Helping to shoo a duly elected president from his country doesn't always support the global expansion of democracy.
But then, by diplomatically nudging Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile, the United States, France, and other nations had to violate one old international norm in order in invoke a relatively new one: humanitarian intervention in a sovereign nation.
The big nudge to oust Mr. Aristide on Sunday helped avoid a potential blood bath in Latin America's poorest and most troubled nation. Rebels with nasty human rights records were poised to take over the capital, while the elected opposition was united in seeking his removal. It appeared that the elected leader the US militarily put back in power a decade ago after a military coup would soon be out of power one way or another. By not rescuing him and saying his time was up, the US essentially gave a green light to toppling him. Aristide then cut, and cut cleanly.
Now, having taken this drastic step, the US and other nations must bear the burden of trying to put Haiti right. The task could make nation-building in Iraq seem like a Caribbean breeze. During much of the 20th century, Haitians defied most outside reform.
And since the politically paranoid Aristide filled almost every government post with ardent supporters who've also probably bolted, the country is in a political vacuum and needs order, fast.
The good news is that France and the United States seemed to work together on this latest global trouble spot, despite their differences over Iraq that split the United Nations. Both are former masters of Haiti, and can take some historical responsibility for not leaving behind a civic-minded society.
But the biggest blame for this crisis lies with Aristide himself who, despite his populist rhetoric of uplifting Haiti's poor, let them down by his inability to share power and to bring about reforms. In the end, he overthrew himself by not living up to his professed ideals.