Sunday, February 29, 2004
Back in the mists of time I opposed Clinton's 1994 intervention to prop up Aristide. This got me into several very unpleasant arguments. I don't clearly remember precisely what I was thinking back then, but it had something to do with respect for the sovereignty of other peoples. My thought was that it wasn't our place to step into disputes between Haitians.
I still basically agree with that, although I think a case can be made for intervention when there's evidence of mass atrocities.
By stepping in back in 1994, Clinton hoped to endorse the principle of democratic legitimacy. The idea wasn't that Aristide was our boy, but that Aristide had been duly elected. So we were supposedly there to support the democratic process and were saying to the rebels that if they wanted reform they would have to work the process.
The problem with that message is that it gets lost unless you follow it up. We didn't do anything when Aristide began consolidating his support and rigging elections. However legitimate Aristide was in 1994, that legitimacy was lost long ago. And it could be argued that part of the reason that he managed to stay in power so long is that the actions of the United States created the impression that he could count on the backing of the region's main power.