Foreign intervention won’t save Haiti. This is what America can do instead.

by Russel L. Honoré, opinion contributor – 03/20/24 1:00 PM ET
The situation in Port-au-Prince is breaking down — fast. Gangs are running Haiti’s capital city. Bare essentials like food and fuel are hard to find and are even being sold on the black market for outrageous prices.
Three years after President Jovenel Moïse was killed by a hit squad, Haiti has no real government. The embattled prime minister, Ariel Henri, stated that he will resign just days ago, and neither the police nor the armed forces are able to maintain the peace.
This chaos isn’t happening halfway around the world in Somalia or Myanmar; it’s happening at America’s doorstep and in one of the world’s oldest democracies. But despite the urgency of the situation and the closeness to the United States mainland, most Americans and our news media are unaware of the events unfolding in Haiti. Even as U.S. Marines have been deployed twice over the last two weeks to secure the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince, our focus is elsewhere.
It’s time for the United States to break its silence and stand strong as a partner to the Haitian people. We don’t need to do much to make a positive difference, but we can do great harm by failing to act.
First, President Biden must speak directly to the Haitian people and reaffirm America’s commitment to peace and stability in the region. People living in constant chaos and violence can quickly fall into despair. They need to know we stand with them.
Next, Congress must actually do its job and pass legislation. The House and Senate must put partisanship and bickering aside and update our laws so that we may provide assistance to Haitian law enforcement and the country’s army. At the same time, lawmakers need to set aside funding so much-needed materiel can be dispatched to civil and military authorities. With enough supplies and training, there’s no reason Haiti’s own police officers and soldiers cannot restore order.
The White House will also need to direct U.S. law enforcement agencies to stem the flow of illicit arms to Haiti. Much of this traffic originates from Florida, and sadly, it’s what gives gangs in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere the firepower they need to rain chaos down on the civilian population.
Within the Haitian capital, the people have seen American ambassadors come and go — three times in just the past three years. It’s time for the White House to establish a permanent envoy to Haiti to project stability and a consistent American presence and commitment to support Haitian self-determination.
Each of these steps is modest and moderate and can be done without the loss of American lives or a great expenditure of American treasure. At the same time, none of these proposals demands an all-out American intervention. Time and time again, we have seen great powers rush into Haiti in a time of crisis, only to make the situation worse.
France, with its brutal history of colonialism and slavery in the country, has left a scar on the psyche of the Haitian people. The United States, too, has attempted to control Haiti through military force, but has never been able to create a sustainable peace. Even the United Nations came to Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake with the best of intentions, and brought cholera to the country, killing thousands.
America’s success as a democracy has been linked with Haiti’s since the start. It was only thanks to Haiti’s armed rebellion against French colonial rule from 1801-1804 that Napoleonic France, starved for cash, was willing to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States. In one purchase, Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the United States. When my home state of Louisiana first applied for statehood, it was an influx of Haitian immigrants to New Orleans that gave us the population needed to be eligible for full admission to the union.
Our job now is to be a loyal friend and dependable ally to our counterpart in this democratic experiment. America loses nothing by sharing our supplies and expertise with Haiti’s military and law enforcement, while Haiti gains what little they need to restore peace and stability.
We cannot, however, play hero and attempt to “save” Haiti — civil order cannot be restored by an outside force at the expense of the Haitian people’s right to self-determination. It’s possible to help our Haitian friends while respecting the sovereignty of their nation. So let’s help the people of Haiti to restore peace and stability, and support their return to an independent, civilian government.
Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré (Ret.) is a former U.S. Army commander who led Task Force Katrina following the devastation of New Orleans. In 2022, he mediated The Haiti Unity Summit at the Southern University Law Center following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. 

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