Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nation Building in Destitute Haiti

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nation Building in Destitute Haiti

Article excerpt

Suppose you were dealing with an 80 percent illiteracy rate and a virtually nonexistent educational system - so bad that it would make the worst school district in America look like a jewel. Suppose your police department was so atrocious that the principal worry was how much unwarranted violence the policemen would inflict on your citizens. Suppose your system of justice was a joke.

Suppose your health-care system was almost nonexistent. Suppose you had a per capita annual income of $250, and your ruined economy was never likely to provide a sufficient job base for those in need of work. Suppose your land had been stripped bare and your topsoil had disappeared.

Suppose the presence of all of these and other agonies. Put them all together, and it's called Haiti.

President Bill Clinton is entitled to praise for the skillful execution of the Haiti invasion and the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. Absent some unforeseen intervening misadventure, he will be entitled to further praise when he turns the Haitian undertaking over to the United Nations and greatly reduces the American military presence. But with all of the most decent intentions, Clinton can never recast Haiti into a functioning democracy.

For democracy to exist, it has to have political, economic and social roots. Democracy doesn't exist in the abstract. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, in addressing whether Haiti can be a democracy, said, "Well, they have an excellent constitution and a sitting parliament." Yes, but when practically every nation of South America was a military dictatorship, each of those nations had a nice sounding constitution and each had a nominal parliament. A constitution and a parliament do not a democracy make.

It is all well and good that Aristide was elected in a free election, but one democratic election does not a democracy make.

Our first order of nation building in Haiti, according to the State Department, is "to make a visible difference over the next three months." That translates into food, paint and potholes. Food, of course, for starving people; paint to make dingy things look a little better on the surface; and potholes filled quickly to give the impression of instant improvement. …

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