The U.S. often forgets its claims of benevolent foreign policy until a natural disaster strikes or the media grabs hold of heart-tugging issues.
Too often our government shoves to the bottom of our to-do-list this goal of foreign policy: “to create a more secure, democratic and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community.” We instead focus only on benefiting ourselves at the expense of the world’s poorest people.
More than a week after Haiti, we have proved our compassion by sending troops, food and water to help the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Americans have shown deep concern, as seen through many donations. The government has acted swiftly, allowing Haitians who are here illegally to have temporary protected status.
But the question still remains: why were we not helping the world’s poorest countries prior to such events? How do we choose to help some countries while ignoring others that face genocide, oppressive dictatorships or major poverty?
If we are going to learn a lesson from Haiti, it needs to be this. We need to realize that our high status of living and our freedoms are human rights that we should at least try to establish in some small way in the rest of the world.
We should have been aiding Haiti, as well as the poorest countries in other areas of the world, especially in Africa, far before this disaster. If we simply wait for natural disasters like the tsunami that hit in 2004 or this most recent earthquake in Haiti, we cannot truly help.
Like the media coverage, the help that comes after disasters fades quickly after the spotlight dims. But the U.S. needs to take a different approach as we set out to help Haiti. We need to create lasting plans for how we will help to solidly establish better government, infrastructure and living standards.
This plan needs to extend to the poorest countries. We can help, but for once, we cannot expect anything in return. It will be a thankless job and may not draw us the international media attention we so crave, but it will improve the lives of millions. We will receive very little in return.
It will create a much more united world image and help the U.S. become less of a dominating nation and more of a generous nation. Our negative world image and need for such heightened defense strategies comes directly from our inability to help the world without being repaid.
As the world focuses on Haiti, the U.S. needs to take steps to stabilize the country, but then build a path out of poverty. From there, we need to set aside our own greed and focus our attention to help those countries that need the most.