Intervention in Haiti Is Still the Wrong Answer

The U.S. needs to break the pattern of constantly interfering in foreign crises in the misguided belief that our intervention can “help."

The Washington Post is still banging the drum for foreign intervention in Haiti:

Those who called for international intervention following Mr. Moïse’s killing, including this page, have been criticized for overlooking the checkered history of such attempts in the past, including the U.S. Marine Corps’s 19-year occupation of Haiti a century ago, and the United Nations-authorized insertion of U.S. troops by the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s. In this century, a U.N. stabilization force was deployed in Haiti for 13 years, until 2017.

Those interventions were problematic [bold mine-DL]. In the most recent instance, U.N. soldiers sent to Haiti from Nepal were the conduit for what became one of the world’s most severe cholera epidemics, and other U.N. troops fathered hundreds or more babies born to penniless local women and girls, amid credible allegations of rape and sexual exploitation.

Yet for all its unintended consequences, outside intervention could also establish a modicum of stability and order that would represent a major humanitarian improvement on the status quo, and with it, the prospect of lives saved and livelihoods enabled. In the cost-benefit analysis that would attend any fresh intervention, policymakers must be alert to the risks, but also to the enormous peril of continuing to do nothing.

Like their previous editorials calling for military intervention in Haiti, this one waves away the destructive consequences of previous interventions as if they don’t matter. They were “problematic”! I suppose that’s one way to describe an occupation that violently suppressed rebellions by committing atrocities against the civilian population and imposed a system of forced labor on the country, but it shows that the Post editors are so fixated on this idea of intervening in Haiti that they don’t mind minimizing and whitewashing one of the most shameful chapters in U.S.-Haitian relations. Even if we allow that a military intervention today would would not be as harmful as that one was, that doesn’t mean it would do much good or that it would be welcomed by the Haitian people.

It is not enough to gesture at the unintended consequences of previous interventions. The burden is on the interventionist to anticipate the potential pitfalls and risks of this intervention and to explain how those can be avoided or kept to a minimum. The Post’s argument doesn’t begin to pass that test. Instead we get a variation on the old “do something” theme: doing “nothing” (i.e., not intervening militarily) threatens “enormous peril” while intervention promises stability and order.

The preferences of the Haitian people receive no serious consideration in the Post’s editorial. There is no acknowledgment that most Haitians do not want outside intervention. Many of them don’t want outside intervention because they remember what previous interventions have done to their country. Some don’t want it because they believe that Haitians should solve their own political problems without outside interference. There is likewise no acknowledgment that many Haitians resent how foreign governments have interfered in their politics and propped up abusive leaders for decades. The U.S. needs to break the pattern of constantly interfering in foreign crises in the misguided belief that our intervention can “help,” and Haiti needs the U.S. to break the pattern of repeatedly meddling in their affairs. As I have said before, listen to the Haitians opposed to outside intervention and respect their wishes.