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Military Peacekeeping Operations in Haiti


CSC 1997


Subject Area - Operations




Title: Military Peacekeeping Operations in Haiti


Author: Major Brent P. Goddard, United States Marine Corps


Thesis: Should the United States military have a role in peacekeeping operations in support of the national security strategy?


Background: The United States military has had an important role in peacekeeping operations throughout the country's history. One example that provides two case studies as the effects of the military in peacekeeping operations in Haiti. The U. S. military first conducted peacekeeping operations in Haiti from 1915 to 1934 to secure the American national security interest at the time. These interests consisted of protected some American business interests and providing humanitarian relief. During this period, the military conducted a massive nation building effort that provided infrastructure to Haiti, re-established the economy and supported the Haitian government. Again in 1994, the U. S. military conducted peacekeeping operations in Haiti to promote democracy and provide humanitarian relief. Both of these case studies demonstrate the importance of the military to the national security strategy when conducting peacekeeping operations.


Recommendations: The United States government should continue to use the military as an enabling force during peacekeeping operations to ensure that the national strategic objectives are achieved.



Military Peacekeeping Operations in Haiti


In October 1994, the United States prepared to invade the island country of Haiti. This assault was evident by the fact that aircraft were inbound with U. S. Army paratroopers, Marines were on station for an amphibious assault, and special forces were in place to assist the ground forces. The United States averted this invasion by diplomatic means at the last minute. This diplomatic solution caused the military to shift plans and to prepare for immediate peacekeeping and nation building responsibilities. As two years have passed since this military endeavor, a major question arises: Should the United States military have a role in peacekeeping operations in support of the national security strategy?

To answer this question, this paper will use the peacekeeping operations in Haiti as a case study to validate the military's role in peacekeeping operations. The first area of focus will be the 1915-1934 military occupation of Haiti, and how the military performed their duties as peacekeepers. The next area will be the 1994 Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY, and how this intervention was of strategic importance based on the U. S. National Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement.

Haiti was of strategic importance from the 1800s due to its geographic location. In addition to its location in the Caribbean, there were several American business interests in Haiti in the early 1900s. These business interests lead to the 1915 through 1934 military intervention in Haiti. The United States first occupied Haiti in August 1915 as a result of a directive by President Woodrow Wilson. The official reason for invading Haiti was to prevent the Germans from building submarine bases on the island, which would have been a threat to the national security of the United States. Another reason was the alleged threat of foreign intervention by France. There was no proof of either of these threats.[1] The United States fabricated these threats to downplay the true reasons which were American business interests and the implementation of Wilsonian foreign policy. Regardless of the true reason for deploying forces to Haiti, the President deployed the Marine forces based on his foreign policy beliefs.

This deployment of the U. S. Marines secured the financial assets of U. S. businesses abroad which were a strategic interest during this period. The United States' view was that an attack on a U. S. business by a foreign government was an attack on the United States in general and would not be tolerated. In addition to the threat to national security, President Wilson's foreign policy towards Haiti was that there was a humanitarian reason to deploy troops to Haiti.

Frederick Calhoun, noted author on Wilsonian foreign policy, stated that President Woodrow Wilson saw the intervention in Haiti as "an effort to protect foreign interests in a strife-torn island, but it was subsequently used to impose an American solution on Haiti's presumed inability to govern itself."[2] This foreign policy was further amplified by President Wilson when in a speech made to the League of Nations on May 27, 1916, he said:

We believed these fundamental things: First, that every people had the right to choose the sovereignty under which they live. Second, that the small states of the world had a right to enjoy the same respect for their sovereignty and for their territorial integrity that great and powerful nations expect and insist upon. Third, that the world had a right to be free from every disturbance of its peace that has its origin in aggression and the disregard of the rights of peoples and nations.[3]


From this viewpoint, President Wilson believed that the intervention in Haiti was justified and required because the Haitian government was unable to effectively govern itself. President Wilson believed that the actions of the United States were in the best interest of both the United States and Haiti because the intervention prevented a disturbance to the peace and ensured the rights of the Haitian people.

Based on these strategic interests, the U. S. Marines deployed to accomplish two strategic objectives: The first was to secure the U. S. foreign business interest, and the second was to conduct peacekeeping and nation building missions. This military deployment lasted for 19 years. During this time, two conflicting results occurred: one was that the military did a good job of restoring Haiti, and the other view was that the military forces were detrimental to the Haitians. From the U. S. Marine perspective, they did a fair job of rebuilding the nation, and the natives were apparently overjoyed to have peace.[4] The jobs assigned to the Marines were basic nation building duties. Smedley Butler reported the following during his time in Haiti:

Aside from military and police duties, our marines acting as Haitian officers was to do everything in their power to assist the native population in rebuilding their roads, their irrigation works, their bridges, to clean up their towns, and generally better the condition of the people at large, by doing which, we hoped to absolutely do away with the desire on the part of any Haitian to revolt against his government. [Sic] We were very successful in this line and the vast majority of the people were on our side because of our honesty and squareness.[5]

Overall, the Marines believed that they accomplished their mission of building a better Haiti for the Haitian people. This outcome was important because it validated President Wilson's actions toward a strategic interest of making a better life for the Haitians.

The accomplishments of these strategic interests were not without problems. There were reports of various actions that proved detrimental to the Haitian people. General George Barnett reported that during the period which he had commanded the Marines in Haiti, 2,250 Haitians had been killed. In addition to the killings, in an effort to build up the infrastructure of the nation using cheap labor, the military used a legal form of forced labor.[6] This was nothing more than legal slavery. In these incidents the use of military forces appear to violate some human rights; however, the overall results of the military intervention were that the U. S. military forces accomplished the strategic objectives of securing American business interests and nation building.

The next area that this paper will review is Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY. With the shadow of American oversight for so many years, the Haitian people forgot or never learned how to govern themselves effectively. The government of Haiti relied on the United States for its finances, its economy, its infrastructure, and its politics. When U. S. forces withdrew from Haiti in 1934, the withdrawal created a vacuum. Many repressive governments filled this vacuum over the next sixty years. The people were subjects of brutal governments, and their hopes for a better life were non-existent. These brutal governments lead to economic, social, and financial ruin for Haiti. This state of ruin created an environment in which the Haitian people started to react to their harsh conditions and hundreds left the island for the United States. This exodus of people forced the United States to recognize the human rights violations, and finally to take a stand against the illegal Haitian governments. This situation within Haiti and the mass exodus of its people to the United States eventually threatened the national interest of the United States because the news media such as Cable News Network (CNN) brought the plight of the Haitian people to the American public. The media focused its reporting on the fact that a military dictator controlled Haiti, the country was falling deeper and deeper into economic ruin, and the Haitian military takeover forced the legitimate government of Haiti to flee to the United States. These problems could not be ignored because Haiti was in the United States' backyard, and many American's believed that there was an obligation to provide assistance. The human rights violations had occurred for too long, and it was in the best interest of the Haitians for the Americans to intervene. Additionally, the U. S. government could not ignore the boat people because of the pressure that was building up in the Cuban American communities. The Cuban American communities did not want thousands of Haitian migrants destabilizing their communities, and the Cuban Americans viewed the vast number of Haitians as a threat to their well-being. These boat people created a serious dilemma for the United States and solutions to the problem were falling short. In an attempt to stem the flow of refugees to the United States, the U. S. government established migrant camps at the United States Naval Base in Guantonimo Bay, Cuba. This did not stop the problems, and still the flow of refugees continued.

All of these factors created a dilemma for the political leadership of the United States, and the leadership realized that the Haitian problems had created a threat to the security of the United States. The National Strategic Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement stated that the United States would promote democracy and provide humanitarian support. The U. S. National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement has three central components: (1) Maintaining a strong defense and employing effective diplomacy to promote cooperative security measures, (2) Work to open foreign markets and spur global economic growth, and (3) Promote democracy. The United States could apply two of these components to Haiti because of Haiti's requirements to have a new democratic government and economic reform. This strategic interest based on national strategy required the U. S. government to act.

The United States realized that it had to take drastic measures to correct the government in Haiti. Based on its national security strategy, the United States believed that its strategic interests were at stake. The United States did not deem this interest as a vital strategic interest but as an important interest that had to do with the national well-being. The Americans in Florida perceived a threat due to the migration of the Haitians to the United States, and they expected protection. Not to appear as the aggressor, the United States solicited the help of the United Nations. The U. S. State Department said, "On July 31, 1994, the UN adopted a resolution (940) authorizing member states to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure of Haiti's military leadership and restore constitutional rule."[7] This resolution was the stick that the United States required to get the international community to support its national and strategic strategy.

Within the U. S. national security strategy, there are three basic categories of national interests that merit the use of armed forces: vital interests that threaten the survival of the United States; important interests that do not affect the survival but do effect national well being; and third humanitarian interests.[8] In the case of Haiti, there were what appeared to be both important and humanitarian interests.

The important and humanitarian interests caused President Clinton to deploy U. S. Forces into Haiti. To justify this deployment, President Clinton stated five major reasons for the action. The first reason was to uphold the Monroe Doctrine by emphasizing that the Haitian problems were in America's own region. The second reason was that President Clinton evoked human rights in Haiti, speaking of "a campaign of rape, torture, and mutilation" under Cedras. The third reason was that the United States has a responsibility to protect democracy in the American Hemisphere. The fourth reason was that stability and democracy were needed to prevent a threatened invasion of refugees to the United States. The fifth and final reason was that American credibility was at stake.[9] All of these reasons demonstrated the importance of Haiti to the United States based on the United States' strategy of engagement and enlargement and the requirement for humanitarian relief in Haiti. For the second time in a century, the United States deployed forces in support of its national strategy.

The original concept of operations for the Haiti intervention was to use military combat power to restore democracy. As authorized by the United Nations' resolution, planes carrying U. S. Rangers and paratroopers were enroute to Haiti when the word to abort the mission was received due to the successful efforts of the American diplomatic delegation. Prior to the abort order, the forces planned a full scale combat operation. These combat operations were on a large conventional scale that would have quickly overcome the Haitian Armed Forces. It was this combat operation, when exposed to Cedras by the American delegation, that caused Cedras to fear for his personal safety and agree to leave Haiti. The threat of the combat forces and the willingness of the American leadership to use them, allowed the United States to achieve the first part of its strategic objective which was the re-establishment of the legitimate Haitian government and democracy. The U. S. military forces occupied Haiti, and they began the task of rebuilding democracy in Haiti and providing humanitarian relief.

Once the U. S. military intervened, the successes of the military mission were immediate. The first success was the realization of a free press for the Haitian people -- the first positive step that democracy was taking root. The free press was not the only positive step; the reception of the American forces by the Haitians was overwhelming. During the first days of the Haiti occupation, the Haitian people had the same response to the Marines in 1994 that the Marines of the 1915 occupation received. As was the case in 1915, many smiling Haitian faces met the Marines in Cap Haitian. As noted by Navy Times reporter Sean Naylor, while in Haiti, "In the Haitian town of Les Cayes, the street lights came on for the first time in 18 months. Dancing and waving palm branches, hundreds of Haitians chanted 'Darkness has left, Thank you , Clinton'"[10] The strategy of enlargement was working. The Haitian people felt safe once the Marines were patrolling the city. This feeling of security was a military objective that the Marines hoped to achieve.

The Marines went into Cap Haitian following the change in mission from an offensive invasion to a peacemaking operation. Even with this change of mission, the concept of operations remained the same. The concept of operations remained the same because the initial priority was to establish security. Once the Marines established security, the Marines would be ready to expand their role as the enabling force[11] for the U.S. 10th Mountain Division.

The Marines went into the city in two task forces with one designated to secure the airfield and one to establish security around the port facilities. Once these two major objectives were secure, the Marines extended their span of control outward. The impact that this security had on the Haitian people was immediate. For the first time in two years, they started to come out of their homes, express their opinions, and live their lives free of fear. The military intervention was beneficial to the Haitian people because it immediately started to improve the quality of life for the Haitians.

The U. S. Marines were not the only military units that made a difference in Haiti. The civil affairs units conducted their mission as though they were in a combat environment. Unlike the occupation of 1919 to 1934, when abuses and misconduct were a problem, the U. S. military used its civil affairs units to quickly established the requirements to meet the strategic objectives. The United States' military leadership realized the importance of civil affairs to gain and keep the support of the Haitian people. The first task was to conduct a civil affairs mission analysis to determine the priorities. This analysis concluded that the military forces needed to accomplish the following tasks:

"*Establish a legal system that included police, courts and civil administration, thereby overcoming a complete vacuum left by the removal of all government and administration organizations.


*Establish/restore a functioning infrastructure such as roads, electricity, telephone systems and public sanitation.


*Educate the general public about basic hygiene and public sanitation."[12]

As can be seen from these established priorities, the objectives identified by the civil affairs units fulfilled the requirements of humanitarian assistance and reinforced the strategic objectives of Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY.

Based on the civil affairs analysis, the military focused their efforts on humanitarian relief. The humanitarian needs focused on providing food to children, women, and the elderly. Thirty-nine private voluntary organizations (PVO) provided health services, and 16,000 short term jobs related to public health, sanitation, cleaning irrigation canals, and garbage collection provided much needed income to thousands of poor families.

With peacekeeping operations declared a relative success, the United States established a solid exit strategy that allowed the United States to exit the nation peacefully and to allow for self rule by the Haitian people. In reality, the withdrawal from Haiti went better than expected. All forces left Haiti with the last departing on April 17, 1996. After seventeen months in Haiti, the United State's military declared the operation a success with only one U. S. soldier killed.[13] In a March 20, 1996, Department of Defense News Briefing, Secretary of Defense William J. Perry said, "I believe that the success of UPHOLD DEMOCRACY was clear. The people of Haiti have an opportunity to rebuild their country and reclaim their destiny under the leadership of President Preval." There were many successes and failures for Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY.

The Marines ensured several successes such as the removal of a ruthless dictator, the initial establishment of free elections, and the establishment of a non-corrupt police force. As with any plan, their were also several failures such as no redistribution of wealth, no solid long term economic recovery plan, and an exit with a void that a corrupt government can easily fill again in the future. The military had very little to do with the failures, but the successes were a direct result of solid planning, hard work, and good will. By removing the dictator, establishing free elections, and initial establishment of a police force, the military created the prospect of democracy and enlargement occurred.

By attempting to establish a solid and effective police force in Haiti, the United States was successful in taking another step towards the nation's freedom. Unfortunately, the police force is young and still making mistakes, but the system is in place to make the police force a servant of the people. Over time, the police force would become stronger, and the sense of security for the people would grow as well.

The next step towards successful mission completion was a nation with free elections. These elections occurred in June 1995. There were two sides to the question of the success of the election. On one side, Newsweek reported, "Monitors cited chaos, claimed fraud. But the vote was surprisingly free of violence, a breakthrough in Haiti's political development."[14] On the other side, Maclean reported, "the elections were married [sic] by widespread confusion, missing ballots and postponement of voting in some areas."[15]

The fear of reprisals, violence, and corrupt politics were still a factor in the mindset of the Haitian people, and this mindset was detrimental to the electoral process. Again in 1997, problems plagued the polls. Senate and local elections drew very few voters because problems arose with voter registration.[16]

Even though there were the many problems with the election process in Haiti, three important goals remain in support of the United States strategic interests:

"*encourage the people of Haiti to remain committed to the electoral process.

*encourage Haiti's electoral authorities to improve that process.

*encourage Haiti's political parties -- whether they be losers or winners this time around -- to stay in that process."[17]

If these three goals are accomplished, the next elections will be more successful and one more step towards the fulfillment of a U. S. strategy of promoting democracy in Haiti.

Without the assistance of the U. S. military forces, this election process never would have been a reality.

In summation, the deployment of military forces to Haiti had a direct positive impact. It fulfilled the two strategic objectives of restoring democracy and providing humanitarian relief by building a non-corrupt police force for the security of the people and building renewed faith in the electoral process so that democracy could flourish. This ability for Haiti to flourish and the success of the U. S. military efforts can be seen by the fact that, "Haiti's gross domestic product grew 2.7% in 1995 after declining about 30% in the previous three years. Inflation fell from 52% in 1994 to 25% in 1995. Exports expanded sharply, to $100 million in 1995 from $52 million in 1994."[18] Overall, the military accomplished its strategic objectives of restoring democracy and providing humanitarian relief.

In conclusion, this paper reviewed two case studies that involved peacekeeping operations in the nation of Haiti. The first case study was the United States intervention from 1915 - 1934. During this period, the U. S. military was deployed to conduct peacekeeping operations and protect the strategic interests. The military completed this mission successfully. It secured American business interests in Haiti, re-established infrastructure, rebuilt the government, and provided humanitarian relief. The use of military forces to conduct peacekeeping operations in support of the national security was sound.

The next area that was reviewed was Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY. During this period, The U. S. military deployed to restore democracy and conduct humanitarian relief. To restore democracy, the military focused on restoring the police force, re-establishing the electoral process, and provided security. For humanitarian assistance, the military restored power, provided fresh water, provided sanitation, and provided food. Again, the use of military force to conduct peacekeeping operations in support of the national security was sound.

One of the problems with using military forces to conduct peacekeeping operations is that the military will not be deployed for an extended period of time. The American people do not desire that the forces be committed for an extended period, and the cost of extended operations is prohibitive. When the military leaves the peacekeeping operation, the nation that was being supported can drift back to the status quo. To prevent this from occurring, the military must have a solid exit strategy that works in conjunction with the implementation of economic, political and diplomatic solutions. The military is the integral part of the equation that enables the other parts of the solution to progress towards the ultimate goal of meeting all the strategic objectives while not creating a gap when the military departs.

Even with the problem of the exit strategy, the accomplishments of the military during peacekeeping operations can not be denied. The military goes into a country, quickly provides security in a situation that is very tense, and accomplishes the national strategic goals. The military not only has a role in supporting the national security strategy, but is the enabling force that establishes the conditions for other elements of power to accomplish the national objectives. No other government agency has the ability to act as the enabling force like the U. S. military during peacekeeping operations. Because of the military's ability to successfully accomplish the national strategy, the military should have a role in future peacekeeping operations in support of the national security.




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[1]Emily Greene Balch, Occupied Haiti (New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969), p20.

[2]Frederick S. Calhoun. Uses of Force and Wilsonian Foreign Policy. (Kent, Ohio: Kent University Press, 1993), P 7.

[3]Jean Baptiste Duroselle. From Wilson to Roosevelt; Foreign Policy of the United States, 1913-19. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963), p75.

[4]Smedley D. Butler. The Papers of General Smedley Darlington Butler USMC, 1915 - 1918. (1982), p154.

[5]Butler, p167.

[6]Balch, p125.

[7]"Background Notes: Haiti." p5.

[8]The White House, p3.

[9]"That NATO Headache." Economist, 7/1/95/ Vol. 336, Issue 7921, p3.

[10]Sean D. Naylor. "Well Done, But Warlike it's Not." Navy Times, 3/18/96, Vol. 45, issue 24, p1.

[11]The Marine Corps was an enabling force because they went into Haiti from amphibious shipping, established a port and airfield for follow on forces, provided security during the introduction of these forces.

[12]Eric A. Doerrer. "Operation Vignette: Civil Affairs in Haiti." Military Review, Mar/Apr 96, p2.

[13]William Matthews. "Haiti Mission Succeeded, Leader Say." Air Force Times, 3/11/96, p1.

[14]"Public Lives" Newsweek, 7/10/95, p1.

[15]"Elections in Haiti" Maclean's, 7/10/95, p21.

[16]Reuter. "GOP Team Criticizes Haiti's Vote Turnout." The Washington Post, 8 Apr 97, pA12.

[17]James F. Dobbins. "Assessing the Progress of Haitian Democracy." Dispatch, 9/25/95, Vol. 6, Issue 39, p5.

[18]Alexander F. Watson. "Support of Democracy and the Rule of Law in Haiti." Dispatch. 4/1/96, Vol. 7, Issue 14, p3.

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