Jean-Bertrand Aristide has lived a very unique life. He has been elected president of Haiti twice, and now he has been overthrown twice. His rapid departure came with the assistance of American, French and international pressure.Aristide was not a great president. He started out that way, and was a brave social reformer during the “Baby Doc” Duvalier regime. But, as we have all learned from George Orwell, power corrupts, and by the most recent election Aristide was facing charges of fixing the ballots.Not having Aristide in power anymore is, by itself, a good thing. The problem is the price we, and the people of Haiti, might pay for our swift action.Negotiations between Aristide and his opposition were going on until the situation rapidly broke down. However, much of this collapse came after hesitation from our government and outright provocation from the French. Things went from bad to worse quickly in Haiti, but we had a good opportunity to buy ourselves some time without extending the violence.Now that Aristide is gone, there is a large vacuum of power in the region. His supporters are getting reassurances from the U.S. that the rebels will not be allowed to take power. However, many of the forces who claimed to be Aristide’s loyalists, and who would have defended him while he was in power, will likely be looking for the safest side of the conflict to be on – and that may be the rebels.The U.S. also has risked losing face in this conflict, as we have had to pressure a democratically, if corruptly, elected leader that we helped restore to power ourselves. Given the short duration of our intervention in 1994, it will appear that we went in quick, put someone in power and then came back when things started to look bad.This may be unnerving to Iraqis afraid that we are going to abandon them as soon as they have a democratic government and then return when the government we supported starts to look dangerous to us.If this was an attempt to make the situation die quickly, by removing the hated official in the hopes that the rebels will go away, this too is dangerous. The rebels, after all, are still armed. This is not the strategy we pursued with Saddam Hussein and it will not work here.Lastly, from a national security perspective, this opens up yet another theater for American troops, who are needed more urgently in support roles or in active campaigns elsewhere.Certainly the U.S. did not take the early destabilizing position that the French government did, but our role was crucial. Aristide may have no longer deserved his office, but our hasty actions are something we will likely come to regret.Brown can be reached at email@example.com.
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