Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti: Sovereignty

Tyler Cowen is in a speculative mood (full post here):
From the reports I have seen, my tentative conclusion is that the country as a whole is currently below the subsistence level and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, the U.N. Mission has collapsed, the government is not working (was it ever?), and hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of people are living in the streets without reliable food or water supplies. The hospitals and schools have collapsed. The airport is shut down. The port is very badly damaged. ... There is no viable police force or army.
In other words, it's not just a matter of offering extra food aid for two or three years.
Very rapidly, President Obama needs to come to terms with the idea that the country of Haiti, as we knew it, probably does not exist any more.
In what sense does Haiti still have a government? How bad will it have to get before the U.N. or U.S. moves in and simply governs the place? How long will this governance last? What will happen to Haiti as a route for the drug trade, the dominant development in the country's economy over the last fifteen years? What does the new structure of interest groups look like, say five years from now?
My favorite of the comments:
with all due respects, one of the first places I'd send aid (military and otherwise) is the DomRep. A country of millions in easy walking distance just completely collapsed. RD is set to be awash with refugees of all kinds. As well, although the RD is comparably richer, it certainly can't handle a 2x increase in size, esp with utterly ruined people.
Posted by: farmer at Jan 14, 2010 9:15:22 AM

Given the lack of political will in the US to do anything major right now being a given, here a few comments about Haitian sovereignty:
I wonder ... whether annexation by The Dominican Republic is more practical, and more likely. In such a circumstance, the dollar cost of an infusion of aid to the consolidated "Nation of Hispaniola" would be a small hiccup in our US budget, would probably be greeted with enthusiasm by both our political parties, would be widely hailed by our people as "nation building the right way," and would surely be in our best interest geopolitically.
Posted by: Ken Rhodes at Jan 14, 2010 8:51:21 AM
Canada, not the U.S., should take the lead here. It has French speaking troops aplenty and a perfect opportunity (and worthy) to test its foreign-policy-as-charity beliefs. The U.S. is already busy and multinational forces (without one clear leader) don't work. This is a major humanitarian crisis and Canada is ideally suited to help. ...
Posted by: Scoop at Jan 14, 2010 9:56:41 AM
Haiti is a sovereign country founded in a revolution against imperialist slaveowners. Many of its problems have come from the refusal of nations ruled by slaveowners and their descendants to accept that Haitians are autonomous human beings with the capacity to govern themselves. Unfortunately that same refusal to accept is running rampant in this comment thread.
That at times Haitians have governed very badly does not denude them of that right, any more than the occasional election of an idiot-in-chief surrenders Americans' right to self-government. There should be no repetition of the U.S. 1915-1934 invasion and occupation. The commenter who suggested that the Dominican Republic should govern Haiti should read about the history between the two nations, which includes the genocide of Haitian migrant workers during the 1930s....
Posted by: Ed B. at Jan 14, 2010 10:29:02 AM
I don't see how re-colonisation helps Haitians to achieve a better quality of life, as if the rule of law is a guaranteed transfer through the unerringly benevolent force of foreign rule. I see this rationale as saying, "Well, they had a natural disaster that killed lots of people, so obviously the best solution is for white people to take over."
Should we have given New Orleans to the Mexicans?
Posted by: Millian at Jan 14, 2010 11:53:10 AM
UPDATE: Jeff Sachs says, "President Obama should recognize that the U.S. government alone lacks the means, attention span and true regard for Haiti that is needed to see this through past the most urgent phase."

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