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Haiti and the Democrats

The rebellion in Haiti that brought U.N. peacekeepers to the island early in 2004 came during the heat of the Democratic presidential primary season. As a result every candidate felt the need not only to make some pronouncement on the situation but to criticize the administration for its response. At times it seemed the response itself was irrelevant to the critique — politics demanded criticism whatever the policy might be.

Thus, we were treated to the spectacle of Democratic candidates, who had been flaying the President for months over his penchant for “unilateralism” everywhere else in the world, suddenly incensed at his embrace of the U.N. in this instance. If it hadn’t been so serious, it would have been laughable. This letter was submitted to The Boston Globe and to The San Jose Mercury News. It was not published.

2 March 2004

In Iraq, a truly rogue nation governed by a despicable despot, a prime example of the kind of brutal and hopeless Arab society that breeds terrorism, arguably a strategic (but not tactical) fulcrum in the war on terror, and, if not an imminent threat to the United States, at the least intending to become one once the “international community” lost interest in containing them, we couldn’t move (according to the Democratic presidential candidates) without the blessing of the United Nations; and an 8-month build-up to a conflict with multiple ultimata was a “rush to war”.

But in Haiti, after a delay of about a week, as part of a security council resolution, and after facilitating a political end to an active rebellion, the president has intervened as the vanguard of an international peacekeeping effort. And all the Democratic presidential candidates are bloviating about “too little, too late” — the implication being that we should, instead, have inserted ourselves into the middle of an active civil war, with no international support, unilaterally without the blessing of the security council, and with no particular threat to us, strategic or tactical, evident now or in the future.

Exactly what is the foreign policy principle they have in mind?

© Copyright 2004, 2005, Augustus P. Lowell

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