"U.S. effect" triggered by Haiti earthquake

17:12, January 22, 2010      

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The U.S. government responded rapidly to the Haiti earthquake in the wake of the disaster's outbreak. U.S. President Barack Obama delivered several speeches and published a series of relief measures and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suspended her visits to Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia, and paid a 4-hour visit to Haiti on January 16. She said during her visit to the quake-hit country that the U.S. "will be here today, tomorrow and for the time ahead."

What the U.S. has done in the wake of the Haiti earthquake will influence its diplomatic strategies in the Caribbean region and even the entire Latin American region. To the west, Haiti borders Cuba which is always at odds with the U.S.; to the south, it borders Venezuela, a country that has challenged the U.S. for many years. Haiti is only 1,120 kilometers away from the U.S. and is regarded as a portal to the U.S.' "backyard." Although Obama had made efforts to improve relationships with Latin American countries since he took office, the U.S. "policy of engagement" did not make significant progress due to negative influences brought about by its military cooperation with Columbia and disturbance from the Afghanistan War. The U.S. rescue efforts in Haiti can not only improve its image, but can also help it firmly seize the "backyard". The U.S. will also take this opportunity to expand its influence on countries to its south.

A subtle influence will also be exerted on the domestic political situation. Former U.S. president George W. Bush lost points due to ineffective rescue efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which was criticized by Obama as a "soft rib" when he ran for the U.S. presidency. As a result, Obama made extremely active efforts in responding to the Haiti earthquake. The U.S. midterm elections will be held in 2010 and the U.S. government attaches particular importance to this political barometer. If the current U.S government gains points in the rescue work in Haiti, it will undoubtedly be favorable to improve the Democrats' status in the coming midterm elections.

However, the performance of the U.S. government in the wake of the Haiti earthquake also leads to some criticism and concerns. Some criticize the U.S. diplomatic efforts are "overdone" and its all-out relief work related to disaster-hit Haiti goes a "little far." More people are concerned with what the U.S. has done will have a "boomerang effect" and the U.S. will reap what it has sown. Many people still have unpleasant memories of the U.S.-Haiti relationship. Historically, U.S. policies toward Haiti often went to 2 extremes – either arbitrarily intervening in Haiti's internal affairs or omitting it for the long term. Following the outbreak of the earthquake in Haiti, The U.S. Navy, Air Force and Army all dispatched troops to Haiti and unhesitatingly monopolized the Port-au-Prince Airport. The U.S. move has caused people to constantly complain and condemn that the U.S is planning to take the advantage to "take over" Haiti.

The U.S. government is very sensitive to this. U.S. government officials reiterated that all its rescue efforts are at the invitation of and with the approval from the Haitian government. It is worth making particular attention to how the U.S. will play its role and influence in Haiti's post-earthquake reconstruction after the Haiti earthquake is no longer the global focus. According to analysis, the earthquake disaster in Haiti offers the Obama administration "an opportunity to act in a new manner," of which the key is how to achieve a balance between negative and positive "U.S. effects."

By People's Daily Online
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