Wars, disasters, crises -- and now this devastating earthquake in Haiti -- all provoke massive outpourings of aid, global generosity and even U.S and international troops, but all that attention is too often short-term, inevitably fading away once the cameras have moved on or compassion fatigue sets in.
So the person I would most like to have brunch with today is U.S. Secretary of State General George C. Marshall, whose Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe after World War II. We all desperately need to hear how he did it -- how his endeavor rebuilt post-war Germany into a peaceful, strong, democratic state and an economic powerhouse that lifted all of Europe. Not to mention enduring gratitude and friendship for the U.S. It took time, dollars and long-term dedication -- but the payoff? Prosperity and real peace in our time.
For as long as I have been a reporter, nation-building has been a dirty word. When I think of Germany today I wonder why. But I also wonder whether that's about to change. Faced with the calamity of Haiti, the IMF incredibly calls for a new Marshall Plan for this broken place. Presidents Obama, Sarkozy and Prime Ministers around the world pledge long-term development. Times have changed of course. Europe is not Haiti.... or Afghanistan or Yemen, but the point is the same: Failed or fragile states will never be more than money-sucking poverty traps, whose continued desperation and social injustice will be fertile swamps of instability, terror and violence. I have spent my time in the field watching disasters unfold and the humanitarian response in spurts. People are generous and perhaps governments mean well, but I have also seen money and good intentions wasted in a mad whirl of short-term focus and incoherent planning.
So at our brunch I would ask Secretary Marshall the logic of proper nation building. How does the math work? Why is it worth it? Is it the right thing to do or the safest? Is it both? Nation building is not sexy, not like airdrops and rubble rescues. It's a long hard off-camera slog. But the payoff from Port-au-Prince to Kabul? I am sure George Marshall would say " Just think of Germany."
Christiane Amanpour is CNN's chief international correspondent and the host of “Amanpour.”