Tags: Obama | Haiti | haul | US

Obama Sees Long Haul for U.S. in Haiti

Sunday, 17 January 2010 10:26 PM

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s aggressive response to the deadly earthquake in Haiti has led to criticism from the far right that the United States is taking on too much, at a time when its foreign-policy plate is already full.

But the more relevant question, experts on the region say, is whether the United States will maintain a muscular role in the reconstruction of Haiti once the news cameras go home.

The United States has a history of either political domination or neglect in its backyard, and administration officials acknowledge that for Mr. Obama, striking the right balance in Haiti will be crucial.

“The classic U.S. role in the whole hemisphere is either complete neglect, or we come in and run the show,” said Sarah Stephens, executive director for the Center for Democracy in the Americas. But with Haiti, a mere 700 miles from Miami, “there is a great opportunity for the United States to do this in a new way,” she said.

Mr. Obama has pledged that the United States is in Haiti for the long haul.

On Sunday, he mobilized military reserves — particularly medical staff for hospital ships — signing an executive order that said it was necessary to back up active-duty troops “for the effective conduct of operational missions, including those involving humanitarian assistance, related to relief efforts in Haiti.”

American troops have taken control of the airport at Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, and are helping to provide security for the enormous international relief effort

A steady stream of administration officials have headed south, from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — who cut short a trip to the South Pacific, rushed home, and then flew to Haiti on Saturday — to one of Mr. Obama’s closest aides, Denis R. McDonough, the National Security Council’s chief of staff.

“We will be here today, tomorrow, and for the time ahead,” Mrs. Clinton said to Haitian journalists in Port-au-Prince, standing alongside President René Préval.

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Sunday, 17 January 2010 10:26 PM
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