in General Discussion edited January 2014

CALL IT COINCIDENCE. A 10-year-old experiment by the United States in "nation-building" is unravelling rapidly at the very time it is engaged in another purported nation-building exercise of an awful kind. Haiti is not as far away from the U.S. as Iraq, or as big or as complex. It is a tiny country on an island off the Florida coast. In the last few days, Haiti has been tormented by internal violence with armed gangs taking over towns and opposition groups demanding the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide whose election in 2000 they refuse to recognise as legitimate. This is President Aristide's second term in office. His first, between 1990 and 1995, was interrupted by a military coup and he could reclaim office only after an armed intervention by U.S. forces removed the junta. He may get no such help this time, having fallen out with his patron in the intervening years. Without directly calling for the ouster of Mr. Aristide, the U.S. has sent out signals that have encouraged his opponents, rightly raising questions about the Bush administration's support for the removal of an elected leader. Even though there has been some erosion in support for the Haitian leader, he remains deeply popular among his people. Apart from the armed militias, the main opposition is a loose coalition called the Democratic Convergence that has links to a U.S. organisation representing Republican Party interests. Not surprisingly, comparisons are also being drawn with what was enacted in Venezuela two years ago. But more than anything else, Haiti's crisis has reinforced disturbing questions about the U.S. style of nation-building abroad and its motives behind such ventures.

Haiti is a classic case of the tension between the stated aim of the U.S. to build democracies around the world and its desire to ensure that such governments remain pliant and reflect its own policies. After nine decades of U.S. involvement, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. For 30 years from 1958, Washington nurtured the tyrannical regimes of the Duvaliers (father and son) so that they remained allies during the Cold War. After a popular revolt deposed Baby Doc Duvalier in 1986, U.S. policy towards Haiti has largely been determined by the thousands of illegal Haitian immigrants who wash up on American shores, fleeing the economic and political instability at home. This was one of the main reasons behind the Clinton administration's 1993 intervention to reinstall Mr. Aristide, and it definitely helped that he was democratically elected. But working to a quick "exit strategy," the U.S. then abandoned Haiti; the new Government found itself without either support structure or financial resources to enable it to revive the economy and restore political stability. Not enthused by President Aristide, the Bush administration has exacerbated Haiti's plight by blocking international aid, and with its recent calls for a "thorough change" in governance, is now seen as backing a dubious opposition. Naturally, Haitians who want to see a genuine democracy take root in their country fear a return to the free-for-all chaos that reigned in the late 1980s.

In this election year for President George Bush, the course of his administration's policy towards Haiti is certain to be influenced by the presence of a sizeable Haitian migrant community in at least three States in the U.S. and the possibility of another surge of refugees and illegal immigrants should the impasse between President Aristide and his opponents continue. But as the Bush administration struggles to extricate itself from the horrible mess it has created in Iraq, the troubles in Haiti give Americans an opportunity to reflect on yet another of Washington's interventions in the name of freedom and democracy producing nothing but tragedy for the alleged beneficiaries.

So, what do you think?


  • Reply 1 of 8
    you need to add something yourself...

    but i remember clinton appeared to leave haiti all too quickly in the 1990's, perhaps not entirely his fault (since congress most likely would not have supported and extended stay), but he did just drop out after aristide was installed and if i recall ignored pleas for help.
  • Reply 2 of 8
    baumanbauman Posts: 1,248member
    I visited Haiti in October of 1995, on one of the first flights let back into the country after the embargo. I saw the US Army royally f*** some stuff up. I was staying in a house by a soccer field that was the flattest place for hundreds of miles around, and so a helicopter landed there almost every day... with no apparent reason. The tension around the elections that were scheduled a few months after I was there was palpable.

    Hopefully, I'll be going back to Haiti this summer. We'll see what it's like then.

    About the article - first a clarification: Haiti was already the poorest country in this hemisphere before 1995. Second, where's that from?

    Thirdly, I'm really not surprised that the US kept up with it's tradition on having "Nation Building" fall flat on it's face. I have also been to Nicaragua and Colombia, and saw first-hand the effects of the stupidity of US foreign policy. Now we just need to insert a leader in the Dominican Republic to 'keep Haiti under control', wait ten years, and then say he's the worst man on the planet
  • Reply 3 of 8
    The US Gov and average Joe and Jane Citizen isn't going to give 2bits about Haiti until those poor suckers start to show up off the shores of Florida! During the Clinton years that's exactly what happened as I recall. Once Aristide was put back in, we should have stayed longer. However, as billybobsky has pointed out, the stay would probably not have been supported. Aristide is going up to end seeking haven in the US Embassy if he doesn't get off that island. I have little sympathy for him or his "government", I have a lot of sympathy for the Haitian folk, they can't get a break.

    talksense101, you have to give us a little bit more of your opinion. OK? What do you think about it?

    bauman, watch your 6 when you go back down there man...
  • Reply 4 of 8
    buonrottobuonrotto Posts: 6,368member
    talksense has to come back and present his point of view.

    While we wait, we can point out that the US has had very, uh, mixed results with their efforts in their own hemisphere for nation building and whatnot. While the government has managed to created democracies in lots of places through any number of avenues, most of these countries remain very poor. And when you can't feed the people, well all that structure and good intentions get pushed aside for obvious reasons.

    Leaving countries to languish in their own problems seems heartless, you feel like you should do something, but this stuff is a bit overwhelming, isn't it?
  • Reply 5 of 8
    Hiyas. Sorry about that. RL gets to be demanding once in a while especially when your baby is sick...

    I read that article in the editorial section of a local newspaper and I was wondering if that viewpoint is shared by people in the US. I wanted to make sure that it was not just propoganda. But it does seem that the international community including the US is now doing something instead of ditching the nation.
  • Reply 6 of 8
    baumanbauman Posts: 1,248member
    NPR Has been having very good coverage of the current situation... they've been having a correspondent in Port on just about daily. You can listen to the segments on http://news.npr.org

    It seems like the rebels are simply attacking any sign of Aristede, which is most prevalent in the police force. It seems like they aren't paying much attention to whites there... yet, but it's hard to tell.

    An interesting development this week is that it's Carnival in Haiti, and so schools and businesses are out this week. It actually was extended by Aristede, but the reasons behind it are uncertain.
  • Reply 7 of 8
    bauman, watch yourself in Haiti man. We Americans put Aristide back in office. At the time it seemed the right thing to do. That hasn't been the case. Through ignorance and especially bitterness, Haitians may see ANY American as somebody to beat the crap out of... You can't blame them. They have been getting raw deals from the get go...
  • Reply 8 of 8
    baumanbauman Posts: 1,248member
    Thanks for the concern, all. I will be careful, and if things are still looking shaky, I may just stay in the Dominican Republic (the other side of the island). I do think it would be quite an experience to travel through Haiti by land, but it may not be a possibility.

    I have an Aunt in Haiti I'd be visiting, and she is very fluent in the culture. I have no doubts as to her confidence in surveying the safety of me visiting, and her relationships with fellow Haitians are strong enough that there would be little guesswork on the safety of the situation. She's been there long enough that the locals are especially looking out for her now. It's a safe community.

    Now in the news, Aristede is conceding to a Power Sharing Peace plan, but the rebels would have to agree to it... something he can be confident they will never do. Thus he will get international support by saying "I am in support of this peace plan, but the bad terrorists aren't. Help me!" He's been throwing "Terrorist" around A LOT in attempts to grab attention from Bush, but it seems like it isn't working.

    Things seem to have gotten more violent over this weekend, too. News from Haiti is always a little sketchy, as it seems nobody really knows what is happening, but it sounds like he is quickly losing grip on the nation.
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