Don’t Ask U.S. Troops To Solve Haiti’s Problems

“Outside of buttressing a U.S. Marine detail to protect the U.S. Embassy, the Biden administration is wary, if not outright opposed, to Haiti’s request for a U.S. troop deployment. While the prospect of thousands of Haitians fleeing to the United States can’t be ruled out if the situation further deteriorates, President Joe Biden is right to reject the Haitian government’s request. The last thing Washington needs is yet another ill-advised, reactive military intervention in a de facto failed state—particularly at a time when the White House appears intent on extricating U.S. forces from wars that have cost too much, have gone on for too long, and have had next to no return.

Even before Moïse’s late-night assassination, Haiti was in the midst of extreme political and economic turmoil. The nation of 12 million people has been without a functioning parliament for a year and a half. Due to the absence of a legislature, the entire government has operated by decree. Approximately 30 gangs control a large area of Port-au-Prince; thousands of Haitians have fled their neighborhoods from intergang violence. René Sylvestre, the head of Haiti’s Supreme Court, passed away from COVID-19, a virus that is ravaging the broader population.

Moïse’s killing has taken this dire situation and turned it into a catastrophe. Today, there are three separate Haitian politicians claiming to be Moïse’s successor, a political contest for power bearing the markings of a serious confrontation. One of Haiti’s powerful gang bosses is readying his own troops for action, claiming the assassination was a large foreign-orchestrated conspiracy against the Haitian population. The police, corrupt and riven by schisms, aren’t exactly in a position to quell any violence that may erupt.

The U.S. military, however, isn’t in a position to do so either. In fact, it’s questionable whether foreign troops in any capacity would have the resources, patience, and fortitude to save Haitians from the depravity of their own politicians. There was a time not so long ago when United Nations peacekeepers were authorized to return democracy to the island during yet another fractious period in its history—the forced exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. That U.N.-authorized peacekeeping mission would last for more than 15 years, and the result was anything but the peace, democracy, and stability Washington and its partners on the Security Council hoped to accomplish. Instead, Haiti’s problems arguably multiplied. The mission was not only implicated in human rights abuses, but brought a deadly cholera epidemic to the country which killed upward of 10,000 people.

The U.S. military has some experience in Haiti as well. In 1994, 25,000 U.S. troops were sent to the island in a mission code-named Operation Uphold Democracy, a deployment designed to restore the democratically elected government to power after being ousted in a military coup three years earlier. While the mission succeeded in ridding the military junta from the capital and negotiating the exile of the coup’s architect (Lt. Gen. Raoul Cédras), one can hardly call it a long-term success given Haiti’s current circumstances.”

“To task U.S. troops with political missions is to saddle them with responsibilities they can’t reasonably be expected to meet, all the while providing the host government with the cover to continue business as usual. Whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Haiti, deployments like these create more problems than they solve, shift the ultimate responsibility for fixing them onto the backs of U.S. soldiers, and can easily expand from months to years.”

What the assassination of Haiti’s president means for US foreign policy

“Moise himself had a tumultuous presidency beginning in 2017, marked by authoritarian tactics and inability to gain the Haitian people’s trust. Soon after he was elected, Moise revived the nation’s army, disbanded two decades before. This was a controversial decision in a country still dealing with the aftermath of its catastrophic 2010 earthquake, stoking fears that the army would drain already limited resources. Further skepticism came from the army’s history of human rights abuses and the multiple coups it had carried out. The decision to bring the army back set the tone for Moise’s presidency, as he continuously prioritized his interests and power over those of the people. In the absence of a functioning legislature, Haitian law allows the president to rule by decree, and in January 2020, Moise refused to hold parliamentary elections and dismissed all of the country’s elected mayors, consolidating his power.

Further exacerbating problems, in February, Moise refused to leave office despite legal experts and members of an opposition coalition claiming that his term ended on February 7. Moise claimed that his presidency was meant to last until 2022, due to a delay in his inauguration after the 2017 election, and his refusal to step down led to mass anger and frustration culminating in public protests and chants of “no to dictatorship.”

While the identity of the killers has not been confirmed, speculation seems to be determined by party alignment. Moise supporters have stated that he was shot by a predominantly Colombian group of hitmen, while some opposition politicians claim that he was killed by his own guards. Others have said that the Colombians were hired as personal guards to protect Moise from external threats. Fifteen Colombian suspects are currently in custody along with two Haitian-American suspects, and others are still believed to be at large.”