Observations on the cataclysm in Haiti:
As I write, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and half a dozen other U.S. Navy ships are steaming toward Haiti. They will join some 900 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division who are providing emergency aid. Twenty-two hundred Marines will also be on hand.
We don't maintain the world's largest military to provide humanitarian relief. But those who disdain our military power may want to say a private prayer of thanksgiving that we make the sacrifices to maintain it -- if only because in cases like this, there is no substitute for a military response. After the 2004 tsunami, when ports and roads were destroyed, the U.S. deployed 15,000 troops, a carrier task force, and a Marine expeditionary force. This flotilla supervised the delivery of tents, water, food, medicine, and other supplies to Indonesia and Thailand before any other aid could arrive. The chief of naval operations at the time, Admiral Mike Mullen, noted with justifiable pride: "We literally built a city at sea for no other purpose than to serve the needs of other people."
The following year, the U.S. military deployed similar aid to Pakistan after an earthquake, to Bangladesh following a cyclone, and to the Gulf coast after Katrina. While we shouldn't necessarily expect gratitude, we can, Michelle Obama notwithstanding, feel proud of our country.
Can someone muzzle Pat Robertson? Surely he forfeited all claim to be taken seriously when he agreed with Jerry Falwell that 9/11 was God's retribution for our sins. Having learned nothing from that plunge into inanity, he now informs his viewers that Haiti is "cursed" because its people "swore a pact with the Devil." It's a "true story," he insists. This man is a buffoon.
There are times when you just wish you could evacuate entire spots on the globe. Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, was devastated by major storms in 2004 and 2005, and by almost yearly floods since 2002. In 2008, the nation was pummeled by four major hurricanes in one month. Sixty percent of the country's harvest -- in a nation that consists largely of subsistence farmers -- was wiped out. The countryside, deforested by impoverished islanders who cut down trees for fuel, became a toxic sludge.