American commentators see room for improvement in the U.S. response
to the Haitian earthquake. They've called for altering immigration policy, but
their constructive criticism pales next to French ire.
Two French op-eds accuse the U.S. of hijacking the Haitian humanitarian crisis, unilaterally taking charge of aid efforts. Is this just about Franco-American competition for spotlight, or do the French have a legitimate complaint? While the French have downplayed reports of friction over U.S. management of Haiti's airport, the opinions show the persistence of complaints that the U.S. has prioritized image over aid, and American security over Haitian security.
- Is This Aid or Occupation? In analysis for Le Monde, Corine Lesnes sums up the French complaints, recounting the U.S. Air Force's takeover of the Port-au-Prince airport, where a broken tower was hindering air movement in and out of the country. The Americans, once in control, "privileged military flights to the detriment of aid," Lesnes points out, while Hillary Clinton and Haitian president René Préval came to an agreement regarding control of the airport "in the hangar 'seized' by Seargeant Chris Grove and transformed, since, into an American headquarters." Noting that bad situations in Haiti can wind up sending thousands of Haitians, waterborne, towards Florida, Lesnes argues that the American response is a matter of "national security." Also, she says, the response is important for American image, both in general and, in particular, after the disappointingly slow reaction to Hurricane Katrina--Obama's "moral imperative" is, in fact, "a question of leadership." Lesnes finishes by noting the U.S.'s history of interventions in Haiti, starting in 1915 with Woodrow Wilson and continuing to include President Clinton's reenstatement of the future "bloody dictator" Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
- Obama's Motives While thinking American aid a good thing, Yves Thréard at Le Figaro has a harshly cynical take on President Obama's motives, saying that the president, "low in the polls, criticized for his foreign policy, is seizing this opportunity to restore his image." The earthquake, Thréard writes, "permits him to promote American unity by associating his action with his two predecessors, Bill Clinton and the Republican Bush." And his pledge to stand by the Haitians? "He is seeking to contain the temptation to migrate to the U.S."