Haiti Ain't No Panama, Jack

Regarding the opinion-page article ``US Success in Panama proves an invasion will work in Haiti,'' May 16: While I agree with the policy preference expressed, as the planner and one of the executors of the post-conflict restoration operation in Panama, I take issue with the author's premise.

The long-term political success of operations Just Cause and Promote Liberty remains much in doubt. If Panama succeeds in becoming a viable democratic nation it will be the result of the basic infrastructure that already existed and not because United States assistance was decisive.

Unlike Panama, Haiti has no infrastructure on which to build. Panama has a literate population whose principal language is Spanish, and whose second language is English. Haiti's population is largely illiterate, with the lower classes speaking Haitian Creole and the elite speaking French. Panama has a well-developed and diverse economy; Haiti's economy is in shambles. Where Panama has a well-articulated political system, Haiti's politics sometimes amount to gang warfare. Panama has the possibility of developing into a viable democracy without further US involvement; Haiti does not.

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For Haiti to have a chance requires the building of a political, economic, and social infrastructure from the ground up. This would require effective, international control of the country for a long period, assuming there is a plan to build a Haitian democracy. Merely restoring President Aristide to power and walking away (or trying to internationalize support on the cheap) bears the seeds of further tragedy. John Fishel, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

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