PERSISTENT determination on the part of the Clinton administration is essential to the eventual installation of Haiti's elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in office.
President Clinton's immediate, unequivocal denunciation of the refusal of anti-Aristide thugs to allow an American transport ship to dock in Port-au-Prince Oct. 11 was the right response.
Mr. Clinton ordered the ship and its contingent to leave Haiti and immediately followed with a request that the United Nations Security Council restore sanctions against the Haitian government -
a request that should quickly be granted.
The Haitian military's refusal to provide security for US and Canadian troops aboard the USS Harlan County was a ploy to test US resilience. As long as the international community is willing to show resolve in the face of a transparent attempt by Mr. Aristide's enemies to sow fear among those who would contribute to efforts to reform the Haitian government, it is unlikely that this week's incident will have sufficient impact to untrack permanently the endeavor to install Aristide in office.
With long experience of misgovernment, pro-Aristide Haitians are not likely to give up so soon on this latest attempt to establish something akin to democracy. The power of the ballot clearly does not have the clout in Haiti that it does in many of the world's democracies; and the 65 percent of Haitian voters who elected Aristide may have little power at present. But the craving for justice and freedom is strong, even among a people whose hopes have been shamefully dashed. Their vote remains a measure of their yearning for a government that will be more responsive to their rights and needs.
Obviously, this is not a tidy exchange of government power. Major players find themselves walking on treacherous ground.
For example, it is not known what role Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, who signed the July agreement in New York and was supposed to have resigned by Oct. 1, is playing at present.
The situation in Haiti and the one the US finds itself in with Somalia are similar in that Americans are committed to seeking solutions to problems that may seem to them to be far from their own concerns.
But whatever responsibility the US faces in Africa, history assigns Americans a major role in helping to solve the problems of poor, small nations in its own hemisphere - such as Haiti.