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Should the United States ‘colonize’ Haiti after the earthquake?

From the New York Times: The U.S. is sending 10,000 troops to Haiti.

From the New York Times: The U.S. is sending 10,000 troops to Haiti.

The New York Times notes that the Haiti quake seems to be leaving the U.S. in the position as the only power — internal or external to Haiti — that can possibly impose some kind of rough order there. But what happens in the long term? My friend and nemesis Jim Lakely offered a suggestion last week:

Haiti would be better off today if America had even the relatively benign colonial instincts of the United States of Teddy Roosevelt’s era. Imagine Haiti as a defacto “colony” of the U.S. A territory or protectorate of America, like Guam or something. Today, it would be one of the most progressive (politically and economically) countries in the Caribbean. Tourism would be booming. There would be jobs (mostly at resorts) for the populace, and their standard of living (and education) would be improved immensely from the status quo. And, frankly, the entire country might not have been immediately and for a good while sent back to the stone age because the infrastructure would have been much more resilient.

Haiti becoming “colonized” by a modern, Western state — or, probably more likely and palatable — taken over by corporate interests looking to “exploit” the country, would be the best thing to happen to Haiti in more than a century.

There is something tempting about looking at a country as broken as Haiti — before or after the earthquake — and trying to fix it. But Jim’s analysis, I think, leaves out some of the downsides of an imperialist approach.

As our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven over the last decade, it’s really not easy to go into a country and make it “work.” It’s an expensive and time-consuming proposition, and even then there’s little guarantee of success.

There’s also the question of our goals in such an approach. It might be the case that trying to fix a country to work the way we think it should work serves the interests of both the United States and the citizens of the country in question. But the overlap is rarely complete, and where they come in conflict a nasty backlash is possible … and maybe even likely. That kind of anger can boil over into creating the kinds of regimes we have in Iran and Cuba. That’s not good for the citizens of those countries, and it’s not good for the United States.

Now maybe Haiti is so irretrievably broken that more U.S. involvement is needed, even knowing the possible downsides. But it would be nice if we could find a “help them help themselves” approach. It might be more sustainable — and better serve everybody’s interests — in the long term.

  1. AFVET Says: Jan 20 1:47 AM

    The Imperial approach towards Haiti is the best one. They have a closer relationship to the United States than Afghanistan or Iraq at least culturally. Further more I believe that after centuries of corruption and chaos in the country they would welcome Imperial management imposed by the United States. This should be be an oportunity to expant U.S. Influence in the region and better that piece of rubble known as Haiti. I propose a military ocupation until good order is restored and then rebuilding the country and also putting it under temporary marshall law and excecuting any corrupt hatian officials as examples. Also it would do a great deal to win the hearts and minds of the people there that are so dissilutioned by their own leaders. Ofcourse the U.S. lacks the Guile needed to do this, sad really since it is a good oportunity to expand the Empire,

  2. B Says: Jan 26 9:21 PM

    Haiti will not allow this so called “neo-colonialism” to occur. The people are too resistant and resilient to let that happen.The only thing that will be best is for the Haitian diaspora to not just send remittances but to invest in their economy. I think the problem is, along with many developing nations, is that there is not much confidence in the market. This article makes it seem that Haiti is too far from market reform. Prior to this tragedy, the tourism industry was booming, and job opportunities were on the rise. This whole idea of occupying the country will cause alot of tension and friction towards the United States as it is and would probably stir more ammunition towards the U.S.It would be best for the U.S to refrain from making that move and I am sure the U.S is aware of that. I think that by the unequal immigration policies that they have towards Haitians already, I don’t think that giving them ‘protection’ will be in the best interest of the U.S, since the U.S are very xenophobic towards Haitians.

    Population is a major concern in Haiti. If I was Preval, I would allow many Haitians to repatriate to many areas of the world, such as Senegal, where the President has made a suggestion that they are willing to repatriate Haitians to their country and are willing to give them their own region. I do believe that there should be a mass exodus of Haitians out of Haiti and money given to a host government, whether in Africa, North America, Europe, or Asia.

    And the reason for such corruption in the government is that Haitian gov’t is a puppet government that was installed by the U.S. i.e, the governemnt is not a indpendent and sovereign one. So, to some extent, Haiti is ‘colonized by the U.S’

  3. Emmanuela Says: Jan 30 8:54 AM

    I’m recalling Condi Rice waxing enthusiastic, just about exactly five years ago, calling the tsunami in the Indian Ocean “a wonderful opportunity” for the United States to gain “great benefits” on the diplomatic front.

    Not long after, Rice began promoting her “transformational diplomacy” agenda. The State Department funded a “New Initiatives Divisions” of its Overseas Operations Bureau (OBO). Of the forty embassies rebuilt worldwide, the fourth largest in cost completed last year was the one in Port au Prince.

    The most expensive was, not surprisingly, in Bagdad.

    What, precisely, is being “rescued” in Haiti?

    When, exactly, did the implementation of a new “manifest destiny” begin?

    U.S. national outreach advertising for the “earthquake survivors” has been touching, yes.

    Today, there are U.S. schoolchildren paying to wear hats to school, in an effort to aid the struggling survivors of an earthquake in a distant land.

    Everyone’s learning to care.

    It’s difficult to say whether our citizenry is informed about what they’re caring.

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