As the Atlantic Wire covered Wedensday, there is an emerging contrarian--and largely conservative--argument against aid for Haiti. On Thursday morning, the New York Times' globe-trotting columnist Nicholas Kristof countered them. In a question and answer format, Kristof systematically takes down criticism, calling out Bill O'Reilly by name and chiding Bret Stephens's Wall Street Journal column. He even challenges his commenters, who seem to have absorbed skepticism of the benefits of aid.
"Why is Haiti so poor?" is the first question. "Is it because Haitians are dimwitted or incapable of getting their act together?" Kristof points out that "France imposed a huge debt that strangled Haiti. And when foreigners weren't looting Haiti, its own rulers were." Furthermore, he argues, "Haitians tend to be successful in the United States (and everywhere but Haiti)." The problem with Haiti, he concludes, "isn't its people."
"Can our billions in aid to Haitians accomplish anything?" Kristof tells readers not to "exaggerate how much we give or they get," and points to the actual numbers. He also quotes "even the leading critics of aid" who favor aid in this case.
"So, is Haiti hopeless?" Kristof isn't letting despairing would-be donors off the hook either: "let's challenge the myth that because Haiti has been poor, it always will be. That kind of self-fulfilling fatalism may be the biggest threat of all to Haiti, the real pact with the devil."