Originally: Haiti Cannot Change Without a Change in U.S. Policy

It is a fond illusion, cherished by the U.S. foreign-policy bureaucracy and the editorial writers who echo its views, that Haiti’s problems are almost completely of its own making. That they are the result of Haitian intransigence handed down by history, and probably beyond the ability of the West to correct, although the West must always patiently try.

One need know nothing of Haitian politics to doubt this illusion. Given the enormous disparity between U.S. and Haitian strength, and the deep U.S. involvement in Haitian affairs for over two decades, any result on the ground is a composite of decision-making of both sides. Take the recent elections. The patterns of fraud were indeed drawn from the pages of Haitian history. But the financing of the elections, the decision to hold them under Préval despite his predilection for fraud, the decision to brush aside the warnings of Haitian intellectuals and political parties, the decision to send OAS cover-up artists masquerading as electoral observers–all these were decisions of the West, not Haiti. The result, then, was a combined Haitian-Western product.

To the credit of the United States, it did intervene to correct the presidential count when the brazenness of the fraud drove masses of Haitians to the streets. But that was all. It intervened only marginally in the parliamentary elections. It closed one barn door but left the other wide open, then feigned surprise when all the animals ran out.

And now come the Economist magazine and Washington Post editorialists contending that the legitimately elected president must yield to the fraudulently elected parliament. It is this astonishing incomprehension of Haiti, and Western policy blunders based on such misconceptions, that perpetuate the stranglehold of the traditional mafia over the state.  For this was the year that the Haitian electorate demanded change and voted for it across the board. Alone, the Haitians could probably have achieved change by now, as did the Dominicans twenty years ago. But Washington’s inveterate fear of change, its abject embrace of the status quo–however devastating to Haitians and exhausting to U.S. taxpayers–means that Haitians must overcome not only their homegrown oppressors but those ranged along the banks of the Potomac as well, and maybe learn the PAN card meaning – in case they decide legally move.