Friday, November 11, 2011
Stanley Lucas on USIP and the Haitian Defense Force
Robert Maguire (USIP)
USIP posted a seemingly factual analysis or “Current Situation” update on Haiti. It’s actually quite a clever post because at first reading, it appears to be straightforward and non-partisan. But if you look a little more closely at what is not said, the slant becomes much more visible. The post overall reads as skeptical of the Martelly Administration – but manages to get in a plug for former president Aristide by noting how he disbanded the military in Haiti. But most troubling, this post seems to suggest that Haiti is incapable of building a modern, professional army. It seems to suggest that the international community – and the NGOs that control many sectors of Haitian society – doubt Haiti’s ability to build up an army based on the past performance of armies under dictators. Is this at all fair? The Chileans did it. The Iraqis are doing it. The Afghanis are doing it. The Argentineans did it. The Filipinos did it. The Dominicans did it. Is Haiti less than any of these countries?
What we never see in any of the coverage on the new Haitian Defense Force are the underlying facts that led Haiti to prioritize building a modern defense force:
First, the idea of a Haitian National Defense Force comes directly from the people of Haiti. On the campaign trail, candidate Martelly heard again and again about the need to reclaim national sovereignty and reinstate an army. To his surprise, this was the top issue for Haitian voters. In fact, 96% of the Haitian people want the army back. Why was this fact omitted from this objective analysis?
Second, the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, has been ineffectual and has lost the confidence of the Haitian people. MINUSTAH has received more than $4 billion in funding over the past seven years. Their track record is marked by scandal after scandal – from cholera to the brutal rape of a 19 year old man. This demonstrates a pattern of mismanagement. Unfortunately, the MINUSTAH has become a destabilizing force in the country. The Haitian people are fed up and would prefer to have MINUSTAH phased out.
Further, MINUSTAH’s mission to build a police force is insufficient to ever provide Haiti with enough resources to patrol and defend borders, fight the war on drugs and manage disasters. Former MINUSTAH commander, General Elito, said as much in 2007. He said that even if they trained 30,000 police officers, it would not be a sufficient force. Why did this post only focus then on the UN’s statements about renegotiating the current agreement rather than noting – even in passing – these larger dynamics with MINUSTAH?
Third, the Haitian state was paralyzed after the earthquake. It was unable to pick up the pieces or participate at all in rescue and recovery. The US military had to come in to provide stability, manage ports and airports and get food to the people. Haiti sits on three fault lines and in a hurricane path – it must build the capability to manage and cope with disasters. This typically is a military function. Why didn’t this post note at all the important role of a military in disaster response?
And finally – and most importantly perhaps – Haiti is a sovereign and free country. Why wouldn’t it have its own protection forces? Why wouldn’t Haiti have the right to defend itself? Other nations with similar past circumstances have rebuilt their militaries. After the fall of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, the Chileans reinstated their army. They built a modern, professional military force after a brutal dictatorial regime and a “negative history” with their army. The Chilean military, in fact, helped pick up the pieces after they experienced a devastating earthquake in 2010. The military is functioning professionally and as a military is intended to function. Is Haiti somehow less than Chile?
In fact, it is quite common to rebuild and modernize military forces after the fall of dictatorship or civil war. This was the policy of the US Government in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is typically part of a military exit strategy.
This article also fails to mention that after Aristide disbanded the military, because he felt he could not control them, he built up a network of gangs and thugs, known as chimeres, who terrorized the citizens and were involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping and politically motivated murder and violence. So if history is the standard, the absence of a military did not work out so well for Haiti either.
What you should know about USIP is that the Haiti program is led by an ideologue close to Aristide.
Bob Maguire is widely considered to be the brain trust behind the Operation Bagdad campaigns in Haiti that led to the murder of 2000 people, and the rape of 800 people. It was a brutal gang-led campaign to bring terror to the people. Dr. Maguire believed he was building a force of revolutionaries to rise up against President Boniface Alexandre and Prime Minister Latortue and reinstate his patron, Aristide. But the gangs did not want revolution, they saw opportunity to take control of resources and the drug trade in the absence of Haiti’s drug kingpin, Aristide.
The subtly of the posting just goes to show how carefully one must read the news. I hope that Haitians will stay informed and know their history rather than accept these types of posts at face value.