Haiti Debacle

Matt Stinson has a good piece on the current fiasco in Haiti, where the US-installed Jean-Bertrand Aristide has inspired a guerrila war to oust him from power. Matt is correct that there appear to be few good options available to us at the moment.

I’m less inclined to fault the Clinton Administration for this in that there were no really good options at the time, either. Aristide had been selected by what passed for a democratic election in Haiti and had been ousted by a junta that was so bad that a flotilla of Haitians were risking life and limb in order to escape to the U.S. While I didn’t think military action was warranted to affect regime change in Haiti–and I did fault the Clinton team for its weak reaction to the USS Harlan County incident–Aristide was the only plausible choice once that course of action was decided upon.

The problem with all of these missions, though, is that it’s very much a case of “you broke it, you bought it.” Once the US installs a new regime, we are going to be held accountable for anything it does. Absent a rather substantial threat to US interests, it’s best to let internal circumstances govern regime selection.

See this summary for more background information.

FILED UNDER: World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. My beef with Clinton was over his walking away after Aristide was installed, not so much the reinstallation of Aristide to begin with. We didn’t work in Haiti to establish stronger democratic institutions: we just let the Lavalas party run things as they saw fit. This is mostly because Maxine Waters, a good friend of Aristide, was dictating Haiti policy, just as policy in Liberia and Sierra Leone was dictated at the time by members of the CBC who were friends with Charles Taylor.