Four years after Katrina became the most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history, and the government's response the standard for ineptitude, the earthquake in Haiti has once again focused the American public and the world on the U.S. government's ability to respond to a major and unexpected catastrophe. The question looming over the U.S.-led rescue and relief effort is whether the hard lessons of Katrina and other recent disasters have been learned and adequately incorporated into the response of the Obama administration to what may prove the worst disaster in the Western Hemisphere in living memory.
Though the relief operation is still in its infancy, I would like our expert bloggers to share their insights and thoughts about the response thus far. Given Haiti's extreme poverty, its lack of adequate infrastructure, and the severity of the earthquake, how does this crisis rate on the spectrum of disasters in terms of the challenges it presents? Given the imperative to reach victims within the "golden" 72 hours after such a catastrophic event, has the Obama administration shown the requisite urgency and responded fast enough? By naming USAID administrator Rajiv Shah to oversee the response, and assigning Southern Command deputy Gen. P.K. Keen to head a joint task force and coordinate the response, has the Obama administration heeded the need for a single point person and clear chain of command that seemed lacking in the early days of the Katrina response?
Do you sense that the lack of adequate communications to coordinate relief efforts during Katrina has been addressed in this instance? Has the administration done a good or poor job in coordinating with local (Haitian) and international authorities in managing the crisis? Have enough of the right supplies, equipment and personnel been sent based on a coherent prioritization? What, if any, additional capabilities does the United States need in order to better respond to such disasters, natural as well as manmade? Finally, Obama told Congress in recent days that "this is a time when the world looks to us." What do you believe the world's ultimate judgment will be on Obama's leadership and America's response in this crisis?