DOMESTIC SOVEREIGNTIES - INTERNATIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES:

The Role of the United Nations after Fifty Years [1]

W. B. Allen

Dean, James Madison College

Michigan State University

Prepared for the Cantigny Conference Series,

“The United Nations Charter at Fifty”

sponsored by the Robert McCormick Tribune Foundation

November 3-4, 1994

 

Gentlemen appeal to our humanity. The appeal is out of place. That is not the question; but whether, organized as we are, under the Constitution, we have a right to make such a grant?

William Branch Giles, Member

House of Representatives

January 13, 1794

 

The greatest problem in communications is the illusion that it has happened.

George Bernard Shaw

 

 

The American shift from a policy of protecting its interest by guaranteeing peace to a policy of identifying its interest as the guaranteeing of peace conceals a fatal flaw in our thinking about foreign relations and also the first stages of a world-wide drift toward a new and threatening disorder.  The danger derives from a radical change in the course of power in a great democracy when it is able to pursue its world goals not directly but through the agency of a supra-national intermediary.  War for the great democracy becomes not a last resort, as it otherwise must be, but the pursuit of diplomacy by other means when the United Nations vectors the great democracy’s goals and insulates it from the controlling force of public opinion.  There lies the substance of the debate in the United States over the relative merits of authorization by Congress and authorization by the United Nations for United States military intervention in other states.

They who would make it easier to command United States power for the sake of ensuring peace in the world must take account of the price they will ultimately pay for the privilege.  For the modes which prevail at present assume that the United States will remain somewhere accountable for the actions it takes on behalf of world peace.  As the story of the Haiti intervention reveals, however, that assumption may be much misguided.  Indeed, it is far easier for the world to count on us to look out for ourselves than it is for the world to count on us to look out for them.

The Value of Precedent

George Washington was accused by a thoughtful contemporary not of isolationism but of Machiavellianism.  Pierre Adet, French Minister to the United States read the 1796 “Farewell Address” and concluded in his report to his home government that Washington meant to inculcate a policy of faithlessness in international dealings—not a systematic disengagement from the world but a selective engagement and disengagement predicated upon a disposition to use others toward America’s own ends without regard for the dictates of honor and good faith.  Throughout America’s history foreign policy debates have turned on degrees of engagement and disengagement with foreign powers (and the United Nations is a foreign power to the United States, paeans to the “international community” notwithstanding), and theories of prudence (the Monroe Doctrine is such a theory) designed to indicate when conditions favored one or the other.  It is not the case, however, that Washington’s parting admonitions participate in that tradition save by logical neighborhood.  Washington described instead a posture of absolute authority, self-mastery or “control of its own fortunes” for the United States, bottomed on a moral rule, justice in its dealings with all other states.  Thus, he was not an isolationist, for he fully realized the present and future dealings with other states that would entail decision-making predicated on the twin functions of American self-mastery and just dealings.

We can also defend George Washington against the charge of Machiavellianism, a far more sophisticated and intelligent but still erroneous interpretation of the “Farewell Address.”  It is correct to say that Washington counseled selective engagement and disengagement with foreign powers.  That is literally what the injunction to avoid “permanent” alliances and enmities entails.  But the rule of selection for Washington was not raison d’etat as contemporary theory envisions it.  The rule of selection was to be rather the domestic purposes of the United States, which are specifically defined by the governing institutions of the country and the conditions required for its perpetuation.  The rule of just dealings, for example, did not result from an arbitrary moral valuation; it resulted rather from the calculation that the role of public opinion in the United States ( a sine qua non for its proper functioning) renders any less consistent ground of policy inconsistent with the healthy operations of the polity.  Thus, Washington identified an expediential condition for the application of the highest moral standing for American policy.  Every foreign undertaking, according to this rule, requires to be expressed in terms that elaborate fundamental domestic purposes, and the first of these is the requirement of just dealings.  It follows, of course, that any foreign undertaking that cannot be so elaborated is, in Washington’s terms, an inappropriate and unsanctioned application of government power (whether in itself and therefore abstractly praiseworthy or blameworthy as it applies to others).  International responsibility in this formulation can extend no farther than domestic sovereignty can accommodate, while the reach of domestic sovereignty is defined not by power but by the conditions of national health.

The Last Democratic Triumph in the Western Hemisphere

The foregoing preface enables us to assess straightforwardly the operations of the United States and the United Nations as they have unfolded in Haiti.  In doing so, we must draw conclusions regarding the legitimacy of these operations independently of our conclusions regarding the humanity or theoretical propriety of these operations.  The reason to conduct this analysis, however, is to respond to our opening question, namely, whether the rule which guides our conduct bears a significant threat of future disorders in the world.  The following review purports to offer nothing new in recounting the events in Haiti and affects no new insights into the patterns of conduct that prevailed. The retelling serves only the purpose of providing the context for judgment.

Haiti was meant to be the culminating stroke in that 1980s process of encouraging democracy in the Western Hemisphere.  Secretary of State James A. Baker III declared in 1989 that “We have it in our power to create, here, in the Americas, the world’s first completely democratic hemisphere.” [2]   Following in the path of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Grenada, etc., pressures applied to the despotic Duvalier regimes (including the regime of Prosper Avril) and a carefully orchestrated election under a semblance of international supervision and generous American provisioning aimed to establish the plausible claim that, Cuba excepted, the West had gone democratic.  The turn of events following the election of Jean Bertrand Aristide undermined familiar American claims about the progress of democracy, for the instability of civil institutions in Haiti and the subsequent military coup in 1991 made plain that despotism was perhaps something more than the mere coincidence of accident and force in that island nation.  For Haitians despotism seemed all too nearly to have become a way of life.  Policy makers faced a reconsideration of their theories regarding democracy or of their resolve regarding the Haitian alternative.  Led by the Bush Administration in the United States, new world policy makers determined to heighten their resolve in order to make good their theories.  Aristide and the appearance of a government in exile were welcomed to asylum in the United States, while the de facto, military regime in Haiti was challenged to restore the “legitimate” government.

The Haitian Misadventure

The immediate aftermath of the 1991 coup propelled a relatively small class of political refugees outside the Haitian state—Aristide himself, some parliamentarians, government officers, and party operatives.  Most found asylum in the United States and posed no great difficulty for that nation.  Their circumstances may usefully be compared with those of the three thousand French Santo Domingo refugees who fled the 1793 L’Ouverture revolution and landed at Maryland.  These latter provided both a financial and a constitutional challenge for the recently established government of the United States.  In the House of  Representatives Mr. Samuel Smith, a Member, reported that “there never was a more noble and prompt display of the most exalted feelings. . . The whole inhabitants instantly assembled” and instantly subscribed thirteen thousand dollars for their relief.  The debate in the House, however, raised serious questions regarding the power of Congress under the Constitution to appropriate constituent moneys for a similar benevolence.  An expenditure, it was thought by some, would have to be founded on  the United States alliance with France, its debt to France, or a similar reckoning of national purpose clearly prescribed in the Constitution.

No such questions arose in 1991, for the law of asylum had long since been established in such a manner as to encompass public expenditures on behalf of refugees.  Aristide himself, never fond of the United States, actually fled to Venezuela at first, but established himself in the United States after responding to an invitation to meet President George Bush at the White House on 8 October 1991.  The problem of 1991, however, quickly exceeded two hundred year old precedents.  The initial, small wave of refugees was soon succeeded by much larger waves, produced by the conjunction of repression within Haiti and the policy of pressure adopted by the United States, acting generally and initially through the Organization of American States and ultimately through the United Nations.  Well before the United Nations and Chapters VII and VIII of its Charter supplied the definitive bases of later operations in Haiti, the campaign of economic stringency was already set in motion (The United States embargo was imposed on 5 November 1991).  The effect of the campaign of economic stringency was to render permanently obscure the real cause of subsequent waves of “boat people” who flocked to the shores of the United States.

A further step of increased pressure on the de facto government in Haiti was the determination in May, 1992 to intercept at sea and return to Haiti all “boat people,” who were denominated “economic refugees” by the Bush Administration (a tentative step in this direction began on 18 November 1991 when the Die Nap Vive was intercepted and 224 Haitians returned to Port-Au-Prince).  This act altered completely the relations of the United States and foreign powers implicated in its policies to events in Haiti.  Although the economic sanctions may plausibly be termed an act of war—as North Korea has since demonstrated in its dealings with the Clinton Administration—the Bush Administration refused to acknowledge refugees as casualties of war and thus, de facto, used civilians in the prosecution of its campaign against the de facto government in Haiti.

Before a year had passed following the 1991 coup, United States, Organization of American States, and United Nations officials had undertaken through diplomatic means, underlined by economic pressure, to foster negotiations between Aristide and the de facto government in Haiti.  By this time some 38,000 Haitians had fled Haiti, more than 27,000 had been returned, 8,000 had been cleared to seek asylum, and fewer than 120 claims had been approved.  Meanwhile, the diplomatic negotiations dragged on inconclusively, and non-government agencies, Haitian exiles, and some political leaders (like former President Jimmy Carter) urged a wider United Nations role—likening Haiti most often to Yugoslavia and Somalia.  The increased lobbying pressure for a United Nations peace-keeping force operated in tandem with rather than against United States policy.  Jimmy Carter (who had monitored the 1990 election in Haiti), for example, not only urged peace-keeping forces for Haiti but also a tightening of the mainly United States embargo. [3]

On the next to last day of 1992, the United Nations took its biggest step toward increased involvement by releasing a plan to end the repatriation of the “boat people,” anticipating the inauguration of a new United States President who had promised just such a step.  Previously, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata had filed a “friend of the court” brief before the United States Supreme Court to oppose the Bush Administration’s repatriation policy, which she said violated the United Nation’s protocol on the status of refugees (1967).  The December proposal contained the significant additional provision that the United Nations and the United States should cooperate in devising a political solution in Haiti. [4]

One week after Ogato’s proposal, the out-going and in-coming United States executive administrations issued a statement approving the proposal for United Nations mediation between Aristide and the de facto government in Haiti.  The statement was silent regarding the refugee problem and military options.

Shortly after President Clinton’s inauguration the Administration responded to an embarrassing rebuff of a United Nations - United States diplomatic mission by letting it be known that it was now ready to “push ahead” with “more vigorous” measures against Haiti.  The options considered, however, did not include exempting civilians from the stringency of the campaign.  In the same context in which the diplomatic mission was taunted by demonstrators, the Organization of American States and the United Nations won agreement to insert a team of human rights observers in Haiti.  In the months following diplomatic efforts pressed agreement on inserting an international police force in Haiti (raising the stakes over previous bargaining postures).  After this proposal was rejected, further discussion of even tougher economic sanctions followed, as well as further repatriations.  This proposal had been preceded by public discussion of a joint United States - British - French Security Council resolution that would propose a 500-member police force for Haiti.  The Clinton Administration indicated, however, that such a move would depend on Aristide’s prior return—suggesting a peace guarantee rather than a peace-making operation.

The de facto government in Haiti apparently declined the invitation to receive Aristide with an international praetorian guard.  Within a week the United Nations took up a resolution (841 [1993]) aimed to “make universal and mandatory the trade embargo recommend by the Organization of American States.”  The resolution “deplored” the failure to restore “the legitimate government” and argued that these transactions “define a unique and exceptional situation warranting extraordinary measures by the Security Council...”  It further found a threat to “international peace and security in the region,” imposed effective 23 June 1993 the mandatory embargo, and established a Security Council committee to monitor and plan the continued campaign against the de facto government in Haiti.  Finally, the resolution provided that member states should “bring proceedings against” persons violating the Security Council measures and impose penalties on them. [5]

Following the adoption of Resolution 841 resumed diplomatic efforts produced the now famous “Governor’s Island Agreement,” (GIA) which provided the return of Aristide and certain accommodations for responsible parties in the de facto government in  Haiti.  Initial hopefulness was tempered by  near recollections of pervious deals undone or disappointed.  One commentator at the time wrote in USA Today a commentary which described the Clinton Administration as concealing its leadership in the crisis beneath the conflicting layers of United Nations decision making.  Nevertheless, the Security Council congratulated itself in Resolution 861 (27 August 1993) and ordered the suspension of the provisions in Resolution 841 mandating the embargo while pledging to lift the penalty provisions in the event of complete implementation of GIA.  Prime Minister Robert Malval, representing Aristide, was installed in office in conjunction with these steps. [6]

Four days after Resolution 861 the Security Council adopted Resolution 862 (31 August 1993), purporting to provide for implementing the terms of GIA.  The resolution  provides that, conformably to Point 5 of the GIA, international assistance will be provided to modernize the armed forces and establish a new police force with United Nations personnel present or participating; it reaffirmed “the international community’s” commitment to end the crisis, notably, “including a restoration of democracy.”  An advance team not to exceed thirty personnel was dispatched to assess the situation. [7]

With the deadline for implementation of GIA rapidly approaching (October 15 - 30, 1993), the United States policy of returning refugees still strictly enforced, and amid growing concern to nail down the details, the Security Council adopted yet another resolution (867) on 23 September 1993, providing a more detailed account of the international force to be dispatched and ordering its urgent deployment.  Resolution 867 speaks of establishing military and police functions under civilian control, the Security Council’s Charter responsibility to maintain “peace and security,” and the “urgent need to ensure conditions for the full implementation” of the various accords and agreements.  On these grounds it approved immediately establishing and deploying the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH), a force of 1300 - 1500 troops, trainers, and laborers; it described the command structure of the UNMIH, acknowledging that a “Special Representative” would oversee this “peace-keeping mission.”  As with the previous resolutions, at no time is the United States mentioned (save by incorporation in the Organization of American States), although all these arrangements specifically envision and are contingent upon the lead of the United States. [8]

Within days of the adoption of Resolution 867 news reports showed concern with violence and instability in Haiti and reflected open but not formal calls from the United States Clinton Administration and the United Nations for “unified and urgent” efforts and 13,000 troops to accomplish the transition to democracy in Haiti.  At the same time a few Canadian police arrived with United States police to begin training police in Port-Au-Prince.  Anxiety and frayed tempers colored the political climate.  Prime Minister Malval raised the specter of a new and larger wave of refugees headed to the United States if the UNMIH failed.  This came but briefly before the arrival of the United States warship transporting the UNMIH force—a force which abandoned its mission when threatened by demonstrators at the harbor.

On October 13 the Security Council announced failed hopes in the form of Resolution 873, which responded to the obstruction which thwarted landing the UNMIH and withdrew the suspension of the embargo.  The Council considered the aborted GIA as “a threat to peace and security” and invoked Charter Chapter VII to re-impose economic sanctions, to transfer Haitian government funds to support the government in exile (which had been supported by the United States), and announced readiness to consider more extensive measures. [9]

What followed, however, was a renewed emphasis on sanctions and the returning of refugees.  Meanwhile, a dispute between the United Nations Secretary General Boutros-Ghali and President Clinton burst into public  prominence.  The dispute seemed to grow from different perspectives the two sides had taken on the agenda of peace-making and nation-building on which they were agreed from the beginning of the Clinton Administration.  Not only was the warship USS Harlan County turned away from Port-Au-Prince, but United States embarrassments in Somalia and Bosnia, and the general dispute over command authority, had undermined the careful orchestration of United States policy through the agency of the United Nations without any specific, avowed  United States objectives beyond general humanity.

Early hopes for a standing United Nations army had been dashed against the reality of the need for accountability in the United States.  That difficulty, however, does not undermine the theory that the new world era would benefit from the active exercise of an international police power not merely to restrain conflict but to guide political developments toward progressive engagement.  Accordingly, events in Haiti came momentarily to be captured by a much more important matter than the fate of Jean Bertrand Aristide.  Until order and coordination could be restored in the international community (which is, as much of the world as the United States can provide direction for), the development of issues in Haiti would be slowed to avoid pre-mature engagement.

Security Council Resolution 873 was followed by Resolution 875 (October 16, 1993), which invoked Charter Chapters VII and VIII to request member states to act proportionably to the specific circumstances to apply corrective measures.  Thus, the United Nations “authorized” or “appealed for” intervention (depending on one’s perspective) but withheld the carte blanche which the United States secured from the United Nations in 1991 during the Iraq-Kuwait crisis.  The net result was to license unilateral action (including a naval blockade) which one state could undertake without requiring international coordination. [10]   It fell then to the United States to determine the course it wished to follow:  gringo interventionism or multi-lateral peace-making.  In either case, but particularly the first, justification becomes urgent.

Through the final months of 1993 United States politics spawned a constitutional debate over the propriety of enlisting American forces, as the main component, of a United Nations army operating independently in the world.  Presidential Decision Directive 13 (PDD-13) had early provided, to all appearances, a concept of “multinationalizing” conflicts that could be furthered by lending United States forces the character of a multinational effort (as largely happened in Operation Desert Storm).  That is, even where United States force preponderates, if the United States surrenders command the cause of multi-lateralism will advance.  Security Council Resolution 875 effectively challenged the Clinton Administration to put up or shut up, even while domestic political discourse sought to drive toward an explicit, avowed choice.  The Administration’s response was mixed, and shows most clearly in the results of the Haiti policy, which reached their climax (as far as policy is concerned) by Fall, 1994.  To be able to discern accurately that response, it is important to remember that the debate over who commands United States troops actually obscured or disguised the more important question, namely, whether the United States hides its policy choices behind the fiction of the “international community,” most significantly from its own citizens but also, to significant degree, from foreign powers.

By the spring of 1994 Secretary General Boutros-Ghali and President Clinton again were portrayed as cooperating to seek a Haiti solution.  President Aristide was said however, to be adamant in resisting a Security Council proposal that would coerce him toward a political accommodation.  Intermediate steps no longer commanded any authority.  Aristide had to return and leaders of the de facto government in Haiti had to leave.  Those two articles were the necessary condition of any solution that still pursued the goals of Resolutions 861, 862, 867, and 873.  Security Council Resolution 905 (23 March 1994) reaffirmed the former resolutions and restored policy to its prior course. [11]   In the two or three week period leading to this result, the Administration disclaimed any interest in using military force (although that was provided for in the prior resolutions, as noted) and, more significantly, was subjected to strident congressional calls for a policy of firmer support for Aristide, including the use of force

Within the month the Administration pressed a full embargo against Haiti (despite having argued against doing so without some sign of flexibility from Aristide).  Press reports connected the decision with new reports of repression in Haiti (a rhythmic occurrence throughout the events related here).  In addition, Aristide and his supporters had renewed attacks on the repatriation policy.  The White House reported its policy change as resulting from a policy review conducted by the National Security Council.  The review, however, may have taken note of the six members of Congress who were arrested for demonstrating at the White House in protest of the Haiti policy (or at least the appearance that it was not making progress).

The Administration followed swiftly with the announcement that it had lost patience with diplomacy and would thence pursue a policy of coercion against the de facto government in Haiti, beginning with a progressive tightening of economic sanctions.  (The same statement could have been issued by either the Bush or the Clinton Administration at any point throughout this crisis!)  The Administration announced the policy through its Ambassador to the United Nations and sought new resolutions from the Security Council.  Meanwhile, refugees were still returned to Haiti, although mounting criticism would soon substitute United States detention for the return to Haiti.

Before the Security Council was permitted to act, Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25), 5 May 1994) issued from the White House and laid down the terms on which the United States would participate in peace-keeping operations.  The purpose of PDD-25 was to respond to loudly expressed concerns that a peace-making agenda would exceed legitimate constitutional powers and also burden the national treasury (concerns evoked by PDD-13 as well as past practice).  Appropriately, therefore, the Directive declares that United States participation in United Nations operations must “advance United States interests,” be affordable in funds and personnel, require United States participation in order to succeed, win the support of Congress, be susceptible to precise mission development and meet command and control criteria that reserve United States troops from command by foreign commanders.  Moreover, this un-classified or public version of PDD-25 also explicitly rejects the idea of a standing army for the United Nations and of dedicated national units to be summoned into international operations by the United Nations.

Before the United States launched the final stage of its Haiti campaign, in other words, it clarified the rules and responded to all or at least most of the nagging doubts which had dogged the campaign theretofore.  There remained only to deal with the refugee problem or so to conclude the political crisis as to moot the refugee problem.

On 6 May 1994 the Security Council acted on Resolution 917, proposed by the United States and said to have been pending, held in reserve for several weeks.  With this resolution the Administration took the penultimate step in its long campaign which, in light of PDD-25 of the day before, gave full indication of the policy to be pursued through the end-game and, more importantly, a determination to realize a dual track approach in which the actions taken and the public posture could be expected to diverge.  A policy already described as “hegemonism” by Le Monde Diplomatique in March, 1994 and explicitly projected through the agency of the United Nations came to be coupled with a domestic posture of “America first.”  Practically the first words of PDD-25 were “American national interest.”

Resolution 917 was the first in the Haiti series to be publicly acknowledged as proposed by the United States, albeit conforming to the earlier resolutions in nowhere explicitly mentioning the United States. [12]   The silence in 917 is redoubled to the extent that other resolutions had specifically invoked requests from the Permanent Representative from Haiti, Aristide, the government of Haiti, and the Organization of American States.  Resolution 917 properly acknowledges prior resolutions of the United Nations and of the Organization of American States, but it far more emphatically expresses the putative voice of the United Nations.  This is above all notable in the restatement, which is more than a restatement, of the “unique and exceptional circumstances” in Haiti, which are now explicitly the failure of the de facto government to comply with obligations deriving from the GIA and Security Council resolutions.  Resolution 917 defines defiance of the statutory authority of the United Nations (the GIA, an unexecuted agreement, is nonetheless assimilated to United Nations statutes) as the specific source of the threat to peace, including provisions calling, contrary to the terms of the Constitution of the United States, for the abrogation of contract rights.  As an expression of the policy of the United States, therefore, it constitutes an explicitly extra-constitutional enactment.

Resolution 917 expanded the Haiti embargo to include all non-essential commerce and all but regularly scheduled air traffic.  It specified limitations on travel and transactions of officers of the de facto government and their immediate families, and established an executive authority (the committee of states from Resolution 841) to enforce the sanctions.  It also provided for a nominal blockade of Haiti and, finally,  included UNMIH deployment as a condition for satisfaction of its terms.

Immediately after adoption of Resolution 917 previously periodic calls for direct military intervention rose to a sustained and increasingly clamorous demand for intervention.  The interests of the United States, in the form of the mounting costs of sustaining a policy of economic and refugee quarantine, were the consistent basis for such calls, allied with the greater purpose to restore democracy in Haiti.  The Clinton Administration and the United Nations agreed to cooperate in a detention policy for refugees, accelerating the costliness of the situation.  Domestic political concerns in the United States next raised the ante when important officials in Florida and their representatives in Congress raised considerable pressure to block detention and admission into that state.  Progressively, it became clear that the only solution to the United States problem in Haiti (now that one could say the United States really did have a problem) was such an arrangement as would confine Haitians to Haiti, and the only mechanism by which to accomplish this was United Nations peace-keeping.  PDD-25, however, subjected such a course to tougher scrutiny than had obtained previously.  Despite that apparent hedge against non-emergency intervention without substantial deliberation, the pace of events in the summer of 1994 headed in a different direction.

Less than two months after Security Council Resolution 917 the Security Council returned to deliver its ultimate authorization for the pursuit of United States policy.  In the month of July, 1994 some 16,019 “boat people” were intercepted at sea, and by 31 July 1994 the Security Council acted to authorize the United States (again unnamed but plainly understood) to use “any means necessary” (no longer constrained by context) to end the crisis.  That language in Resolution 940 was canonized in the effort to build the Gulf War coalition in 1991 and now returned to confirm what it meant already then, namely that the United States may act independently, though in the name of the United Nations, to accomplish its ends in Haiti.  In moving toward the denouement in this drama President Clinton was challenged to seek approval from Congress, as he pledged in PDD-25.  He responded, however, that he did not regard that as necessary.  In that sense, therefore, the authorization of the United Nations was given to the office-holder, the individual, rather than to the United States.

The United States invasion of Haiti came rather differently than had been anticipated.  The Economist of London wrote that “Few if any invasions have been planned so publicly, advertised so relentlessly.”  When President Clinton spoke to the people of the United States (and, of course, the rest of the world) to announce his final determination, he still maintained a dual track approach.  He knew that he would make a last stab at negotiated settlement, even as he declared publicly that he would not do so.  In this he demonstrated that degree of control which he believes a President must retain, both as to policy and as to justification, in order effectively to exercise the powers of his office.  He also knew that he would pursue the baseline established in 917, issued the day after PDD-25.  He dispatched high-level emissaries in mid-September, 1994, who returned from Port-Au-Prince after tense moments with the prize in hand, namely, a bloodless invasion, the ground secured for UNMIH after an initial United States pacification effort, the departure of the de facto government, and the return of Aristide.

The final question which remains unresolved for many is just what is the President’s policy?  That may be particularized as follows:  How will future Haitian refugees be handled?  How stable must Haiti become before occupation is lifted?  What actions will be taken if, in the ordinary course of events, Haiti revolves into something less than a democratic paradise?  These questions conspire to pose a two-fold question, namely, what is the interest of the United States in Haiti and how just has United States policy been?

If the United States is defined as having an interest in preventing people in need seeking refuge in the United States, it must follow either that it is also United States policy to guarantee that people in Haiti or anywhere will not experience such need or that United States policy accepts fundamental injustice as its ground.  On the other hand, if United States policy requires the assurance of democratic order without regard to a particular interest of the United States then United States participation in the United Nations will constitute a threat to peoples everywhere, contingent on the interplay of the balance of political forces in the United Nations and the ideological dispositions of principal actors in the United States.

It is worth noting that hemispheric neighbors of the United States abided the developments in the Haitian crisis tolerably well until the moment of Resolution 940 arrived.  At that moment significant players re-discovered grounds to fear “Yankee imperialism.”  Of course, they lacked the power to resist a United Nations carefully wedded to the military and economic might of the United States.

A United Nations which unites nothing more than the predilections of players on its stage and, which is more, does so in the face of intractable dynamics of United States politics, endangers itself and the world far more than the League of Nations ever did.  Without a representative character, the United Nations loses the ability to moderate the claims of great and even medium powers.  A multilateralism which becomes little more than a means to enable powers to act extra-constitutionally in relation to their own sources of authority—or which forces redefinitions of constitutionality beyond the tolerable limits seen in Germany and Japan—will also become the pivot of international power politics.  If that should occur—and it will happen rather sooner than later as the world adjusts to the new scales of leverage relevant in the post-cold war era—then the United Nations itself will spawn the wars which will endanger international security.  Perhaps it will do so as a lackey of the United States or, perhaps, learning by the example it will do so in the thrall of other foreign powers.

The United Nations and Sovereignty

Far the more intriguing lesson to be learned from the Haiti episode, however, is the enormous danger inherent in treating national authority as plastic beyond the certitudes of domestic sovereignty.  A program of systematic engagement with foreign powers according to United Nations objectives necessarily follows from the establishment of a peace-making regime.  Such a program, however, can not be pursued by a United States which remains true to itself.  The Secretary General’s frustration over events in Somalia and Rwanda provide ample testimony of the difficulty.  It is doubtless true that an able and versatile helmsman at the United Nations, recognizing and acting conformably with the needs of various sovereignties, could extract from each the maximum responsibility to international order of which they are capable and thus measurably advance the cause of peace.  Nevertheless, the American case and its demand for an international politics of justice and moderation is not easily assimilable to such a regime (at least not when Americans are not themselves in control).  Because the principles of American politics must be predicated on concrete realization of United States control of its own destiny, it will become increasingly difficult to sustain multilateral policies which will be persistently forced to acknowledge that reality—by hook or by crook.  That will be hard on other sovereignties, and not only on their pride.  It were far wiser to develop policies which create looser, federative structures that give sovereignties sufficient room to excuse themselves by way of their eccentricities (to wit:  French distance from the Haiti adventure), rather than to force such stark comparisons with the United States.

The Haitian story in retrospect is simple:  The United States even in the hands of internationalists is a hard case.  Policy moves only when it first bows to the need or  obligation for the United States to control its own destiny.  That will require more or less art in the hands of policy makers in proportion as they can openly avow or must rather disguise their intentions.  Nor is it likely that any disguised policies will long prevail; for if nothing else undoes them, their injustices will.

I would conclude from this accounting that the future of multilateralism will remain in doubt for as long as the future of common action, as opposed to the reality of superpower hegemony, envisions no compatible foundation for acting in concert with the obligations of sovereignty.  Perhaps even Secretary General Boutros-Ghali has now learned that his casual dismissal of sovereignty in June, 1992 entailed greater risks for the United Nations and world peace than it did for the interests of any significant state. [13]   The faction of policy makers that takes the view that multilateralism is less a doctrine than a positive good must realize, just as George Washington did, that doctrines however worthy are not self-realizing.  They think peace and prosperity are ultimately possible on a global basis only if nations come together to define and resolve their problems in common.  The more assertive among them would argue that the efforts of individual states—including the United States—to pursue unilateral or non-consensual approaches to crisis management and conflict resolution is itself a source of crisis and conflict.  They maintain that operations like that in Somalia—including the emphasis on nation-building—under the auspices of the United Nations are ones the United States should not only support but commit itself to promoting.  It is perhaps pleonasm now to suggest that “promoting” can easily transform into managing and, in certain circumstances, even creating.  To ignore the effective restraints imposed by national sovereignty in cases such as that of the United States only implicates the United Nations and the so-called international community in increased prospects for acts of injustice.  It further contributes to erode the only foundation of the strength which the United States is able to employ in the world.  In order that human beings should be able to speak on behalf of world peace, they must first learn to speak on behalf of the justice of their own nations.  It is a message I wish to send to all young people, that they can aspire to speak for their country without apologizing for injustice.



[1] This essay has been written with the research assistance of Andrew Armstrong, professorial assistant in James Madison College.  I am grateful for his able and timely work.  I also owe acknowledgment to Professor Michael G. Schechter of James Madison College, whose recent publications, “The United Nations in the Aftermath of Somalia:  The Effects of the UN's Handling of Article 2(7) on the United Nations” (1993) and “The Possibilities for Preventive Diplomacy, Early Warning and Global Monitoring in the Post Cold-War Era, or the Limits to Global Structural Change” (in UN Reform Issues in the 1990s and Beyond, edited by W. Andy Knight, 1993) both inspired the reflection which eventuated in this essay by dramatically raising the question of the potential dangers involved in great power, particularly the United States, use of the United Nations.  Naturally, the author is alone responsible for any errors of fact or interpretation which may appear here.

[2] Cited by Rep. Lawrence J. Smith, “Haiti:  A Test Case for Hemispheric Peacekeeping” in Christian Science Monitor, June 16, 1992, p. 19, col. 1.

[3] Atlanta Constitution, Dec. 11, 1992 (Elizabeth Kurylo), B:1:1.

[4] New York Times, Dec. 31, 1992 (Robert Pear), A:1:1.

[5]                “The Security Council,

                Having received a letter from the Permanent Representative of Haiti to the President of the Council dated 7 June 1993 (S/25958) requesting that the Council make universal and mandatory the trade embargo on  Haiti recommended by the Organization of American States,

                Having also heard a report of the Secretary-General on 10 June 1993 regarding the crisis in Haiti...,

                Recognizing the urgent need for an early, comprehensive and peaceful settlement of the crisis in Haiti in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and international law,

                Also recalling the statement of 26 February 1993 (S/25344), in which the Council noted with concern the incidence of humanitarian crises, including mass displacements of population, becoming or aggravating threats to international peace and security,

                Deploring the fact that, despite the efforts of the international community, the legitimate government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has not been reinstated,

                Concerned that the persistence of this situation contributes to a climate of fear of persecution and economic dislocation which could increase the number of Haitians seeking refuge in neighbouring Member States and convinced that a reversal of this situation is needed to prevent its negative repercussions on the region,

                Recalling, in this respect, the provisions of Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, and stressing the need for effective cooperation between regional organizations and the United Nations,

                Considering that the above-mentioned request of the Permanent Representative of Haiti, made within the context of the related actions previously taken by the Organization of American States and by the General Assembly of the United Nations, defines a unique and exceptional situation warranting extraordinary measures by the Security Council in support of the efforts undertaken within the framework of the Organization of American States, and,

                Determining that, in these unique and exceptional circumstances, the continuation of this situation threatens international peace and security in the region...”  Security Council Resolution 841 (1993), Adopted by the Security Council at its 3238th meeting, on 16 June 1993.

[6]                “The Security Council,

                Recalling its resolution 841 (1993) of 16 June 1993),

                Commending the efforts undertaken by the Special Envoy for Haiti of the United Nations and Organization of American States Secretaries-General,...

                Taking note with approval of the Governors Island Agreement between the President of the Republic of Haiti and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Haiti, including the provisions of point 4, under which the parties agreed that the sanctions should be suspended immediately after the Prime Minister is confirmed and assumes office in Haiti,..

                Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations...”  Security Council Resolution 861 (1993), adopted by the Security Council at its 3271st meeting, 27 August 1993.

[7]                “The Security Council,...

                Noting that point of the Governors Island Agreement calls for international assistance in modernizing the armed forces of Haiti and establishing a new police force with the presence of United Nations personnel in these fields,

                Reaffirming the international community's commitment to a resolution of the crisis in Haiti, including a restoration of democracy,

                Recalling the situation i Haiti and the continuing responsibility of the Council under the Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security,

                1.                Takes note of the Secretary-General’s report of 25 August 1993 to the Security Council (S/26352), which contains recommendations concerning United Nations assistance in the modernization of the armed forces as well as in the establishment of a new police force in Haiti under a proposed United Nations Mission in Haiti,...”  Security Council Resolution 862 (1993), adopted by the Security Council at its 3272nd meeting, 31 August 1993.

[8]                “The Security Council,

                Recalling its resolutions 841 (1993) of 16 June 1993, 861 (1993) of 27 August 1993 and 862 of 31 August 1993,

                Recalling also relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Organization of American States,...

                5.                Welcomes the intention of the Secretary-General to place the peace-keeping mission under the oversight of the Special Representative of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and the Organization of American States, who also oversees the activities of the International Civilian Mission (ICIVIH), so that the peace-keeping mission may benefit from the experience and information already obtained by MICIVIH;

                13.                Expresses its appreciation for the constructive role of the Organization of American States in cooperation with the United Nations is promoting the solution of the political crisis and the restoration of democracy as called for by the Governor's Island Accord, the New York Pact and other relevant resolutions and agreements;...

                ... stresses the importance of ensuring close coordination between the United Nations and the Organization of American States in their work in Haiti...”  Security Council Resolution 867 (1993), adopted by the Security Council at its 3282nd meeting, 23 September 1993.

[9]                “The Security Council,

                Deeply disturbed by the  continued obstruction of the arrival of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH), dispatched pursuant to resolution 867 (1993) and the failure of the Armed Forces of Haiti to carry out their responsibilities to allow the Mission to begin its work,

                Having received the report of the Secretary-General (2/26573) informing the Council that the military authorities of Haiti, including the police, have not complied in good faith with the Governors Island agreement,

                Determining that their failure to fulfill obligations under the Agreement constitutes a threat to peace and security in the region,

                Acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations,...”  Security Council Resolution 873 (1993), adopted by the Security Council at its 3291st meeting, 13 October 1994.

[10]              “The Security Council,

                Reaffirming its resolutions 841 (1993) of 16 June 1993, 861 (1993) of 27 August 1993, 862 (1993) of 31 August 1993, 867 (1993) of 23 September 1993 and 873 (1993) of 13 October 1993),

                Noting resolutions MRE/RES.1/91, MRE/RES.2/91, MRE/RES.3/92 and MRE/RES.4.92 adopted by the Foreign Ministers of the Organization of American States, and resolution CP/RES.594 (923/92) and declarations CP/Dec.8 (927/93), CP/Dec.9 (931/93), CP/Dec.10 (934/93) and CP/Dec.15 (967/93), adopted by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States,...

                Taking note of the letter of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the Secretary-General of 15 October 1993 (S/26587), in which he requested the Council to call on Member States to take the necessary measures to strengthen the provisions of Security Council resolution 873 (1993),...

                Acting under Chapters VII and VIII of the Charter of the United Nations,

                1.                Calls upon Member States, acting nationally or through regional agencies or arrangements, cooperating with the legitimate government of Haiti, to use such measures commensurate with the specific circumstances as may be necessary under the authority of the Security Council to ensure strict implementation of the provisions of resolution 841 (1993) ad 873 (1993) relating to the supply of petroleum or petroleum products or arms and related matériel of all types, and in particular t halt inward maritime shipping as necessary in order to inspect and verify their cargoes and destinations;...”  Security Council Resolution 875 (1993), adopted by the Security Council at its 3293rd meeting, 16 October 1993.

[11]              “The Security Council

                Reaffirming its resolutions,...

                Deeply disturbed by the continued obstruction to the dispatch of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH),...

                Stressing the continued importance of the Governors Island Agreement,...

                Decides to extend UNMIH's mandate until 30 June 1994;...”  Security Council Resolution 905, adopted at its 3352nd meeting, 23 March 1994.

[12]              “The Security Council

                Reaffirming its resolutions...,

                Recalling its Presidential statements...,

                Noting resolutions...adopted by the Foreign Ministers of the Organization of American States, and resolutions...adopted by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States,

                Noting in particular resolution CP/RES.610 (968/93) of 18 October 1993 of the Organization of American States,

                Bearing in mind the statement of conclusions adopted at the Meeting of the Four Friends of the Secretary-General on Haiti, held in Paris on 13 and 14 December 1993 (S/26881),...

                Reaffirming that the goal of the international community remains the restoration of democracy in Haiti and the prompt return of the legitimately elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, under the framework of the Governors Island Agreement,

                Stressing in this context the importance of a proper and secure environment for all legislative action agreed to in the Governors Island Agreement and the New York Pact, as well as preparations for free and fair legislative elections in Haiti, as called for in the constitution, in the framework of the full restoration of democracy in Haiti,...

                Recalling that in resolution 873 (1993) the Council confirmed its readiness to consider the imposition of additional measures if the military authorities in Haiti continued to impede the activities of the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) or failed to comply in full with its relevant resolutions and the provisions of the Governors Island Agreement,

                Reaffirming its determination that, in these unique and exceptional circumstances, the situation created by the failure of the military authorities in Haiti to fulfill their obligations under the Governors Island Agreement and to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions constitutes a threat to peace and security in the region,

                Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,...

                10.                Acting also under Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, calls upon Member States cooperating with the legitimate Government of Haiti, acting nationally or through regional agencies or arrangements, to use such measures commensurate with the specific circumstances as may be necessary...,

                16.                Decides that, until the return of the democratically elected President, it will keep under continuous review, at least on a monthly basis, all the measures in the present resolution and earlier relevant resolutions and requests the Secretary-General, having regard for the views of the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, to report on the situation in Haiti, the implementation of the Governors Island Agreement, legislative actions including preparations of legislative elections, the full restoration of democracy in Haiti, the humanitarian situation in that country, and the effectiveness of the implementation of the sanctions, with the first report not later than 30 June 1994; ...”  Security Council Resolution 917 (1994), adopted by the Security Council at its 3376th meeting, 6 May 1994.

[13] “The time of absolute and exclusive sovereignty. . .has passed; its theory was never matched by reality.  It is the task of leaders of states today to understand this and to find a balance between the needs of good internal governance and the requirements of an ever more interdependent world.”  June 17, 1992.

Back to top