Over much of the last century, American forces and dollars have been sent to bail out Haiti many times, only to find the nation stuck where it was a century ago - corrupt, inpoverished and unable to function without regular help and/or intervention by outside entities.
Following the recent massive earthquake, Haiti has all but ceased to exist as a nation. A nation which, in good times, barely functioned and required UN peacekeepers to keep order, has become - in effect - America's 51st state with a flood of American forces and generosity while much of its own leadership is dead, missing, or laying low.
While the scope of the current crisis is bigger than past ones, the deep-rooted issues remain unchanged: natural disasters which overwhelm its feeble infrastructure, a long tradition of rampant corruption and brutal Third World poverty. Just like European wars of years past often reached America's shores, the problems of Haiti have often boiled over, so ignoring them is not a practical option.
After the Second World War, America was determined to force an end to the vicious cycle of European conflicts. With Western Europe in ruins and its nations lacking the strength or will to reinstate the old order of affairs, the United States decided that in return for the massive investment needed to get those shattered nations back on their feet, the recipient nations would make major systemic changes so as to avoid another devastating conflict. From this, the Marshall Plan was born. It required recipients to share assistance resources, and in doing so, the cooperation gave birth to the European Economic Community, which became the European Union.
A Haitian "Marshall Plan" seems the ideal approach to the current situation - one in which American assistance comes with strings which requires Haiti to clean up its corruption and lay the economic and cultural foundations upon which a better future can be built. While there are compelling humanitarian and sound foreign policy motives for such a policy, American leaders also owe it to taxpayers to ensure the resources which are being expended upon Haiti - for once - wisely spent.
The Marshall Plan and similar efforts elsewhere took ruined nations gutted by World War II and turned them into stable and prosperous societies, and ensured American dollars were wisely invested. Likewise, American dollars should not be spent in Haiti unless there is a reasonable chance that investment would result in meaningful change.
The "clean slate" created by this disaster gives the United States an unprecedented opportunity to shape Haiti's future, and the scope of the investment necessary to have any significant impact gives it the right to demand a return on that investment. Following the example of the Marshall Plan seems the only reasonable approach to addressing the massive disaster that has befallen Haiti.