You can't always save people from themselves
Posted by aogFriday, 13 February 2004 at 11:55 TrackBack Ping URL

Porphyrogenitus notes that the Washington Post is concerned that the USA is not intervening in Haiti. There is currently a low level civil war going on, between armed gangs and the Aristide regime.

It is of course legitimate to wonder what this means for a rapid hand over of government in Iraq. Is it likely to devolve the same way as Haiti? I’m not overly concerned - one of the problems with our last intervention in Haiti was that we supported Aristide in particular, rather than a process in general. There was already strong evidence even then that Aristide wasn’t particularly interested in actual democracy, except as a mechanism for him to take power. Certainly the history of Haiti since then hasn’t been that of an open society. It’s not clear how Aristide is much better than those who preceeded him.

I’m surprised that Orrin Judd hasn’t commented on this as an anti-parallel to Chile. In both cases, a (somewhat) democratically elected leader was taking the nation on the path to one person rule when they were overthrown by the military. In Chile’s case the USA made no effort to re-install the deposed leader or his political associates. In Haiti, we did. Which nation has done better?

The lesson for Iraq seems to be twofold:

First, avoid a parlimentary system where a simple majority can basically change the rules of government, and instead require such changes to involve a large super-majority.

Second, don’t select the ruler, and in particular don’t select him based on his appeal to the intellectual class in the West.

As for Haiti, the Washington Post’s solution (an internationally brokered resolution) seems like putting a bandaid on a sucking chest wound. Aristide has shown himself to be untrustworthy in that regard and it sounds like the leading elements of the insurrection are unlikely to be any better. I think the only hope is probably a long term colonial style occupation (like Puerto Rico), but I doubt we’ll see that recommended any time soon.