Experts Divided on US Invasion of Haiti

As Clinton seeks UN backing on armed intervention in Haiti, a Monitor survey shows opinions divided on how to build democracy there and prevent a flow of refugees

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

NO foreign policy issue has brought so much criticism down on President Clinton as his handling of the Haitian crisis. Mr. Clinton has been criticized for drift and vacilation, even as the stated goals of US policy - toppling the military junta that seized power three years ago, restoring democracy, and staunching the flow of Haitian refugees - go unrealized. The Clinton administration is now seeking UN support for a possible invasion. As relations with Haiti move into a critical period, the Monitor asked a cross-section of experts what they would do if they were in charge of US policy toward the island nation. US has plan in place, Aristide must be clearer

REP. Lee Hamilton (D), of Indiana, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

``I think the fundamentals of the [Clinton administration's Haiti] policy are basically sound. The goal is certainly sound - restoring democracy. We have a strategy in place now: tough, tightly targeted sanctions; a sanctuary policy for those who want to leave; humanitarian aid for the poor; contingency planning for military action; and extensive international planning for a peacekeeping force. It's taken quite a while for the policy to be put in place and now we have to give it an opportunity to work. In the meantime, we should make improvements in implementation, like stopping the flow of gas across the Dominican border and seeking more cooperation from the nations in the hemisphere. Also, I think Aristide has to clarify his own views. It's not clear what his position is on the use of force or on allowing peacekeeping forces once he is restored to power. He has to reach out to other democratic forces in Haiti. The question is not whether he is restored to power but whether he can govern, and to govern he will have to build a coalition.'' US backing of Aristide has been a bad mistake

Recommended: Default

ELLIOTT ABRAMS, assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs during the Reagan administration and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute:

``If we invade Haiti, the invasion will be denounced by Aristide and he will refuse to go back. The goal must be to put together a coalition government under [Haiti's caretaker Prime Minister] Robert Malval which includes all democratic forces, all parties in Haiti, and we can probably do that without an invasion.

``If the military grows so contemptuous of the the US that it will agree to nothing, and if human rights abuses grow and grow, I might favor overthrowing them, but I still wouldn't favor replacing them with Aristide, since I don't think his restoration will lead to the consolidation of democracy. One of the key failings of our policy has been to back Aristide instead of the center. To attain the goal of fair elections and a broad interim government, we have to marginalize Aristide, who has done enough damage already....

``We should have a large covert program aimed at identifying middle-level officers who could get rid of [Lt. Gen. Raoul] Cedras [and the other members of the military junta]. The Clinton administration has not undertaken any covert action. This is a big mistake.'' US should not invade, but use quiet diplomacy

SENATOR Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana, ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

``I strongly believe that a US invasion should not be considered, and it would be a tragic foreign policy mistake to do so. Talk of a US invasion just reflects exasperation and expediency. An easy conquest is not realistic.

``A large number of noncommissioned [Haitian] officers would be unlikely to capitulate.

``Beyond that, some US force would have to stay after the initial takeover and we would become the government. An affirmative case can be made for pursuing diplomatic talks with Aristide and Haitians in Washington to convince them to broaden the government once Aristide is returned to power. Aristide has been thoroughly uncooperative for years. But he can't rule by divine right. He's going to have to learn how to coalition-build. Pulling away from the [strategy] that Pezzulo was pursuing was a mistake.'' US should invade, put Aristide back in power

REP. JAMES OBERSTAR (D) of Minnesota, a member of the Western Hemisphere Affairs subcommitee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

``The US should send a military expedition force into Haiti, subdue the Haitian military, restore the Aristide presidency, deploy an international peacekeeping force in Haiti, withdraw our military presence, and begin an economic assistance program focused on rebuilding the country's infrastructue - water and sewer systems and street improvements in Port-au-Prince and, outside the capital, reforestation of the countryside, which is literally washing away. About $100 million would be a reasonable [initial] investment in Haiti's future that would have enough impact to put tens of thousands of people back to work.

``In the process, we'll have done something good and lasting. In addition, I'd call on the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Democracy Initiative to help teach Haiti how to function as a parliamentary government.'' US must push Aristide to broaden coalition

LAWRENCE PEZZULO, former US ambassador to Nicaragua and, until April, the Clinton administration's special envoy to Haiti.

``If the president called me today I'd say get Aristide to start dealing with his own parliamentarians and get a coalition together.

``We were pushing Aristide in this direction in February and March, but he used his domestic support base with the [Congressional] Black Caucus and they turned US policy into a morality play. But it's not Aristide against evil; it's Aristide against [Haitian] society. If Aristide is convinced that the administration won't press him, he won't cooperate. We have to tell him that he has to play a constructive role. Aristide is essential to the return of constitutional government and a peaceful political process, but you have to have Aristide reconciled to building a broader-based government, to building a majority force in the center of Parliament. We have to say to him, you have to put a coalition together in two weeks and agree on a prime minister. Absent this kind of coalition, you're building on sand.''

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...