Thursday, March 04, 2004

bring us your finest prostitutes
In Haiti, the victorious rebels relax from their labours.

The rebels were still celebrating their victory over Aristide, who they accused of human rights violations and corruption. Accompanied by prostitutes, about 50 rebels drank heavily in a luxury hotel late on Tuesday, slugging back beer as pistols and rifles lay casually on tables or a their sides.

Philippe's table ordered three bottles of $90-a-bottle champagne, which hotel sources said they failed to pay for.

So here's to good government in Haiti. Most debate concerns what role the US played in the whole affair, what with Airstide's claims of being bundeld aboard his flight to the Central African Republic, from where his ability to cause trouble in the Western Hemisphere will be somewhat limited. Economist Jeffery Sachs sets out the case for a US caper. Ivan Eland gives us the history of US intervention in Haiti.

Throughout the 20th century, the U.S. military intervened repeatedly in Haiti. From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. Marines even occupied the country. During that time, they dissolved Haiti’s parliament, instituted martial law and created the thuggish Haitian army. That army—containing senior officers on the CIA’s payroll— overthrew a democratically-elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991. The remnants of it, with U.S. help, have just done it again.

And yet it wasn't accomplished alone. France was the first to call for Aristide's ouster. French marines are helping occupy Port Au Prince. And just as US troops were there to see Aristide off at the airport - who knows, perhaps helping with the luggage - French troops were there to see him arrive in Bangui, where he remains under their guard.

According to the IHT, it's all a sign of general Franco-American rapprochement

By all accounts, the 15-to-0 vote was expedited by the joint pressure of the United States and France, two permanent Security Council members that just a year earlier were leading opposite camps in embittered debate over Iraq.

Diplomats at the UN welcomed the return to what they saw as a more normal and constructive functioning of the world body.

The French daily Le Monde suggested Monday that the joint effort on Haiti - the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide clearly was precipitated by pressure from Paris and then from Washington - confirmed that the two were "spectacularly reconciled" after months of efforts to restore trust.

Haiti was certainly a neat joint operation. Sleazy, but neat. Compare the situation to a year ago, when the UK promised the US international endorsement for Iraq, but in the end could barely take itself into the war on time. Think of the fiasco of the second UN revolution, the eruptions of whistleblowing in the UK security services, the casual use of the suicidal Dr Kelly. It must come as a relief to the US to be able to work with a competent government. It couldn't have gone unnoticed at the time in the US that French diplomacy actually achieved its objectives.

Something like this has been in the air for a while, at least since the US tilted towards Beijing over the Taiwan missile referendum and granted Gadafy his license to tyrannise in Libya. A week or so ago, Henry over at Crooked Timber pointed out that at bottom the French and US administrations have certain similarities, and linked to an article in the Washington Post that made the same point.

The restoration of Aristide in Haiti in 1994 was one of the first experiments in the post-cold war policy of humanitarian military intervention. I wonder if his ouster, cold-shouldered by international sponsors and hustled on to a plane to be dumped in the heart of Africa, is evidence that we have come full circle. Mes amis, let us welcome the return of cynical realism to the heart of foreign affairs. Waiter, bring us champagne and your finest prostitutes.