In the lopsided relationships existing between the great powers and the rest of the world, even the most outrageous deed emanating from the former can be rationalized. Hence the greatest challenge facing poor or insignificant countries is to avoid becoming victims of arrogance of the great powers, which invariably use perverted rationale for their actions. Avoiding great powers’ malevolence however may be unavoidable especially in so-called “sphere of influence” (the military doctrine that defines international relations and denies condemned countries a say about their fate).
In Latvia at the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe in May of 2005, then-U.S president George W Bush remarked: “Once again when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable.” The remark was in reference to the August 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that condemned the Baltic States to 52 years of communist rule during which millions of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians were enslaved by the Soviets. Emanating from the most powerful player in world affairs, the statement was heartfelt and contrite because Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were innocent victims of the sacrosanct doctrine “sphere of influence”, which effectively sealed their fate. Luckily for the Balts, their conqueror and tormentor, the Soviet Union, disintegrated in 1991 and their freedom restored. Though the Baltic States have since become members of NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance, their restored independence is not guarantee since they theoretically remain within Russia’s “sphere of influence.”
As for the Polish and Finnish territories seized by the Soviet Union in 1939 and 1940 respectively, they are irretrievably lost since Poland and Finland could never win a war against nuclear-armed Russia, the successor to the Soviet Union. Aptly, the Poles and Finnish bear no illusions about recovering these lost territories, despite the unambiguous and encouraging verdict of history denouncing the naked aggression of the late Soviet Union. The wrongful deed, as Stevie Wonder would say, is signed, sealed and delivered. Not surprisingly these unlawful deeds continue with the creation of the United Nations (1945) whose stated purpose is “ To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.” Paradoxically, the permanent members of the U.N Security Council, guarantors of this principle under the U.N Charter, have been its most flagrant violators.
In 1956, Britain and France, reacting to the Egyptians’ nationalization of the Suez Canal which they considered an extension of their homeland, invaded Egypt. As geopolitical realities then dictated, Britain and France’s actions ran counter to the interests of the U.S and the USSR, which ordered them to withdraw their troops. Conclusively, it was the converging interests of the Superpowers not the application of the principle enumerated in Article 1(2) of the U.N Charter that saved the Egyptians from permanently losing their sovereignty.
In 1959, Mao Tse Tung’s communist China, using the fallacious claim of Tibet being Chinese territory, invaded and annexed the peaceful country. 51 years after the fact, ethnic Tibetans are a minority in their own country. No one expects China to voluntarily relinquish its conquest or the Tibetans to organize a successful insurrection against their nuclear-armed tormentor and permanent member of the U.N Security Council. China’s deed is therefore signed, sealed and delivered.
On February 29th 2004, French and U.S forces invaded Haiti; hours later the U.N Security Council declared the country “a threat to international peace and security” and mandated its occupation under resolution 1529. Subsequent Security Council resolutions not only reaffirmed the unlawful action but also consistently ignored any wishes the Haitian people might have had since no referendum has ever been held. The sacrosanct “sphere of influence” notwithstanding, Haiti’s occupation also validates George Bush’s aforementioned remark of small nations being expendable when powerful governments negotiate.
Though instability was used as rationale for the occupation of Haiti, in which case a disproportionate number of countries would qualify as threats to international peace and security, the real motive was seething revenge for an unpardonable offense. Until Russia was humbled by Japanese arms in 1903, France, a stalwart of the western civilization, had the distinction of being the only European power to have been defeated in battles by so-called uncivilized non-white savages. It was not a coincidence that the invasion, ostensibly an act of piracy and lawlessness, happened in the year of the bi-centennial of the African slaves’ impressive victory over the arrogance of a self-styled promoter of civilization. Unfortunately Haiti’s past could never be erased because history can be revisited or re-interpreted but not undone despite the concerted and unlawful action of the great powers.
Though Haiti was not incorporated into a larger entity following the February 29th 2004 infamy, the deed is essentially similar to what happened to the Baltic States in 1939. When great powers use military force to subdue a defenseless and insignificant nation, it is indicative of their moral compass gyrating in the wrong direction because coercion must never be utilized to impose or propagate values, regardless of their merits. Despite the February 29th 2004 infamy, the French should know that their defeat at Vertières on November 18th 1803 has irretrievably been signed, sealed and delivered to history. The concerted UN action only validates the righteousness of the Haitian cause and invalidates the notion of the Security Council as guarantor of peace and security in the world.