Haitians Don't Want What the Interventionists Are Selling

It is extraordinary how people sitting in Washington still believe they know what should be done in another country better than the inhabitants themselves.

The Washington Post really, really wants outside intervention in Haiti:

There is no way for Haiti to pull itself out of the current morass without elections that would certify and legitimize a new government and legislature. That requires at least a short-term international intervention.

It is curious that American advocates for intervention are the ones most eager to hold new elections in Haiti, while many of the Haitian civil society activists are actually opposed to both elections and intervention. Former U.S. Ambassador Peter Mulrean picked up on the latter point and wrote earlier this month that new elections now are exactly what Haiti doesn’t need:

The degradation of Haiti’s democracy is now at a critical point, perhaps the point of no return. It is tempting to think that new elections will clarify the situation and restore stability, but experience teaches us just the opposite. What Haiti needs is to take stock of what is broken and fix it. That is what a broad coalition of opposition parties and civil society is calling for.

Marcela Garcia made the point that Haitians don’t want foreign intervention:

Clesca is spot on. There are resounding callsfrom Haiti’s civil society groups to reject any foreign intervention. It’s long overdue to start listening to what Haitians want. If the country is going to have a chance at building a true democracy, it must be through a Haitian-led path.

Rosy Auguste Ducenna of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights was interviewed by Vox in mid-July, and she had this to say about intervention and elections:

Today, civil society is asking to have the opportunity to resolve the crisis within Haiti. We should not have any foreign intervention by the military or any other type of intervention, because at the end of the day, we haven’t had good results from intervention so far.

In general, the international community and the US should just let us figure out our problems and solutions. Some governments will be calling for elections in September, but today, the situation on the ground is more complex than that.

This is not only a question of who’s going to be in charge of the country. It’s about corruption. It’s about fixing key state institutions that are not working. This is about who we are as a people and as a nation. So we are asking for the respect of other countries. We want to be treated like a nation, not like a little sister or brother you tell what to do.

Many Haitian civil society activists have been very clear that they don’t want any outside intervention, and they have also said that holding elections in the fall is the wrong way to go. Haitian activists presumably have a better grasp of the political realities in their own country than any Americans do, and they would have a better idea of what most people in Haiti would support and what they would not.

Haitians are telling us that they have had enough of outside interference and “boots on the ground,” and they want to take care of their own political problems. “We want to be treated like a nation,” Auguste Ducenna says, and that is exactly what the U.S. should do here. The U.S. has spent the better part of two centuries treating Haiti as a place to be blockaded or occupied or dominated in some other way, and that ought to end now. Intervention was the wrong call when the Post made it in knee-jerk fashion three weeks ago, and it is still the wrong call now.

The Post briefly nods in the direction of opponents of new elections in the fall, but only so they can dismiss their arguments out of hand. It is extraordinary how people sitting in Washington still believe they know what should be done in another country better than the inhabitants themselves. If Americans want to support Haitian self-government and self-determination, we should respect their independence and let them try to fix their country as they see fit. Haiti has had enough outside “help” in the form of military intervention to last several generations.