Chirol was highly critical of the US and international response in providing aid for the Haiti earthquake victims, which set off a comment thread with overwhelming criticism of Chirol’s premise that realistically, Haiti has always always been a disaster and we should not commit resources into black hole because of media and popular excitement. Although I didn’t comment, I basically agreed with most readers who spoke out that Chirol’s stated position was isolationist, especially considering that the country was so close and the problems so manageable with basics not available in Haiti. (Other criticisms — that he was being cruel or callous — didn’t really register with me because appearing cruel is part of the very nature of stone cold realism.) But there are careful realist calculations behind the motives of the three most active participants in Haiti — the US, China and Taiwan.
As it happens, today the Japanese Mainichi Shinbun has an article (Japanese only, sorry) with this title: “Haiti Earthquake: Aid to Victims Displays ‘Diplomatic War’; US, China, Others” summarizes the key player’s (realist) goals. Taking that article and some other articles, the interests of the major countries providing aid are:
* The US, by dispatching one nuclear aircraft carrier and two former presidents, has created the most obvious presence in Haiti and is looking to flex its muscle in the region and show off its power, yet in a peaceful way that is aimed at bettering relations with Central and South American countries. The primary diplomatic targets are Cuba and Venezuela, who could easily win friends and show off their influence if they were seen as being active in the region. I think this also gets to the Monroe Doctrine, where the US long held, from the turn of the 19th century until the end of the Cold War, that no other power could interfere in the Western Hemisphere. That policy was basically abandoned under Bill Clinton during the first Haiti intervention, but I believe it should be vigorously maintained to make sure that all foreign policy fronts are
* China has been ramping up its activity in Central and South America and has tried to become an alternative to US-sourced credit and business, and in cutting off Taiwan from its global friends in the region. China has long been active in Haiti and had 148 peacekeepers in Haiti, of whom 8 were killed in the earthquake — read one of the very first ever ComingAnarchy posts on that topic here. It has dispatched an additional 50 aid workers and donated about a million dollars in aid.
* Taiwan initially offered $500,000 in aid, but when China announced that it would double that, it quickly announced it would provide $5 million in aid, most likely to preserve and protect its status as the legitimate Chinese government as recognized by the Haiti government. Of the 23 countries that have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, 12 are in Central and South America. This is despite the fact that, under the current Taiwanese government, Beijing and Taipei have called a “ceasefire” in their war for recognition, but the events in Haiti show that this war is still being waged, albeit more quietly.
Even with that, the position of Australia on the list of countries providing aid surprised me — but keep in mind this list incorporates donations by regional governments, but not those by individuals and NGOs.
* US: $100 million (disaster teams, aircraft carrier, hospital ships, soldiers)
* Australia: $9 million (including donations by regional governments)
* China: $5.4 million (including aid workers)
* Taiwan: $5 million
* Japan: $5.3 million
* Norway: $5 million
* England: $1.4 million
* World Bank: $1 million