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Should We Support Intervention in Haiti?

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

On July 7th, 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moise became the next in a long line of deposed Haitian leaders – his death marked a contentious but arguably optimistic reign in the face of widespread chronic corruption and institutional and infrastructural issues that have plagued Haiti since it declared independence from France in 1804.

On October 24, 2022, in Port-au-Prince, Haitian law enforcement officers under the control of the current de facto government led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry intervened in a demonstration against a foreign military presence in Haiti.

Odelyn Joseph / Metropolitan / Kimpa Vita Press

In the wake of his assassination, these issues have only become more stimulated by increased gang activity and what a U.N. report can only describe as “indiscriminate shootings, executions, and rapes.”

A biblical exodus has followed suit from an island nation that once held so much hope as an example of what a republic governed by formerly enslaved people could look like.

Being Haitian American — my parents were born in Haiti whereas I was born in the states — the current struggles that exist within the island nation are the direct cause of my being born in the U.S. I write this from the burgeoning understanding of where I am in the diaspora and how the western society I was born in has intervened in conflicts and disasters across the globe for better or worse. It may be time for western intervention in Haiti.

Here’s what it could look like:

Right now, Royal Canadian vessels moor themselves off Haiti’s idyllic crystal blue Caribbean waters, surveilling the current crisis and maintaining a presence as humanitarian aid is shipped into the failing state.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has them stationed there as part of a proposed “fundamental objective” “to ease the suffering and empower Haitians to chart their own future.”

This may not be enough, seeing as traditional island security forces have failed to contain the situation despite being given more modern weaponry and armored vehicles to counteract the high-quality weaponry of the gangs.

The interim Prime Minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, has called for more forceful aid via an international force to intervene and tame the violence. The U.N. and accompanying Caribbean nations such as the Bahamas and Jamaica have been inclined to agree. Even going so far as to pledge troops for an intervention force.

Despite the growing enthusiasm for intervention, there remains an undercurrent of apprehension derived from the generational memories of past interventions dating back to a U.S. intervention following the assassination of a Haitian President in July of 1915.

Sounds familiar, right? That intervention and the subsequent occupation lasted until 1934, wherein the U.S. seized control of Haiti’s finances and installed a pro-American Haitian leader.

These colonial advances on Haiti’s sovereignty, although intended to avoid outright anarchy on the island, have left a long-standing aversion to outside influences within the Haitian people — a people who are proud of their revolutionary past and could rightfully blame the genesis of their long-standing issues on the same colonial powers who seek to intervene in their affairs to this day.

Considering every option short of military intervention, the situation seems untenable. It may still be worthwhile to see what an international intervention could look like. The last time there was an intervention in Haiti was in 1994 under Operation Uphold Democracy,

“The invasion force numbered nearly 25,000 military personnel from all services, backed by two aircraft carriers and extensive air support. Although the United States provided the vast majority of the forces, a multinational contingent from Caribbean nations agreed to serve in an operation conducted under U.N. mandate. The addition of these multinational forces shifted the operation from a U.S. military intervention to U.N.-sanctioned multinational action.”

A modern international intervention would likely consist of a primarily French-speaking Canadian military force that wouldn’t face the same historic scrutiny as a U.S. invasion force. Additionally, this force would easily be able to communicate with the French-speaking population.

These troops would be accompanied by soldiers from other Caribbean nations with demographics similar to Haiti such as Jamaica whose Prime Minister Andrew Holness saidJamaica would be willing to participate in a multinational security assistance deployment to Haiti under the appropriate jurisdictional parameters to support a return to a reasonable level of stability and peace."

Behind this invasion force, we would likely see a large influx of U.N. humanitarian aid.

Suppose we can base the efficacy of a modern-day Haitian intervention on the success of the last military intervention on the island in which order was peacefully restored under the looming threat of a U.S. invasion.

In that case, we can hope with a little more confidence that a firm united international effort of a similar stature can return stability to the island for the first time in years.

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