The flood of refugees and disorder of democracy in the island nation of Haiti created the great controversy of whether the United States (US) should intervene and restore order in the country. The US turned to its worldview of disengagement to provide guidance; the conclusion questioned if even a drop of American blood should be spilled to aid Haiti. The experience in Vietnam modified attitudes so that the US wouldn’t be so quick to intervene militarily in foreign conflicts. In accordance with its worldviews, the US shouldn’t have intervened in Haiti since the situation not only lacked a clear threat to the US, but also the substantial benefit and strong public support—reasons deeming intervention necessary and proper at the time. The wave of refugees was hardly a threat to the US; yet reasons, at the time, for intervening was more of a political than military necessity and Haiti was in a state of domestic turmoil.
The US has undergone three worldviews since the 1920s—each offering valuable lessons and shaping the foreign policy of the era. Munich-Pearl Harbor, also known as antiappeasement, was a dramatic shift from isolationism, which developed after World War I. When adhering to the isolationism, the US eventually found itself amidst a terrible, but preventable, war. When the British and French attempted unsuccessfully to satisfy Hitler’s territorial demands at the conference in Munich, the world learned that appeasement will not prevent war; thus Munich became associated with weakness. Japan drew the US into the war through the attack on Pearl Harbor, ending the isolationist attitude. Both Europe and the US learned that they must contain the spread of communism, even if it may seem insignificant, to possibly to prevent the ensuing war. However, the antiappeasement policy led the US to enter the Vietnam conflict, revealing the weaknesses of the Munich-Pearl Harbor worldview—the US would be led into costly conflicts with little probability that it could win. The disaster in Vietnam led to the creation of the disengagement view, which was a combination of the Munich-Pearl Harbor and isolationism paradigms. This view suggests that the US fight only particular battles with high chances of success. Also, Vietnam portrayed that winning a war is doubtful if it doesn’t have the support of the people and there shouldn’t be any interventions in civil conflicts.
The call for military action is justified if a clear and immediate danger is evident; however, the situation in Haiti lacked such a danger to the US. The only clear effect Haiti had on the US were the refugees attempting to reach American soil, which aroused the public enough to call for a stop to the influx of refugees. However, this request doesn’t necessarily constitute major public support for military intervention in Haiti. Refugees are not considered a clear and immediate threat; therefore the use of the military is questionable. The US also learned from Vietnam that involvement in a conflict that the public does not condone hinders the chances of success. There wasn’t strong public support for intervention in Haiti, as there was to enter World War II, thus it may become a regretful decision militarily as well as politically. Without a clear threat or overwhelming public support, the US lacked a definite reason to take action in Haiti.
One lesson the US learned from Vietnam is that it shouldn’t become involved in the civil disputes of other countries. The situation in Haiti was very much a civil situation. If the current worldview were followed, the US would have not gotten involved. The people of Haiti were divided between the supporters of democracy and those fearing the return of the democratic president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Therefore, attaining a clear mandate to assist the people of Haiti would be difficult. Vietnam exemplified that we shouldn’t become militarily involved in foreign matter that do not have the support of that country’s majority. Also, whether Haiti wants US help is unknown. When the US strived to restore stability in Haiti in 1915, the Haitians became upset and didn’t want US aid, proving that the exact situation could occur now. The fact that Haiti was in a civil dispute weighs against support for intervening in the country.
The actual reasons to finally take action with Haiti were not out of necessity, but rather out of political reasons. When action is taken from this direction, it will lack the widespread support found if action is taken out of necessity. The argument the US was intervening in Haiti to restore democracy was not the actual reason action was taken. Action was finally taken in order to appease particular interest groups, such as the black congressional caucus, to pass President Clinton’s healthcare bills. The restoration of democracy was also unlikely because it never had a foothold in Haiti, where dictatorship and political turmoil long existed in its history, even before a democracy was established. Therefore, the restoration of democracy may be a temporary episode that may be soon upturned by another coup d’état. The non-political benefits in invading Haiti were weak and the political reasons cannot justify the loss of American lives.
The US’ actions regarding Haiti appear to contradict the disengagement worldview because there wasn’t sufficient reason to take action. An immediate threat didn’t exist, nor was there clear support for action, and the results were questionable. Once the US took action, it didn’t secure democracy and soon Haiti was removed from the political agenda. Hence, it can be inferred that the US never took a long-term interest in Haiti and the sole purpose of the military action was to appease the interest groups. Such action should only occur if there is a compelling reason (which was lacking during the US involvement), or if there is now a departure from the disengagement worldview into a new paradigm.