By Max A. Joseph
The quest for absolute power has always played a significant role in the decline or demise of empires, as it encourages rulers to march to the sound of their own drum beats, irrespective of the realities challenging their thirst. Such strategy inevitably creates an “illusion of control,” which leads to often repeated mistakes that progressively erode these rulers’ credibility — the somewhat indispensable component of great power authority. Haiti, which singlehandedly planted the seeds for the eventual destruction of slavery in the nineteenth century, remains by far the most prominent victim of this harmful form of human interaction. As expected, the ramifications are catastrophic for the Haitian people, whose own quest for stability and development is held hostage by this geopolitical folly.
Though it is farfetched to assume the occupation of Haiti could bring the demise of current global order, the international community’s unproductive and brutal involvement in the country nevertheless fits the basic premise of this perspective: the correlation between absolute power and illusion of control.
Despite the billions spent on the occupation force MINUSTAH and two botched elections, one in 2006 and 2011, the stated goals of the international community (stability and security), have remained elusive while no one seems interested in tackling the underlying causes or reversing course. To make matters worse, this year’s general elections remain on course to follow the established and dreaded patterns of deceit, accusations and counter accusations, impunity, violence and imposition of the international community’s political will.
The reasons why the international community remains oblivious of this reality may be its deep-seated belief that the sheer magnitude of its power precludes an outcome other than the one it desires and that its vision and methods are infallible. Whether it is a deliberate strategy or ignorance of the facts, a side-effect of the “illusion of control,” the experiment has reached the point where it is practically beyond repair. Though the pros and cons of the undertaking see Haiti as a glass that is either half full or half empty, the country is actually a broken glass, whose pieces are no longer salvageable. It is therefore unwise for the international community to continue ignoring the simple fact that the same policies and the same actors could never produce an outcome different than the present one, which does not come close to achieving the goals stated in numerous and redundant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Presently, not a single pillar of the Haitian state, be it the executive, the legislative or the judiciary, can be trusted to steer the country to a better and brighter tomorrow. In fact the great majority of Haitians remains contemptuous of these institutions because of their primitive approach to governing, which encourages polarization and extremism over “compromise,” the foundation of all functioning constituent states. It helps explain this year’s bitter impasse over the composition of the CEP (French acronym for Provisional Electoral Council), which resulted in the dismemberment of the parliament and usurpation by the executive of practically all powers vested to the other two branches of government under the 1987 Constitution.
Haitian politicians are an exceptional group of people with innate peculiarities that baffle everyone unfamiliar with their antics. They are genetically wired to disregard rules, particularly those imposed by outsiders, while reserving the right to demand their strict enforcement whenever it suits their purpose. Their inability to compromise and build the foundations of a functioning state, which opens the door for the international community to come in and impose whatever solution suits its interests, is convenient and intended to deflect responsibility for their actions. On Aug. 9, in the first round of legislative elections, the chicken came home to roost through widespread violence and fraud, prompting demands from aggrieved political parties and candidates for Pierre-Louis Opont, the CEP president to resign.
Building a functioning political system in Haiti is a never-ending process destined to fail because of unpleasant actions of almost everyone involved, particularly those of the international community, which, oftentimes, crosses the threshold of malfeasance. Someone or entity needs to take responsibility for the Aug. 9 fiasco that clearly makes a mockery of internationally-accepted standards for elective political systems. It is unconscionable that the international community could not see anything wrong with the systemic violence and fraud that permeated the vote. Its endorsement of the fiasco amounts to saying that less rigid standards should apply to Haitians, as they have yet to resemble or act like human beings.
Throughout the years, the international community’s involvement in Haiti gave rise to countless conspiracy theories, many outlandish and unfathomable. No, Haiti does not possess hidden riches that surpass those of the richest countries in the world. No, the mythical “lost continent of Atlantis” is not hidden beneath the country’s shorelines. And no, Haitians are not the true “Israelites,” God’s alleged chosen people. The explanation for the occupation is more mundane: the country is simply the victim of the unquenchable thirst for “effective control” of the weaklings by predatory powers.
If absolute power were synonymous with effective control, the feudal system and, later slavery, would never have come to pass. The international community, resolute in its ability to impose its will on the beleaguered country, is setting itself up to be the victim of the age-old misconception that “absolute power” guarantees effective control. History, it turns out, has already predicted the outcome of the experiment.