Commentary: Haiti commitment must be long-term

Over the decades, those who have sought to help Haiti win a better future have learned a bitter lesson: the road to failure is paved with good intentions and worthy plans. This time, for the sake of Haiti's nine million inhabitants, everyone must get it right.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration veered far off course, endangering the lives of hundreds of grievously injured earthquake victims when it halted U.S. military flights on Wednesday that were supposed to take patients to American hospitals, mostly in South Florida. The military first blamed Gov. Charlie Crist, who had asked federal officials to spread the care to other states with trauma hospitals and sought for the federal government to share the costs.

The governor's reasonable request became a pretext for the military to halt flights for the most severely injured victims. Washington officials added other excuses over the weekend, saying logistical challenges made it difficult to find U.S. airport runways capable of having large military planes land near trauma hospitals that were waiting to help. Pathetic.

By Sunday, the White House promised flights would resume Monday morning. It's unconscionable that this situation ever occurred and that it would take so many days to resolve.

Beyond the immediate needs of helping an estimated 200,000 Haitians injured in the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands, this hemisphere's poorest country needs a decades-long commitment from the international community. It's the only way to bring Haiti into the community of prosperous nations.

A good start was made at the recent Montreal conference, where participants seemed to realize the magnitude of the recovery task. Another round takes place this week. Next month, a conference at the United Nations should produce more-concrete plans.

The notion of a Marshall Plan for Haiti captures the spirit of what Haiti is going to need, including training Haitians -- from pipe fitters to accountants -- to reconstruct their country. Just throwing money at the problem isn't enough. Nor will piecemeal efforts work.

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