Ill-effects of feeling good
THE imposition of still-tougher sanctions in an attempt to force Haiti's brutal military dictators from office is as well-meaning as anything the United Nations has so far tried to do to end the island's suffering. But that is unlikely to make it any more effective. Worse, like so many international attempts to deal with thugs around the globe - especially those attempts where the United States has been the lead player - it is more likely to increase the suffering than relieve it.
The notion that men who rule by terror and thuggery against their own people will be converted to purity of thought and deed by the imposition of travel bans on their top henchmen and the freezing of their bank accounts is a triumph of hope over experience. It has not worked in Iraq. Why should it work in Haiti, where essential supplies can be smuggled over the border from the Dominican Republic and Generals Raoul Cedras and Michel Francois and their clique can continue to suck the lifeblood of ordinary Haitians with impunity? There is no threat of invasion and no reason for the bully-boys of Port-au-Prince to fear for their own skins. Unless the UN or the US act to change that perception, they will continue to snub attempts to restore the elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide or prevent them feathering their own nests while the majority of Haitians live in grinding poverty. The only certain result of broader sanctions is to ensure more Haitians starve.
It is no good co-opting the rest of the world into helping America feel good about Haiti at the expense of the people whose misery aroused the US public's sympathy in the first place. President Bill Clinton wants the UN to act on his behalf to get his administration out of an awkward corner. But before the world follows the US into any more ill-thought through adventures, he - and the international community at large - should be clear on what the targets are and how far they are prepared to go to ensure they are achieved.