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6738: Subj: Answer to # 6691:review:U.S. naval Mission in Haiti, 1959-1963, R. Lawless (fwd)
Subject: Answer to # 6691: review: US Naval mission to Haiti, 1959-1963.
Review by, Robert lawless
Joseph A. Allen DDS
In reading Mr. Lawless' posting regarding the Naval mission to Haiti I
was puzzled by some remarks and inferences that deserve clarification. I
will not speak to the book itself, since I did not read it, but to Mr.
Lawless' attitude towards Haiti and its security needs. Yes folks, small
countries have security concerns that must be met and assumed by their
leaders just as much as big ones.
Mr. Lawless: "Haiti did not need an army. The mission therefore was a
failure in terms of its own defined goals but was simply a bad idea."
Allow me to try one myself: The United States did not need an army. The
Vietnam War was therefore a failure in terms of its own defined goals but was
simply a bad idea. How does this sound? Congratulations if you picked
simplistic. Does the fact that the second sentence is true make the first
one valid? No, because they have nothing in common.
Does the author of the posting propose that the United States take care
of our security needs? Politicians of all stripes tell us time and again and
rightfully so, that this great nation cannot be the policeman of the world; I
think we should listen. I will not lecture Mr. Lawless on Haitian-Dominican
relations, but he must know that we have a turbulent history, and the sad
episode of 1937 is reason enough to know that the United States will only
consider our needs through the prism of its own geopolitical imperatives. It
cannot therefore reasonably be expected to protect Haitian soil or interests.
When the island gets to house 30 million souls and natural resources get
scarce (water); no one knows what will happen. I do not imply that our
Dominican friends are a menace to us, but we cannot be so na´ve as to think
that they will always act in our best interests.
The Naval mission's purposes must be evaluated in the context of the cold
war and in fact may have little to do with Haitian needs and wants. It is to
be said that the training of military personnel in Latin America was not
primarily designed to help those nations but to serve US interests.
Mr. Lawless: "The mission came from a Duvalier request for military
assistance, and the members of the mission initially and erroneously thought
they would provide the Haitian army with mobile tactical units, trained to
use light modern weapons, and capable of being integrated into a hemispheric
Did you say "Hemispheric Defense Force"? This illustrates the point I
made earlier. Even the casual observer of the Duvalier regime would note
that the former dictator had no hemispheric concerns; such a concept could
only serve countries with bigger strategic interests. I can say with a
certain degree of confidence that Francois Duvalier did not have Pan-American
dreams and did not have friends in the region. Unlike Rene Preval, Duvalier
was an isolationist who never traveled abroad and received only two heads of
state (Selassie and Somoza) in Haiti in his 14 years in power and did not
travel once. In addition, most Latin American dictators used tools provided
by the cold war to survive as did Duvalier(le cri de Jacmel).
As to the Haitian army itself, we need to remember that during the first
American occupation, the US dismantled our army based on the French model and
the police (yes it is not a new concept in Haiti), to have a lean and mean
machine that could easily be manipulated and would serve as its agent after
its departure. For the same reasons, our American friends abolished the
Haitian Senate and we functioned for the better part of the 20th century with
one legislative body. Alexis de Tocqueville would not have approved of this,
The fact that we have allowed our armed forces to degenerate to such
levels does not mean that we don't need an army; I am convinced that we do
need a professional army that can defend our interests. If we subscribe to
Mr. Lawless' logic, we should now get ready to rid ourselves of the police
because so many of its members are crooks and have caused a great deal of
harm to the Haitian society. Mr. Lawless takes his argument to the absurd
when he mentions the riot gear that were used to hurt the poor and powerless.
Were it not for riot gears, Seattle would be lawless during the World Bank
meeting (no pun intended). Poor countries need riot equipment just as much
Is Mr. Lawless a pacifist or a "selective Pacifist"? His suggestions and
inferences trouble me as a Haitian citizen because of their arrogance,
patronizing nature and glaring ignorance of the society on which he comments.
Let him make the same argument about Mexico or Canada and let's see if any
of their citizens will congratulate him for his good review. I must however
thank Mr. Lawless for making me aware of the book's existence. Even if we
were to disagree with the author's conclusions and political considerations,
the facts presented in the book could teach us a great deal about our own