The New York Times reports
that Jean-Bertrand Aristede has resigned as President of Haiti and fled by private jet to the Dominican Republic. In his place, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Boniface Alexandre has taken over as head of an interim government until elections in 2005. Rebels continue to surround the capital city, but at this time, they have not attacked. The U.S. and other nations stand ready to dispatch some kind of military force in order to stabilize Haiti and prevent a humanitarian crisis there. <Update
: President Bush has ordered
a MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force
) from Camp LeJeune to be flown to Haiti immediately, with a limited mission to secure the ports and provide other security assistance as directed by the embassy.>
The Bush administration decided in the past three days, as a senior administration official said Saturday, that "Aristide must go," regardless of his constitutional authority. That message was communicated directly to Mr. Aristide hours before he left this morning. France, Haiti's colonial occupier, also called for the president to step down.Analysis
In a statement issued Saturday night and authorized by President Bush, the White House blamed Mr. Aristide for "the deep polarization and violent unrest that we are witnessing in Haiti today."
His departure enables a proposed international peacekeeping force to land in Port-au-Prince, secure the capital and enable desperately needed food and economic assistance to flow to Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.
The Associated Press quoted the United States ambassador to Haiti, James Foley, as saying, "International military forces including U.S. forces will be rapidly arriving in Haiti to begin to restore a sense of security."
That force would try to stabilize Haiti — a task that could take years — and prevent a fresh flood of desperate refugees trying to reach Florida.
: I opined earlier this week that the U.S. couldn't meaningfully intervene in Haiti even if it wanted to, because of our commitments elsewhere.
However, one has to wonder just what is on the table in the way of U.S. contingency plans for Iraq. This is not 1994 -- we can't load the XVIII Airborne Corps onto planes to back up any sort of diplomatic initiative in Haiti. At most, we could probably muster a MEU to send to Haiti on short notice, or perhaps a piece of a unit that's already redeployed from Iraq. But doing so would have tremendously difficult secondary and tertiary consequences for America's military that's already stretched to its breaking point. Our commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan now constrain our foreign policy to the point that we cannot consider the deployment of troops to a place like Haiti as a viable option -- there just ain't any more to give. Ironically, our commitment in Iraq may now force us to pursue an internationalist policy in Haiti, and to support the deployment of an international police force.
So, it appears that the contingency plan was to wait for Haiti to resolve its current leadership crisis and then to send some kind of peacekeeping force -- probably a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit). It won't be a very robust force, and it won't be able to patrol every part of Haiti or do everything we were able to do in 1994. But it'll have enough punch to at least make the interim government listen.
However, this may not be the appropriate force for this kind of situation. Several prominent thinkers have begun to argue for an expeditionary nation-building capability
for the United States, and Haiti is a prime example of where you might send such a force. A MEU (or Army brigade) doesn't have the organic nation-building capabilities to do the job -- MPs, Civil Affairs, intelligence, logistics, medical, and plug-ins from State, USAID, NGOs, and CIA. It also has too much combat power relative to the job at hand, and not enough of the CS/CSS (combat support/combat service support) units needed for nation buildilng. Max Boot, author of Savage Wars of Peace and one of the leading thinkers of the 'neo-con' movement, wrote this in the LA Times
Isn't it about time we got serious about dealing with failed states? If we did, we would have to devise both national and international remedies.
Nationally, the United States needs to create a standing agency devoted to nation-building; it should have a director with the authority to force disparate departments in the U.S. government to work together, something that didn't happen before the invasion of Iraq. The military too needs to devote more attention to nation-building, perhaps by adopting a proposal from the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation to add a couple of divisions specially trained for peacekeeping.
* * *
Likewise, beefing up peacekeeping capacity is very much in our interest. That would enable us to avoid the dilemma we face today in Haiti: either do nothing and let violence explode or take on a burden — fixing things ourselves — that we're not prepared to shoulder. There has to be a better way. I hope we find it before the next disaster strikes.
I think he's right. America needs to create such a capability, either by standing up a separate agency and force for the job, or by building these capabilities into existing units. The current proposals on the table for "transformation" all speak of "full-spectrum operations" -- the ability to do everything on the spectrum from peace to war. But these plans don't put their money where their mouth is.
One last point to consider: even if we could
intervene in Haiti with a meaningful force, would such an intervention be realistic? Or put another way, is there any sort of domestic authority in Haiti to work with, or do we have to build governments, infrastructure, social institutions, etc., from scratch? One member of the NSRT suggested
in a discussion that we could not succeed in Haiti because of the lack of these things, and indeed, that we would squander what remaining U.S. military capability we have on a hopeless mission if we sent U.S. forces there. At least one expert quoted
in the New York Times thinks roughly the same thing:
Robert Fatton Jr., a native of Haiti and chairman of the politics department at the University of Virginia, agreed.
"There are no functioning institutions in Haiti," he said. "Things could very easily unravel. I think we are in for a long crisis. You are going to have a hellish situation without an international peacekeeping force. The armed gangs could go wild. It looks to be a vacuum of power in the short term and that's very dangerous, if there is no center and the country cannot hold."
So, the appropriate analogy here is not to Haiti in 1994, but to Somalia in 1992, where U.S. forces has to work with a worthless de jure
government and a de facto
government of warlords and thugs. Haiti at least has an interim government, but that's not going to mean much if a) it can't control the rebel forces and b) can't control any sort of government apparatus in the rest of Haiti. There is no doubt that we are stepping into a cesspool. But since the mess is on our doorstep, we hardly have a choice.