U.S. Has No Other Choice

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board
Posted February 26 2004

The rejection of a diplomatic compromise by Haitian opposition leaders
leaves the international community with no choice but to intervene. And it
leaves President Jean-Bertrand Aristide with no alternative but to resign.

It is not the ideal solution to the crisis, but it is the only way to avoid
a bloodbath in a nation that cannot withstand more upheaval.

Aristide, unpopular and disliked as he may be, is the elected president. The
appropriate course of action to end the deadlock was a political settlement
allowing him to complete his term, which ends in 2006. That would have
preserved democratic rule, while giving the opposition a necessary role in

To his credit, Aristide accepted the compromise brokered by the United
States and other nations, including Haiti’s Caribbean neighbors. It was a
smart move, but one that came way too late.

Too late because a three-week rebellion has turned much of the country
against him. His authority is largely limited to the capital,
Port-au-Prince, which is threatened by rebels.

Aristide’s political fate was sealed when the other political force in
Haiti, the Democratic Platform opposition leaders, who are not part of the
rebel forces, rejected the compromise that would have allowed them to share
power with Aristide. They want Aristide out, period.

It is unlikely Aristide’s presidency, or Aristide himself, could survive if
he chose to take on the rebels mano-a-mano. Haiti has no military, and the
police forces loyal to Aristide have been routed in every other major city.
There is not much evidence to suggest it would be any different in

Sitting back and watching a march on Port-au-Prince by armed rebels, mostly
made up of gangs and thugs, to oust Aristide with the point of a gun barrel
would be a disastrous course of action.

It would unleash bloody, brutal street fighting,resulting in many deaths. It
would heighten the desire for retribution, assassinations and vigilantism
that will make governing Haiti as a democracy virtually impossible for the
foreseeable future. And it could lead to a mass exodus of people on rickety
boats fleeing for safety in South Florida.

Rebel leader Guy Philippe says he does not want a military dictatorship in
Haiti. But that’s exactly what’s in Haiti’s future right now.

Unless, of course, the international community steps in as Aristide steps

The only alternative is for Aristide to resign, making way for an interim
government led by opposition leaders from the Democratic Platform to prevent
the rebel leaders from seizing power by force. To make sure the interim
leaders can govern, an international military and police force must be sent
to Haiti to quell the uprising and disarm the rebels.

This is not going to be an easy task, and it would put U.S. troops in harm’s
way in yet another country. But it is the only course of action to avoid a
conflagration that could make things far worse than they already are.