Commentary: Security, coordination needed to avoid chaos in our Haiti response

Hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes. When it comes to death-dealing natural disasters, the nations of the Caribbean have seen it all, but the magnitude of the calamity afflicting Haiti has no precedent in modern times.

Survival and recovery will tax the remarkable endurance of Haiti's resilient people and the resources of the international community.

On Friday, the Obama administration took a bold and decisive step that will help immeasurably by granting temporary protected status to undocumented Haitians as of Jan. 12.

This will allow the tens of thousands of Haitians expected to qualify to stay here and work and send home money to help with the relief effort.

For the moment, though, with estimates of the dead now running at some 50,000 or more and virtually all essential services knocked out, the needs are far greater than available resources. The priorities at this time include coordination, security, logistics and preventing a horrible situation from getting worse.

Among the casualties in Haiti is the government and its public-security sector. The Parliament and the National Palace lie in ruins.

There is no effective goverment. Machete-wielding gangs have been spotted on the streets. Immediate action is required to stifle any violence.

U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 2,000-strong 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are on the way to Haiti.

That may not be enough. The U.N.'s security mission in Haiti consisted of 6,700 military personnel and 1,622 police officers, but it, too, has been hit hard by the earthquake.

The U.S. military may have to assume responsibility for security in the country, in tandem with what's left of the U.N. forces, and that may require the deployment of reinforcements.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.