The travels of Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, shaking the cup for aid to that country, present a tough question for potential donors.
There is no doubt that Zimbabwe is a country in need. Its economy is in ruins, its currency is virtually valueless, a significant portion of its population -- perhaps 40 percent -- is hungry, in need of food aid.
Mr. Tsvangirai himself is to some degree a sympathetic figure. He won Zimbabwe's presidential elections, but was not permitted to take office. He has been physically beaten by Zimbabwe government thugs. He recently lost his wife in a tragic auto accident.
The problem, however, is that the source of Zimbabwe's problems, President Robert G. Mugabe, an aged tyrant, has been in power since the country's independence in 1980. In principle he "shares" power with Mr. Tsvangirai, although the division of ministries in the government makes it clear that Mr. Mugabe is still calling the shots. He also has the army behind him.
He, presumably, sent Mr. Tsvangirai around the world, including to Washington, to beg money for Zimbabwe. Mr. Mugabe will also control, no doubt, what is done in Zimbabwe with what Mr. Tsvangirai can harvest.
President Barack Obama pledged $73 million in aid after Mr. Tsvangerai's visit on June 12 but said it would not go to the government and there would be restrictions on how the help is used. The United Kingdom said Monday that it would send $8.2 million in assistance and that more could follow if Zimbabwe launched reforms.
Any capital may try to keep Mr. Mugabe and his cohorts away from such aid, yet it is important to remember that any help, even humanitarian, is fungible. If international donors see to the food and medical needs of Zimbabwe's citizens, the government can use the nation's other resources for security and holding onto power.
Regardless of any pledge of help, the United States should maintain its sanctions against Zimbabwe. Only the permanent departure of Mr. Mugabe from power should open the door to the level of assistance needed to rebuild the Zimbabwe he has destroyed.