Do Not Intervene in Haiti

Haiti’s political crisis is theirs to solve, and outsiders should not rush to interfere at the first sign of trouble.

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home by gunmen earlier today. The last time that a Haitian president was assassinated, the U.S. intervened militarily and then occupied the country for the next 19 years. There is absolutely no good reason why the U.S. should do anything like this again today, and I assumed that would be obvious to almost everyone, but we already have The Washington Post clamoring for intervention this evening:

Swift and muscular intervention is needed.

The Post prefers a U.N.-led intervention, but it goes without saying that a “swift and muscular intervention” in a country so close to the United States would almost certainly involve U.S. forces if it were to happen at all. The editorial calls for a U.N. peacekeeping force, but knowing the abysmal record of U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti, including widespread sexual abuse of young girls, that seems like an invitation for more abuses at the expense of the civilian population. This is what the editorial describes as being “a far cry from perfect,” which may be the understatement of the year.

Unless the Haitian government requests security assistance, the U.S. and the U.N. would be well-advised not to send foreign troops into the middle of Haiti’s political turmoil. Even if the Haitian government requested it, the U.S. should be very leery of embarking on yet another open-ended occupation. When outside governments intervene in the name of providing stability, there is tremendous resistance to ending the intervention for fear of undermining that same stability. A supposed short-term fix easily turns into a generational commitment. Even if that doesn’t happen, the U.S. needs to break the habit of assuming that political instability somewhere requires military intervention, whether by the U.S. or others.

Nowhere in the Post editorial is there any consideration of what the people of Haiti want or would support. If there is broad popular support for a new U.N. mission, that would go a long way to addressing many of my objections to the idea. If there isn’t popular support for it, that makes the case against intervention even stronger. Haiti’s political crisis is theirs to solve, and outsiders should not rush to interfere at the first sign of trouble. The interim Haitian prime minister has given no indication that he would welcome foreign intervention at this time, and unless that changes any discussion of international intervention in Haiti is absurdly premature and inappropriate. For once, the U.S. should refuse to intervene in Haiti.