Last night, I had a good chat with Rachel Maddow on the mechanics of smart power in the context of the Haiti disaster. A lot of our conversation focused on the role of the U.S. Agency for International Development, or US AID, which plays a vital role coordinating not only the combined US government response in a crisis playing out now on this Caribbean island but also coordinates with other governments.
I am hoping the US is smart enough in this case to get over its Cold War-fashioned anachronistic Cuba allergy and actually begins to work with Cuba’s well-trained, natural disaster-focused medical corps which are going to be in Haiti helping as well.
One thing I tried to emphasize with Rachel Maddow is that US AID, which was under extreme attack by former Senator Jesse Helms and House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, is one of America’s most vital yet under-resourced federal agencies that everyone respects in a time of crisis and neglects when things calm down. This isn’t smart strategically — and trying to change this boom and bust approach to international development and aid is a key priority of the Obama administration — one I support.
— Steve Clemons