David Brooks, writing in the NYT:

On Oct. 17, 1989, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck the Bay Area in Northern California. Sixty-three people were killed. This week, a major earthquake, also measuring a magnitude of 7.0, struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Red Cross estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 people have died.

This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services. On Thursday, President Obama told the people of Haiti: “You will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten.” If he is going to remain faithful to that vow then he is going to have to use this tragedy as an occasion to rethink our approach to global poverty. He’s going to have to acknowledge a few difficult truths.

Here are the four hard things Brooks identifies: (1) we don’t know how to use aid to reduce poverty; (2) micro-aid is vital but insufficient; (3) it is time to put the thorny issue of culture at the center of efforts to tackle global poverty; (4) it’s time to promote locally led paternalism.

You can read the whole thing here.