U.S. and France Agree: Haiti a Mess

Rebels Preparing to Attack Haiti Capital

Haiti’s rebel leader said his fighters were advancing on the capital Thursday, awaiting an order to attack unless President Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigns. The United States questioned whether Aristide could “effectively continue” in office.

With Haiti’s ill-equipped police force not expected to put up much resistance against a rebel assault, government loyalists began building defenses in front of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince.

At a U.N. Security Council meeting on Haiti, Caribbean nations called for a multinational force to end the violence. But the United States and France said they want a political settlement first.

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Powell said the United States is willing to participate in any international force sent to Haiti to enforce a political settlement. He said France, Canada and Caribbean countries also have indicated willingness to participate.

But at an open meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Jamaica’s Foreign Minister K.D. Knight argued against waiting for a political solution.

“The situation is one of utmost urgency and the need for decisive action is paramount,” Knight said.

A decade ago, I’d have thought this one a no brainer: Stay the hell out of this mess. But things could get ugly quickly and I think we’re going to have to intervene.

For one thing, the U.S. re-instated Aristide to power knowing what kind of man he was, so we’re going to be blamed for much of this even though a lot has happened in the intervening years. For another, we’ve declared ourselves to be in the democracy promotion business. It’s a goal I applaud but one that I find problematic on a number of levels as a practical matter. But Haiti is “doable” and it would be a foreign policy disaster to let it erupt into a major bloodbath while we’re investing hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of American lives to create democracy in Iraq.

The irony here is that the U.S. and France are together on this. It’s not surprising, given that we’ve both got a long history of entanglement in Haiti, but it’s still interesting given recent events.

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.