Good neighbor policy

Helping Haiti makes sense—and is the right thing to do

Americans tend to think of Haiti as a God-forsaken country of sufferers, a Job-like nation that in too many ways has seemed cursed. It’s an image last week’s horrendous earthquake, and the heartwrenching scenes subsequently played out on television, seemed to confirm. It is also, of course, the very image televangelist Pat Robertson, who’s never gone hungry a day in his life and whose malice apparently has no bounds, was referring to when he said Haitians’ suffering was payback for having “made a deal with the devil” to get out from under French rule.

But it’s also just as true that the Haitian people are among the most courageous and resilient in the world. They are, after all, the only slave society in history to rebel against their masters and form an independent nation. And they have endured more than 200 years of periodic tyranny, foreign invasion and occupation, natural disaster and corruption and yet have remained optimistic and determined to survive.

It’s encouraging that the people of the world have responded so generously to the Haitians in their time of crisis. With most government buildings collapsed—and so many government employees dead—the country’s recovery will be akin to starting over. It’s especially sad that this disaster has come just as Haiti was showing signs of political and economic progress. It will be up to the United States and the other governments involved in the recovery effort to make sure that positive momentum is regained, and that a long-term commitment is made to helping the Haitian people finally transcend the instability and conflict that have plagued their nation for so long.

The United States must lead in this effort. As President Obama writes in the current issue of Newsweek, when we show “not just our power, but also our compassion, the world looks to us with a mixture of awe and admiration.” Our credibility in fighting jihadists is enhanced by our generosity toward those less fortunate than ourselves. And a stable Haiti would have direct, practical benefits for the United States, in fewer refugees fleeing poverty and less drug trafficking. Helping Haiti makes good sense.