President Clinton has finally painted himself in a corner over Haiti, and has no more maneuvering room. He tried asking the United Nation’s to do his dirty work, but Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who loves power, wants no part in this show. The UN secretary-general has promised to look the other way. Now, Mr. Clinton has no choice, but to clean up his own mess. If Clinton intends to restore Jean Bertrand Aristide to power, he’ll have to invade Haiti on his own.
If Clinton is to avoid an invasion, he has only one option to try. He can try to lure Raoul Cedras and the other self-imposed leaders of Haiti’s new government out with bags full of money. This is no about restoring democracy it’s about installing a new dictator who will rule by force, our force. Aristide was elected democratically, but he didn’t rule democratically and he is hated and feared by far too many people to rule any other way.
We have no national interest in Haiti. It’s Clinton’s own political hide that is at stake. He is between a rock and a hard place — the Congressional Black Caucus and the people of Florida. If he alienates the Black Caucus, its members will attempt to block his domestic agenda, whine to the media and Randall Robinson may come back and stage another hunger strike. If he lets in a flood of refugees, the state of Florida likely will ditch most of his Democratic buddies in the November election, and Mr. Clinton won’t be able to show his face there in 1996.
But perhaps his biggest problem is our military. They don’t like him. How can a president, who refused to serve in Vietnam and demonstrated against the war there, ask our troops to invade this tiny country because he can’t decide what to do with the refugees.
Of course Mr. Clinton does have another option. He could do the right thing. He could admit that the embargo was a terrible mistake and, instead of using our resources to prop up Aristide, use our resources to work out a system of power-sharing until each party has had ample time to demonstrate its leadership ability, and then supervise another election.
There is no guarantee that a new Haitian president would fare any better than all the others, but at least it would give the people of Haiti a chance, which is more than they have now and likely more than they would have under Aristide without our supervision.
What about Aristide? If he doesn’t agree to those terms, let him join other Clinton discards. Pay him a big salary and make him a presidential advisor. Then he can help George Stephanopoulos and Mac McLarty do whatever it is they do.