blog_passport_full11

Is Barack Obama now the president of Haiti?

Is Barack Obama now the president of Haiti?

Tyler Cowen worries that the Obama’s presidency may come to be defined by the chaos in Haiti: 

Obama now stands a higher chance of being a one-term President.  Foreign aid programs are especially unpopular, especially relative to their small fiscal cost.  Have you noticed how Rush Limbaugh and others are already making their rhetoric uglier than usual?  It will be a test of the American populace; at what point will people start whispering that he is "favoring the other blacks"?

Just as it’s not easy to pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan, it won’t be easy to pull out of Haiti.

Maybe you thought health care was a hard problem.  Maybe you thought that cap and trade would make health care look easy.  This may be the hardest problem yet and it wasn’t on anybody’s planning ledger.  Obama won’t have many allies in this fight either.  A lot of Democratic interest groups might, silently, wish he would forget about the whole thing.

Mass starvation wouldn’t look good on the evening news either.  What does it mean to preside over the collapse of a country of more than nine million people?  It’s Obama who’s about to find out, not the increasingly irrelevant Rene Preval.  Everyone in Haiti is looking to President Obama.

Kevin Drum counters that the U.S. operation in Haiti "both in dollar and military terms, is likely to be small enough that it never becomes a big political flashpoint."

To state the obvious, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan,  the U.S. troops in Haiti aren’t under attack from the local population and their presence seems to be generally welcomed. Of course it’s too much to expect that the U.S. can singlehandedly build a functional Haitian state or prevent humanitarian catastrophe, and other countries will hopefully step up to shoulder some of the burden, but U.S. resources can be used to alleviate an awful lot of human misery in the weeks ahead and I hope domestic politics won’t deter this efforts. In an ideal world, this is what U.S. power should be used for.