THE Clinton administration may well win endorsement from the United Nations this week for a US-led invasion to oust Haiti's illegal rulers.
The debate then would shift to whether such added UN clout would finally persuade Haiti's military leaders to resign or if only full-scale invasion could restore democratic rule to Haiti. For now, it is anyone's guess.
``If the Security Council adopts the US resolution, that would make [invasion] legal under international law ... and I'll bet the US would invade,'' says Anthony Clark Arend, a UN expert at Georgetown University in Washington. (US views on invasion, Page 4.)
Thomas Carothers, an international lawyer with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says UN authorization would be a major boost diplomatically and legally for the United States. Still, he doubts the UN blessing would boost lackluster US domestic political support. ``That's what has really stopped an invasion, not lack of legal authorization,'' he says.
People such as Rep. Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico are still pressing for a diplomatic solution. He met with Haiti's military commander Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras last week and said the general definitely ``feels the heat'' of US pressure.
The US hopes to gain Council authorization for an invasion by the end of this week, US officials say. US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright says there is ``remarkable unanimity'' on Haiti in the Council. ``I think everybody understands the necessity for moving on this,'' she has said.
The UN has made several efforts to resolve the impasse in Haiti. UN officials helped broker the now-collapsed Governors Island Accord aimed at returning Haiti's elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. The Council recently toughened sanctions on Haiti and condemned the regime's ``defiant'' July 11 move to oust about 100 human-rights monitors of UN and Organization of American States (OAS).
``I think there's a fair chance that the US resolution will go through, though it will depend on how it's worded, and a strong US diplomatic effort will be required,'' says a Western diplomat on the Council. ``There certainly is a sense of frustration about what's been happening with Haiti. At the same time, some members have reservations about just giving a green light to one country to ... do its own thing.''
Other unilateral action
The Council recently gave such go-aheads, though with limits, to France, which wanted to send troops to Rwanda where the UN faced recruitment difficulties, and to Russia, which wanted UN endorsement for its troop deployment in Georgia.
In the case of Haiti, a July 15 report to the Council on revising the mandate for the almost defunct UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali effectively opened the door to the US proposal. He said as many as 15,000 troops might be needed to establish a ``secure environment'' in Haiti. Since the UN is in no position to recruit such a large force quickly, he said, the Council might consider authorizing an international force to do the job as it did four years ago with the US-led coalition in the Gulf war.
Mr. Boutros-Ghali said when the climate in Haiti improved, several hundred UNMIH peacekeepers could be sent in to help modernize the Army, train police, and rebuild Haiti's infrastructure.
In his report, Boutros-Ghali was ambiguous about just when a UN-endorsed force should actually intervene in Haiti. He said: ``I fully support the Security Council's wish to plan urgently for effective action to bring this situation to an end and restore the legitimate authorities.''
If the UN does support the US proposal, troop contributors would have to foot the bill. That could enhance the plan's appeal; UN members are more than $2 billion in arrears on peacekeeping payments.
No veto likely
Neither China - though its diplomats always voice concern about the need to preserve national sovereignty, nor Russia, which got the Georgia endorsement it sought a few days ago - is considered likely to veto the US proposal on Haiti.
Still, a few Council diplomats argue that the Haiti situation is not the direct threat to world peace that Iraq's aggression in Kuwait was. Such a determination is a prerequisite for Council authorization of use of force under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Boutros-Ghali makes the case in his report for authorizing force by saying that any troops trying to establish a secure environment in Haiti are likely to face either targeted or incidental violence.
Yet Carnegie's Mr. Carothers says the Council already formally determined last fall, after the Governors Island Accord was broken, that the Haiti standoff was a threat to global peace. ``The Council has already made `the big leap,' '' he says. ``The US is only asking the Council to take one more small step to determine what kind of response is appropriate under Chapter 7.''
Long-standing opposition by most OAS members to intervention in Latin America by any foreign forces makes the US decision to turn to the UN for support a logical move, says David Scott Palmer, director of Latin American Studies at Boston University. Haiti, he says, is the only example of a military takeover of an elected, democratic government in Latin America since 1980. Four of the seven Latin America coups of the 1980s, he says, were aimed, by contrast, at ushering in rather than crushing democracy.