Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Haitian Defiance Leaves Clinton Limited Choices Waiting out the Conflict and Invading Are Both Unpopular Measures

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Haitian Defiance Leaves Clinton Limited Choices Waiting out the Conflict and Invading Are Both Unpopular Measures

Article excerpt

THE situation in Haiti has become a foreign policy train wreck for the Clinton administration.

With the Haitian military more obstinate by the day about handing power back to democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Clinton officials appear to have two basic options - both unpleasant.

The choice of waiting out Haiti's military leader, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, and his allies risks launching a new wave of Haitian boat people toward United States shores. Yet the track of more forceful intervention is unlikely to be supported by the Pentagon or the United States public.

Meanwhile, members of Congress who are dissatisfied with Clinton's foreign policies in general have picked Haiti as a focus for their discontent. Senate minority leader Robert Dole (R) of Kansas said Sunday that he would propose a legislative provision to require congressional authorization for any troop deployment to the Caribbean nation.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana said Clinton needs to call a "time out" on Haiti before getting drawn further into a morass.

For Clinton officials, a major problem is that it is hard to envision a permanent end to Haiti's political turmoil.

Many US analysts now say that General Cedras and his hard-line allies never intended to turn power back to the deposed Mr. Aristide, as called for in an agreement reached July 3 at Governor's Island, N.Y. Haiti's politics appear as polarized as ever, with a small and brutal elite fearing the return of a populist president they consider unstable.

The problem is that Haiti's political culture is rooted in a history of all-or-nothing struggle for power, says Douglas Payne, director of hemispheric studies at Freedom House in New York. The country has little experience with true democracy and a legacy of authoritarian rule left by longtime dictators Francois "Papa Doc" and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

"Halfway measures do not work in this kind of society," says Mr. Payne.

The United Nations economic embargo on Haiti set to take effect last night has brought real pressure to bear on Cedras and his allies. Strictures on oil, in particular, have greatly damaged the economy and turned much of the economic elite against the military and the police. …

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