Intervention Still Isn't the Answer in Haiti
There is no question that conditions in Haiti are severe and getting worse, but that makes the administration’s preoccupation with pushing what we know to be a failed policy tool all the more baffling
The New York Times ran a long article today on Haiti and the Biden administration’s push for a foreign intervention force. The article leans heavily to the pro-intervention side in the debate and makes it seem as if it is the only option, and in the process it makes some remarkable omissions. All in all, it reads much more like an interventionist advocacy piece than a straight report of what is happening. This is the sort of “do somethingist” coverage that has often preceded unwise and unnecessary interventions in the past.
One of the most significant omissions concerns the former U.S. special envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, who is quoted just once near the start of the piece and whose vocal opposition to the proposed military intervention in Haiti is never mentioned. Foote has publicly spoken out against the idea of an intervention, and has warned against sending troops to Haiti in the strongest terms. He has said that he fears an intervention could provoke a popular uprising, and in another interview he warned that it could lead to a “bloodbath.” It would have also been worth mentioning that Foote resigned in protest over Biden administration policy in Haiti. That seems like a relevant piece of information to include about someone that is being quoted in an article about the Biden administration and Haiti, but it is not there.
The article briefly mentions Haitian opposition to foreign intervention, but does so almost in passing and tries to paint a picture of broad support for the introduction of a foreign force. This stands in sharp contrast to a report from NPR that ran just a few weeks ago that finds the prospect of a new intervention to be deeply unpopular:
But talk to people in the streets of Haiti, and the overwhelming response is emphatic against another foreign intervention.
There are almost daily protests calling for Prime Minister Henry to resign. And there's a new chant: "Down with the prime minister! Down with the occupation!"
The NYT article doesn’t have much to say about the political opposition to Haiti’s illegitimate, de facto government, and it doesn’t address the role that the U.S. has played in propping up that government. It does acknowledge the failures of previous interventions under U.S. and U.N. auspices, but generally minimizes the concerns of opponents of a new intervention. There is no question that conditions in Haiti are severe and getting worse, but that makes the administration’s preoccupation with pushing what we know to be a failed policy tool all the more baffling.
Readers of the article would also not know that there is a lack of regional support for an international military mission in Haiti at present. The Biden administration has been unsuccessful in winning support from other governments in the hemisphere because our other neighbors either want no part of it or because they believe that sending military forces in should only happen if there is a political consensus in Haiti in favor of it. The Canadian government expressed willingness to participate in a mission, but only under those conditions. Prime Minister Trudeau said, “Canada is very open to playing an important role, but we must have a Haitian consensus.” There is also a more practical obstacle to Canadian involvement: the Canadian military reportedly does not have the means at present to mount such an operation, and certainly could not do so by itself.
As of now, there is no such Haitian consensus, and it seems unlikely that there will be one anytime soon. Sending troops into such a fraught political situation would be a recipe for disaster, and it is unsurprising that the Biden administration has had no takers. It is good that the Biden administration doesn’t want to send U.S. forces to Haiti, but it makes little sense to try to goad others to do what our government rightly won’t do. The sooner that they recognize that military intervention isn’t the answer, it should be possible to focus on actions that our government and others can take to alleviate the worsening humanitarian crisis.