Marx wrote that history repeats itself first as a tragedy, then as a farce. We now witness a grim farce indeed as the UN now discusses whether to permit an American intervention in Haiti – the fourth since 1913 and the third in the past thirty years. Haiti hosted UN peacekeepers for thirteen years until 2017, who became hated for their abuses of power and starting of a cholera outbreak that killed thousands. Will another massively unpopular military exercise prevent violence and allow for natural self-determination? Almost certainly not.
Haiti’s instability has nothing to do with a lack of American bullets, and much more to do with IMF and WTO-mandated privatization of the country’s essential resources in 2004, the constant violation of its sovereignty and political autonomy, and the illegitimate and disastrous rule of Ariel Henry – the very man the U.S. seeks to back. Time and time again, military intervention in Haiti has failed, as it has always been self-interested, and it has never respected Haitians’ autonomy. Even the “restore democracy” tour in 2004 which deposed a widely-hated dictator only reinstalled the country’s democratically elected leader after he signed off on various aid loans.
These have trapped the third world country in a cycle of debt repayment, impoverishing its population and disempowering the state’s ability to control the distribution of resources. This weakness is what has lead to the present situation – gangs have blocked access to gas, worsening the poverty of the population and increasing the danger of another cholera outbreak.
In this case, the mobilization of the military is done to protect Ariel Henry, the ruler that has suspended elections and was inaugurated after an assassination of Jovenel Moise, his predecessor. Yes, gangs have encircled a key gas distribution facility, but the reason for Henry’s request for aid is less out of concern for his people and more for his fear of them. Haitians have been revolting against their institutions of government for years, and with particular intensity against Henry’s rule the past month – particularly because of his decision to cut fuel subsidies to save supply, in addition to his suspension of elections.
Another military intervention will not solve the problem, however. If Haiti is to succeed, it will not do so under what amounts to a foreign occupation. Boots on the ground, as has been tried multiple times before, will only alienate the population, increase the likelihood of outbreaks of violence, and – if successful in putting down gangs – create a dependency on foreign armies. If the U.S. enters Haiti and manages to contain political violence, it will in effect have created a state incapable of function without their direct presence. This is problematic as the moment these foreign militaries leave the country, Haitians will find themselves in the same mess.
On the contrary, if Haitians are allowed to decide by their own means how their country should be run, they stand a far greater chance at achieving stable government and economic development, which would eliminate the social conditions gangs thrive on. The U.S. has a long and sombre history of violence in the Americas – a break in tradition may be welcome.
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