to the state it existed in prior to Jan. 12," writes Michelle Anjirbag in the University of Connecticut Daily Campus .

"A precondition of the Haitian government's legitimacy is its ability to deliver basic services," writes Robert Muggah in the Toronto Globe and Mail . "Haiti needs a coherent strategy to deliver certain core services."

Maybe something as radical as a Marshall Plan.

Will there even be a coherent plan? Or should we just start airlifting money in?

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