Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Is Getting the Wrong Advice

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Is Getting the Wrong Advice

Article excerpt

Of the recent setbacks for American foreign policy, none is as damaging to President Bill Clinton's credibility as the humiliation in Haiti.

Events there raise urgent questions - for him as for us - about the quality of the advice he is getting, and of his own leadership.

The excuses offered for failure in Bosnia and Somalia are not available in Haiti. One cannot say, as is said of American inaction on the Bosnian genocide, that the first responsibility is Europe's.

Clinton did not, as in Somalia, inherit an ill-thought-out policy from President George Bush.

In Haiti, the Clinton administration created its own policy: to restore democracy by negotiation with the military usurpers. It convened the talks on Governors Island and pressed for the agreement reached there in July. It undertook to guarantee the agreed formula for the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Oct. 30.

Then, when a rag-tag gang of armed thugs demonstrated against the landing of U.S. and Canadian soldiers, Clinton and his aides panicked. Instead of leaving the troopship there and telling the Haitian military to call off its goons, the administration sent the ship away.

The message to the military rulers in Haiti was unmistakable: You can push us around easily; the U.S. government is so afraid of its public opinion after Somalia that even you can intimidate it.

Then there is the message to the brave Haitians who have stepped forward to oppose the military. Robert Malval, a businessman, agreed to be prime minister at the personal urging of Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. Are he and his colleagues now to be left vulnerable to the killers?

A respected diplomat in Haiti, not American, said of the decision to turn the troopship around:

"It was a scandal, an idiocy. It just pulled the rug out. Keep the ship there as a symbol of keeping pressure on the military. The analogy with Somalia is ridiculous. Over all, Haitians are united in wanting democracy. Sitting on top are a tiny, tiny group of thugs who are no longer even united with the business elite. There's no real military force, just a rabble."

How did it go so wrong? …

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