The Post-Cold War American Interventions into Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo

By Murphey, Dwight D. | The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

The Post-Cold War American Interventions into Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo


Murphey, Dwight D., The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies


During the 1990s, the United States. in cooperation with its allies. intervened in several parts of the world, including Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Those four interventions in particular raise several questions about the policy of intervention. This article reviews the interventions and seeks to address the questions in light of them.

Key Words: United States foreign policy, foreign interventions, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo. media accounts of foreign crises, humanitarian crises. political crises, conceptual basis for foreign intervention.

Early in the twentieth century, the United States intervened in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico and Nicaragua without appreciable effect on the problems that existed in those countries. More recently, since the end of the Cold War, the United States (together with those with whom it cooperates closely) has intervened in many parts of the world. In this article, we will review the 1990s interventions into Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Following that review, it will be valuable to see how each intervention can be evaluated in light of certain questions they raise in common:

1. Whether the decision to intervene was in major part a response to sensational media accounts, leading to a selectivity that may have had little basis in principle.

2. Whether the problems that the intervention sought to address were in fact soluble.

3. Whether the intervention was undertaken with a clear vision of an outcome that was both achievable and desirable (or, as is often said, whether there was a foreseeable "end-game").

4. Whether there was conceptual clarity about the ends and the means to attain them.

5. Whether Americans had any profound understanding of the situation into which they were intervening.

6. Whether the intervention created animosities toward the United States that may make the world a more dangerous place for the United States and its allies.

Review of the Interventions

Haiti

The Duvalier dictatorship was overthrown in 1986 and was followed by what Haitians call "dechoukaj" (uprooting), about which we are told that "mobs from Cite Soliel [Port-au-Prince's largest slum] and other miserably poor parts of the city roamed the streets, hunting down their tormentors, hacking them to death with machetes or burning them alive."1

In his recent book The United States and Post-Cold Wear Interventions, Lester Brune says that the overthrow of the Duvalier dynasty "did not change Haiti's authoritarian structure."2 Conflict among four competing factions in the Haitian army, plus the terrorist "Tontons Macoutes" who had been the brutal secret police under the Duvaliers and continued to support the Duvalier faction, resulted in three coups between 1987 and 1990. Brune says that by mid-1990 "Haiti was near political anarchy."3

The December 1990 presidential voting resulted in the election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a young Roman Catholic priest who was a devotee of "liberation theology" and had supported the "dechoukaj." Aristide called for "a nationalist, socialist government."4

Aristide held office only seven months before lie was overthrown in 1991 by an army junta headed by Lt. General Raoul Cedras. While Aristide was in office, his administration received United States and World Bank aid, but the organization Human Rights Watch reported that Aristide stood by with an "apparently ambivalent attitude" while mobs carried out 25 lynchings, including four "neck-- lacings" (the grotesque burning of a person to death by lighting a gasoline-filled tire that had been placed around the victim's neck).5

After Aristide's overthrow, the United States continued to recognize him as Haiti's president (a reversion to the Tobar Doctrine, the previously abandoned policy that had earlier denied recognition to a regime brought into being by a coup d'etat), and an embargo was placed against Haiti. …

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