The Haiti project was the only organization contending, six years ago, that the U.N. mission stay. We are elated that it is finally returning with a mandate to suppress the gangs. We predicted in no uncertain terms the anarchy that would overtake Haiti if the U.N. was removed. The mandate and capabilities of this new mission are considerably less than those of the mission it follows, which presages problems down the road. But the Kenyan assessment team wisely rejected the static program earlier proposed by a front-line U.S. official and opted to back up the Haitian police to the hilt. That is an important advance that promises an effective mission.
U.S. forces have intervened in Haiti three times in the contemporary period, in 1994, 2004, and 2010. They should be part of this mission. We are the only big country near Haiti and the one who, after Haiti, benefits the most. Given that we are practically at war with Russia, direct U.S. involvement might have triggered the veto that Russia and China wisely withheld. But those countries approved the past U.S. deployments. With a will, the issue could be negotiated. The United States should not merely pocket this Russian and Chinese acquiescence to the mission but should actively reciprocate it in negotiations to defuse the conflicts with them. Although the United States is not sending its own forces, it does promise considerable material and financial support for the mission, which is a further factor making for its success.
The weakness of the Haitian government, institutions, and political class are the factors that enable the gangs. These divisions and weaknesses will continue even if the gangs are beaten back. The previous U.N. mission did beat back the gangs, but its mandate was not broad enough to tackle the underlying weaknesses, so it could only achieve surface stability while leaving the problems to fester and blossom once it left. This new mission’s mandate is even more limited, which could lead to its undoing. We should be going in the opposite direction. Few Haitians believe that the country’s political class represents them. Most would welcome the U.N.’s protection of elections and the administration of justice. From a coalition of the willing, this mission should evolve into a full-scale peacekeeping mission administered by the United Nations, with all members of the Security Council deliberating on a mandate broad enough to put Haiti on its upward path. The mandate should be for fifteen or twenty years, not up for renewal every year, and have the heft to protect the constitutional machinery against those who rightly fear that they would lose a free election.
Russia and China abstained rather than approved, using boilerplate language raising sovereignty and foreign interference. However, China itself participated in the last U.N. mission, sending a well-regarded police-training unit in 2010. Russia itself has three peacekeeping missions underway near its borders, sending its own soldiers after being denied the U.N. imprimatur. The real reason for the hesitation is China’s recollection of U.S. soldiers with U.N. insignia barreling up to the Chinese border in 1950, and Russia’s apprehension that the threatened U.S. coalition of the willing in Western Ukraine might actually materialize.