November 2004: From Monroe to Bush to Martin?

"Failed state" doctrine used to justify overthrow of Haiti's democracy
Author(s): 
November 1, 2004

“America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by
failing ones...We must defeat these threats to our nation, allies, and
friends.”- United States National Security Strategy, September 2002

“By the sheer immensity of its weight on the planet, the United States may have become imperial, but I do not see an imperialist intention.”- Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew, March 2003

“[We will] leverage Canada’s experience in building peace, order and good government to help developing, failed and failing states.”- Canada’s National Security Policy, tabled April 27, 2004

“Failed states more often than not require military intervention in order to ensure stability.”  - Paul Martin May 10, 2004

* * *

As indicated by the above quotations, Canada is heavily invested in George Bush’s “war on terror.” This is the case both in word and in deed. And the Canadian government makes no secret of this, having thus far legislated its commitment in such policies as Bill C-36, “the anti-terrorism act,” and Canada’s first-ever National Security Policy, which is modelled on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and recommendations made by Canada’s corporate élite.

It is very instructive to explore these developments in the context of the emerging “Failed State” Doctrine [FSD], which has its origins in U.S. policy but has since been incorporated globally by those who are “for” the war on terror. Understanding how other countries [such as Canada] are officially responding to this “war” can help us understand the potential and real consequences of the war, and perhaps better learn how we might avoid these consequences in the future.

Since Prime Minister Paul Martin has most recently invoked the “failed state” terminology in reference to the “benevolent” and “morally responsible” role Canada has played in coming to the aid of a “failed” Haiti, it is worth examining the FSD in light of this concept. The interesting parallel that exists between “failed states” generally, according to FSD, and Canada’s actions in Haiti, is found in the radical divergences between the “official” or proclaimed doctrine on the one hand, and the real application of the doctrine, on the other.

The right-wing pundit magazine National Review put it bluntly: “Haiti has been a failed state for 200 years.” Overt racism notwithstanding, there is a grain of truth to this comment. The United States has indeed considered Haiti to be a “failed state” for at least 200 years. In 1799, John Adams stated: “Independence is the worst and most dangerous condition [Haiti] can be in for the United States.” From the get-go of Haiti’s independence five years later, then, it was considered a failure for having “failed” to suppress its inclinations toward independence from racial slavery.

So great a failure was Haiti that the United States did not recognize its independence until 1863, only four years before Canada achieved independence from Great Britain.

Until about 1858, Haiti was referred to as the “Negro empire” by the New York Times. Officially acknowledging Haiti’s independence did little to change the newspaper’s perceptions. In December 1888, these perceptions were captured:

“For a good many years it has been increasingly manifest that Toussaint L’Ouverture, great as were his personal merits and resources, no more ‘founded a nation’ than Jefferson Davis did. The republic of freedom has not been a more successful experiment than the oligarchy of slaveholders.”

The failure of Haiti in 1888 was that, after its people “threw off their yoke and established their independence,” they “adopted the form of the French republic in all its details.” What the blacks failed to see, however, was that this was a system “far in advance of their intellectual and social condition.” Consequently, “there has never been any serious attempt made at honest government,” and the effects of this were considered “most disastrous.” As such:

“No moral and intellectual advance has been possible…The large majority, the pure blacks descended from the former slaves, live in the interior in a state of deplorable moral and intellectual degradation…Too ignorant to pursue the arts of civilization and left without guidance and encouragement, they have inevitably relapsed into a social and moral state little better than that of their ancestors in Africa.” [Note: “The Republic of Hayti”, New York Times, Dec. 1, 1888]

In subsequent years, the case was made by the Times that intervention was inevitable, based on Haiti’s having “failed.” The title and byline of Katherine Prince’s July 27, 1902 article conveys this: “Hoping for American Annexation: Haitians Acknowledge the Failure of a Black Republic.”

The historical momentum of such sentiments led to the eventual enactment by the United States of the Monroe Doctrine, which rationalized the invasion and occupation of Haiti in 1915. This occupation lasted 19 years, during which the Haitian masses were colonized and subjugated by U.S. Marines and, eventually, a Marine-run local gendarmie, which was used mainly as a tool of repression. The aim of the occupation was to teach Haitians how to govern themselves, while rewriting their Constitution so as to allow U.S. capital and investment unimpeded access to the country’s resources. They also “taught” Haitians how to build roads for the benefit of U.S. commerce, under slave-like working conditions.

Francis Fukuyama, neo-con devotee and signatory of the Project for a New American Century [PNAC], sums up the thrust of a well-thought out FSD: “American interests dictate that we teach other peoples to govern themselves.”

This is what Fukyama defines as “Nation-Building 101”—Grade school imperialism. Fukyama, of course, was writing post-9/11, whereas the U.S. has been exercising this principle abroad since the earliest days of the Monroe Doctrine [1823].

Major neo-con think tanks such as the Council on Foreign Relations have actually stated that failed states are forcing the hand of otherwise “anti-imperialist” Americans, making them “reluctant” but overt imperialists. Writes Sebastian Mallaby: “Failed states are increasingly trapped in a cycle of poverty and violence. The solution is for the United States and its allies to learn to love imperialism — again.”

In the Financial Times, July 14, 2004, we find Max Boot’s “The Wise Case for Liberal Imperial Rule,” where he states: “Failed states and rogue states constitute the biggest threats to world peace in the foreseeable future, and only the U.S. has the will and resources to do anything about them…Like it or not, liberal imperialism is needed today to deal with the world’s most troubled regions.”

In Third World Quarterly, political scientist Susan Soderberg characterizes the phenomenon of FSD as “pre-emptive development.” She finds that the major shift in U.S. foreign policy began with the March 2002 Millennium Challenge Account, reflective of the “ongoing transformation of American imperialism, which has become more explicit after the tragic events of September 11, 2001.” Soderberg also cites PNAC and Bush’s National Security Strategy as “most virulently” articulating this doctrine.

The fundamental tenet of “pre-emptive development,” specifically structured around those countries that classify as “failed,” “excluded,” or “rogue,” is very instructive in the case of Haiti. Soderberg provides context: “Unlike the strategy of conditionality, which recipient countries were required to meet after loans were dispensed by the IMF and World Bank, pre-emptive development entails the reverse: withholding funds until all demands made by the donor country are met.”

For more than four years, the United States, joined by the EU and Canada after 9/11, withheld half a billion dollars in aid from the Haitian government, while redirecting other monies from direct aid to the government to aid that bypassed the government and went directly to NGOs and the “political opposition.” What was Haiti’s crime? For the first time ever, Haiti saw a peaceful and democratic transition of power, from Preval to Aristide. Electing Aristide in November 2000 by an overwhelming majority fanned the flames of “failure.”

The earliest FSD adherents foreshadowed exactly how the doctrine was to be carried out back in 1992:

“A growing list of ‘failed nation-states’ will require creation of a
new responsibility for the United Nations – a form of conservatorship
in which the affairs of these nations will be managed until they can
get on their feet.”

During a [January 2003] not-so-secret meeting at Meech Lake—the “Ottawa
Initiative in Haiti”— Canadian MP Denis Paradis discussed the
possibility of a UN “trusteeship” for Haiti with U.S., French, and
other “high-level” diplomats. Everything Paradis predicted has thus far
come to pass.   

Think-tanks, policy analysts, and policy-makers are attempting to legalize this type of intervention based on FSD. In the International Review of the Red Cross [1999], Daniel Thurer analyzes “The failed state and international law.” Follow the logic of his argument for rationalizing intervention in such states:

“This means that, as far as ‘failed states’ are concerned, the [UN] Security Council , acting in accordance with its own practice, can intervene to restore internal order, if necessary by military force… In such an eventuality, the Security Council is not obliged to obtain the consent of the state concerned. Such consent could hardly be granted by a ‘failed state’ in the absence of any effective and representative government…”

On February 5, 2004, Pierre Pettigrew met with “self-styled” Haitian rebel leader Paul Arcelin, who arranged this meeting through his sister-in-law, former MP Nicole Roy-Arcelin. That same day, Arcelin’s paramilitary colleagues, who were financed by the IRI and the NED, and were housed and trained in the Dominican Republic with the complicity of the Dominican armed forces, invaded Haiti. Three weeks later, Haiti was declared a “failed state” and Aristide was driven from the country and his government replaced by a client regime. The UN Security Council authorized Haiti’s occupation on the basis of a “resignation letter” that since has been proven to be false. Arcelin admitted to the Montreal Gazette’s Sue Montgomery on March 9 that he and Guy Philippe had been plotting to overthrow Aristide with the political opposition for at least two years.

“Failure” in Haiti has not come easily. More than 1,000 Haitians, mostly supporters of Aristide’s five-year constitutional mandate, were buried in a mass grave within one month of the coup, according to the director of the morgue in Port au Prince. The “war on terror” is only a few years old, as is the official FSD policy. How much longer can Haiti—and other present or future developing nations—endure state-sanctioned “failure?”

(Anthony Fenton is an investigative journalist and Media Analysis Editor for The Dominion newspaper: http://www.dominionpaper.ca. Residing in Vancouver, Fenton can be reached at [email protected]. )

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