Occupation of Haiti? US will be happy to leave

And France can take a lead role. France more or less suggested US is occupying Haiti. Hugo Chavez said US using relief effort to invade country.

Questions:

1. Do you think it is any reason to say US is invading or occupying Haiti or such statements are first of all sort of propaganda (especially form Chavez) in your opinion?

2. The fact is US invaded country in the past. How important from security and strategic point of view is Haiti for US now?

Answers:

William Ratliff, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution (Stanford University) and Independent Institute

1. It is true in a way that the US is now occupying Haiti, or much of it, and that the main presence there is the US military. The question is the motivation and objectives attributed to the US. Realistically, the half-island is so devastated because it is always a mess and now because of the earthquake, someone had to manage the relief effort or there would be total chaos of relief in addition to total chaos from the natural disaster. For many reasons the obvious country to take the lead is the United States, since we are so close and have both the will and the immediate resources to take control of the relief effort. Clearly some things are going more smoothly than others, and some groups and countries feel they are not getting equal treatment from the military. This is inevitable, alas – both because there are bound to be problems guiding relief under current conditions and because some people — especially Hugo Chavez and from some in France — are always looking for some reason to criticize the United States. In part they and some others are angry less because of problems than because of many of the successes.

It is absolute nonsense to say that the US is invading Haiti because we want to control it, or that we caused the earthquake, as Chavez has claimed. If there is anything in the world the US does not want it is responsibility for Haiti. We have tried to bring reforms to that country off-and-on for a century, without success. The talk of significant reforms under anyone’s control in post-earthquake Haiti is a dream. It isn’t going to happen until Haitians want and make basic changes on their own and in 200 years of independence from France they have not done so. (If the French are really so concerned about conditions in Haiti, why haven’t they made a prolonged, serious effort over the two centuries since Haiti got its independence — from France, of course — to prove their concern and indeed their obligation as the former ruling power.

But even if long-term substantive reform is not going to be successful without total Haitian initiative, the immediate emergency must be dealt with.

2. Is Haiti important to the US? Now no, except that it is so close to us and so many try to escape from the half-island and seek refuge in the United States. Under current conditions, and during other off-and-on disasters there — like floods and often Haiti’s own incompetent, indifferent and sometimes brutal leaders — the numbers of Haitians who try to flee to the US are great. We simply can’t have open borders to everyone abroad who wants to come here, particularly (to be completely honest) when they are mostly people with no education and no significant skills. Therefore, it is in US interests for Haiti to be stable and able to govern and feed itself, for the good of the people there and so that Haitians will stop trying to flee to the US.

Could Haiti become important to the US? Yes, if it became a haven for Islamic terrorists. But it isn’t today and isn’t likely to become such a haven in the foreseeable future since it is too close to the US.

The US action in Haiti is humanitarian because Americans at all levels in the country feel grief for the Haitian people. Under the conditions, it has to be organized and managed, and we are the obvious ones to do it, for reasons given above. We will be relieved to get out again as soon as we can. If the French want to take responsibility for providing primary assistance to Haiti after the crisis is over – and to try to reform it into a thriving country — I am sure Washington and most of the world will be delighted to let them take over. If Haitians want them.

Michael Desch, Professor, Chair, Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame

1. I do not think humanitarian relief, fully supported by what’s left of the host government, by any stretch counts as invasion or occupation.

2. The key U.S. security concern in Haiti is to avoid massive humanitarian catastrophe’s that could result in large scale refugee flows out of the country and into the United States.

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One Response

  1. I somewhat resent the comment about Haitians needing to want to help themselves first for any change to occur. It is true corrupt leaders make it difficult for positive to break through and make things better for the Haitian people but I don’t believe the majority Haitian population ever chose to live the way they have been. Haiti has always had a bad rap since the discovery of the Americas it has been exploited and much like Africa once the colonial powers left there wasn’t much else for the locals, nor room to improve their quality of life especially over night. Having to piece together a functioning well oiled machinery of government and society takes a long time and if the tools to do so are lacking then it obviously makes things that much more difficult. Western nations are really good at judging “lesser” nations without fully looking at the bigger picture and realizing that they usually have part of the blame in the situation.

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