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Ken Adelman
Political advisor

Ken Adelman

A Reagan-era Ambassador and Arms Control Director, Ken Adelman is co-founder and vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which offers executive training and leadership development.

No Marshall Plan for Haiti

Despite the horrendous tragedy and emotional outpouring we are now experiencing, eventually we must turn practical. A Marshall Plan for Haiti isn't.

The U.S. government knows how to do disaster relief, but not economic development. Sending in U.S. troops and planes and relief kits, this we do superbly. And it's important since it can save thousands of lives, every one precious.

Even greater impact comes from private U.S. organizations - churches, foundations, individual donors sending money on their cell phones, or via universities and NGOs. These non-government organizations give almost twice as much assistance abroad each year as the U.S. government does in its official aid, and do a more effective job of it. Hence has "foreign aid" overall been privatized.

But disaster assistance, saving lives during the crisis, is quite distinct from economic development, building a successful economy that can withstand natural crises and creates prosperity. Western Europe knew how to build such an economy in 1947 - indeed, it had done so for most of a century before that. Hence the success of the Marshall Plan. It wasn't spent for economic development as much as economic restitution.

Haiti has no such record of success -- under any government, at any time, with any level or kind of outside assistance, ever over the past couple of centuries.

Money allocated to economic development by U.S. government and organizations best be spent on countries which have the leadership, tough enforcement against corruption, sound currency, and sheer determination to develop successfully. Such money, in a nutshell, best be spent where it can do some long-term good, lead to sustainable development (progress without the infusion of outside assistance).

We can only hope that someday, somehow Haiti can join such developing countries, where outside money can produce real results for its desperate people. But that's only a far hope at this point.

Read all responses -- and leave your own -- to the On Leadership question: What is the best role for a top political leader in a response to natural disaster such as Haiti's? Daily progress meetings at the White House? Symbolic on-the-scene consultations and relief work? Announcing big budget Marshall Plans?

By Ken Adelman

 |  January 17, 2010; 7:26 AM ET
Category:  Crisis leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: MLK day: African Americans answering the call of military service | Next: Building Haiti


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Adelman's conservatism is on the losing side of history and is morally reprehensible.

It is certainly true that the U.S. aid establishment and the Haitian government both face many challenges in capacity and have many flaws. However, this moment represents an opportunity to reexamine and improve capacity in the service of what is just and right, AND what ultimately will help to stabilize our regional economic and political environment.

www.marshallplanforhaiti.org -- sign the petition, read recent endorsements, write your government and more -- please pass it on!

Jo Thomas

Posted by: wwwmarshallplanforhaitiorg | January 19, 2010 10:57 PM
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TWAYNEB asked "how much money will we waste there?". The answer: at least 2 billion, gauranteed and probably quite a bit more will be earmarked for "there". But actually, most of it will go into Swiss bank accounts held by the same few families who have always snagged the handouts and who have a vested interest in maintaining the execrable status quo and keeping up extravagant appearances with their dictator friends (like Chavez and Noriega, not to mention some prize specimen America hating specimens in the middle east).

Posted by: beowulf3 | January 19, 2010 1:32 PM
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I visited one of my college buddies in Haiti during the dictatorship. He grew up and went to 12 years of school with Duvalier. Both of them were aware of the economic options in that country. He told Duvalier it was hopeless. I concur. How much money will we waste there? A lot of people want to be do-gooders, unfortunately when our government [either party} gets involved we become do-badders. My English teacher would not like my word coinage, but like Harry Reid's remarks its true.

Posted by: twayneb | January 19, 2010 10:37 AM
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I believe the comments by Mr. Adelman are correct, unfortunately. The situation in Haiti is terrible. Hopefully, this assessment is wrong.

Posted by: richard36 | January 19, 2010 9:01 AM
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Algore-Lover ...Like it or not, the 24 million people of Iraq are far more capable, far more educated, and have far more internal resources and a far brighter future than the 10 million hapless, commonly indolent and devolved into semi-barbarism 4th Worlders of Haiti.

Iraq is self-sustaining in food, water, and social services. A high-literate, educated workforce. Abundant land, hugely valuable energy exports, along with significant agricultural and manufacturing exports, It has a 4% jobless rate, not the 70% jobless rate of Haiti.
I think our going into Iraq and nation-building it was an awful squandering of US resources. But Iraq is a geostrategically important nation where our investment may not reward America as much as the idiot neocons expected - but it is sure making for a very promising long-term future for Iraqis.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | January 19, 2010 8:36 AM
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Mr. Adelman being an expert on leadership development doesn't seem to hold out much hope for Haiti. Though he had a completely different opinion when it came to nation building in Iraq. How do these folks still maintain their credibility?

Posted by: dontblamemeivoted4gore | January 19, 2010 8:08 AM
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