I have written multiple times on survival of disasters and how you can cope with disaster through preparation. Here is what I have said in the first of a series of articles on survival, although I had written about the same topic before that in much the same way:
The #1 thing I learned while hiking, camping, driving and so on is that you keep necessities with you so you don't waste time and energy on worrying. The moment you sit to worry, or sit to think, or sit to do anything but rest for a few minutes, then you are no longer thinking about surviving what life is handing you. The act of worrying when you need to be surviving is to not be surviving and that ends up in a very bad place for you... and whoever has to come and get your carcass out from where you worried yourself to death.
Nor can you think your way to surviving. You can only DO your way to surviving and when you do something wrong you admit it and then change what you are doing to account for it. If you aren't doing, you aren't actually thinking about what you need to do to survive. Plenty of time for self-recrimination when you get back out of your situation to whatever passes for civilization.
This describes a mind-set, a way of approaching life and problems. I recognize it as such and it works for me rather well, YMMV.
When disaster strikes I look at those caught in the midst of it and ask myself: 'Did that person plan on surviving?'
It may seem rough, crude, nasty but life is all those things and mother nature is not kind to you. Disasters can and do strike at the most inopportune times, namely when you least expect them to. That is why they are called 'disasters' and not 'carnival rides'. In a disaster that strikes anyone, your chances of 'being saved' depends completely on your ability to survive past the disaster. Getting through a major earthquake, aircraft falling out of the sky, being shipwrecked, stranded by the roadside when your car skids off into a ditch... all of these requires a mode of thought to kick in which puts your survival first and foremost. If you have others with you, then you cannot help them if you do not survive. I'm sorry if this is a shock to you, but if you love someone, dearly, your best way to save them (save in lovely circumstances of 'its either them or me' often seen in works of fiction and less often in real life) is to ensure that you can survive. A man trapped with a boulder crushing his forearm and being alone had one choice and took it: he cut off his forearm. And survived. Family units that break up for a father to go out and bravely seek assistance often finds either the father or the family dead. Sticking together to share resources and skills is a damned good idea, but circumstances can dictate that staying where you are is lethal.
Looking at the disaster in Haiti, we see a Nation that has not prepared its infrastructure for an earthquake there, and they are not unknown on the island. With so many collapsed buildings it is safe to say that the building codes were not up to snuff or, if they were, that the companies doing the construction did not adhere to them and they passed inspection anyway. Emergency services are lacking and absent on the ground in a real sort of way with police stations, fire houses and even hospitals collapsing due to the quake. Nor are there indications that the power infrastructure, potable water lines and sewage infrastructure were in any way prepared for this sort of event. The main harbor to the Nation at Port au Prince is a mess and it is safe to say that it was not built up to codes to resist earthquakes as now the US Sea Bees are on the job to clear the harbor for shipping. The finger-pointing by most commentators is to a lackluster government, full of corruption and creating more poverty as they do not return any essential services in a concrete way for the money taxed from the citizenry. That impoverishment means the average Haitian is dependant upon the government for any largesse that can be dispensed, and becomes an electable kleptocracy where past governors take the money and run, when they do not situate themselves in for a permanent life term.
This is a Nation that can not do on its own, and at the slightest disaster the entire Nation needs 'saving'. Yet, sharing the island with Haiti, is the Dominican Republic that appears, even while poor, to be doing a bit better job of running itself in the exact same climate, geography and geophysical circumstances as their poor neighbor. Thus what is seen is not a lack in natural resources, not a lack in personal fortitude and not a lack capability as all men are created equal. What is seen is an outgrowth of a lack in society and its organ called government. If there is something wrong with the organ then that is a reflection of the society: as night follows day, a corrupt government is indicative of a society that is corruptible. You cannot get the government like that without assent from the people of the Nation for it. That assent may be coerced, yes, as it is with dictators the world over willing to kill their way to power and threaten their own citizens and make them subjects, so too that may be the case with Haiti. If that is the case then our past experience will tell us this is so.
Past experience, you ask?
For what I have heard from a limited portion of commentators in the media wanting the US to 'take over' Haiti for a few months and get things running, there is a deep and extreme caution flag that they are missing. America has been there and done that before. And not just for a few months, either.
One of the seminal papers on US Counter-Insurgency (COIN) was done by Peter L. Bunce with a work published on 05 JUN 1995 in Foundations On Sand: An Analysis Of The First United States Occupation Of Haiti 1915-1934. As COIN is something we have gotten to experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Colombia, Philippines and elsewhere, it behooves us to understand the goals, execution and results of a COIN operation that was done in our past in the exact, same Nation by the United States. The Executive Summary of the paper is telling:
Thesis: The first United States Occupation of Haiti, after a slow start, made a great variety of capital improvements for Haiti, made changes in the Haitian political system, and refinanced the Haitian economy, none of which had much lasting impact on the Haiti people once the occupation was terminated.
Background: The United States occupied Haiti originally to restore public order in 1915. It's self-imposed mandate quickly expanded to reestablishing Haitian credit in the international credit system, establishing good government and public order, and promoting investment in Haitian agriculture and industry. After a slow start, marred by a brutal revolt in 1918-20, the United States Occupation of Haiti was reorganized and began to address many of the perceived shortcomings of Haitian society. Its international and internal debt was refinanced, substantial public works projects completed, a comprehensive hospital system established, a national constabulary (the Gendarmerie [later Garde] d'Haiti) officered and trained by Marines, and several peaceful transitions of national authority were accomplished under American tutelage. After new civil unrest in 1929, the United States came to an agreement to end the Occupation before its Treaty-mandated termination in 1936. Once the Americans departed in 1934, Haiti reverted to its former state of various groups competing for national power to enrich themselves. Almost all changes the American Occupation attempted to accomplish failed in Haiti because they did not take into consideration the Haitian political and social culture.
Recommendation: Before the United States intervenes in foreign countries, particularly in those where nation-building improvements are to be attempted, the political and social cultures of those countries must be taken into consideration.
The Thesis is, itself, telling. Those in the areas of commentary and punditry could learn something from that Thesis which is the seminal distillation of the entire work. Any calls to improve the Haitian infrastructure, clean up its political system and get the Haitian economy going fell apart as soon as the US left Haiti. In the Background is the telling sentence I highlighted that points to the failure of the infrastructure being rooted in Haitian political and social culture, not the fault of the 'occupiers' who created a then modern infrastructure, financed its farming and banking system, and installed a political group to run Haiti. From that the Recommendation is well founded and the US, outside of wartime work, must examine when it intervenes in foreign Nations and determine what, if anything, can be done through the good will and money of the people of the United States in regards to the country we are involved with. That Recommendation is the largest warning flag to be put up for all of those seeking 'humanitarian missions' and 'peace keeping' operations and are then unwilling to examine the society, culture and political structure of those areas that they want intervention. It is a hard lesson the United States learned in blood and money put into a Nation that could not, for all of the niceness of its individuals, keep that infrastructure going even after they had been trained to do so.
Any goals for 'humanitarian missions' must take into consideration that while all men are created equal, they form different and unique societies that are unequal to each other and that some will operate far, far better than others. That is no aspersion on the individuals, although the society is reflective of them, but of the inability to examine the society involved in an honest manner and ask: 'just what can these people sustain once we leave them?'
To examine the roots of the problem you do not look at 'root causes' but see the roots, themselves, and how they exist and function. You do not start with presumed 'root causes' and see if they match against some pre-determined checklist, but, instead, see what functions, how it functions and why it functions the way it does to see what the causes of problems actually are. That is a much harder job than blithely pointing at 'root causes' because it leads one out of gauzy theory and multi-culti blandness and into the cold, hard world of examination and seeing the illnesses of society as they exist, not as you think they exist. You cannot think your way to survival but only do your way to survival and, similarly, you cannot think your way to the causes of societal problems via theory, only the actual doing of examination. If you do not think before you do, then you are likely to screw things up and if you can't examine the actual problems when you form your plan you are likely to fail. Thus any good analysis paper starts with examining things as they are:
By the turn of the 20th Century, Haiti was a deeply troubled country. Its society, since the revolutions, had always been divided. In the absence of the French colonialists--all of whom fled the country in 1804 or were killed--the mulâtres, the mulatto class, approximately three percent of the population, assumed the social role of the colonials. The peasantry, almost exclusively African in ancestry, remained peasants. The elite of Haiti, who for all intents and purposes ran (and run) Haiti, are largely, not exclusively, mulâtres. Noirs, particularly those with a military background or powerbase, could become part of the elite, and often ruled Haiti. But Haiti was and is most often administered for the benefit of the elite, and the elite are heavily mulâtre. "As in colonial Saint Domingue [Haiti], where the gens de couleur and black slaves hated each other, racial antagonism persisted between the elite and the black peasantry of Haiti."4
This is long after Haiti became an independent country in 1804. And while it would still suffer from its original association with France, the shift of power inside the Nation to an elite, minority class was a result of its history as a colony. The division in society between the mulatto and blacks served as a long term divisive factor in the Nation. External factors do play a role in that period before the first US occupation, as seen in the corrupt banking system:
The Banque Nationale d'Haiti was Haiti's treasury and fiscal agent. Instead of being a financial entity controlled by the Haitian government, it was a French stock company, owned principally by French banks, led by the Banque de l'Union Parisienne. It charged a commission on the Haitian issue of paper currency and on the cashing of checks. Since the French blacklisted Haiti on the world financial markets, so as to keep the Haitian account for themselves, the French funneled all loans to the government through the Banque, often at outrageous discounts*.12 To give an example of French loan practices, Haitian obstacles to establishing a bank in 1874 was multiplied by the various political and financial thieves inside and outside Haiti:
[Late 19th Century political leader Antenor]Firmin and historian Antione Magloire say the loan was 60 million francs, to be repaid in forty annual installments of 7.5 million francs, a return of 400 percent. [Dantes] Bellegarde says 50 million francs, but that the Crédit-Général in Paris was able to raise only 36.5 million, of which 26 million went to intermediaries and private pockets in Port-au-Prince and Paris, while the remaining 10 million francs were used to liquidate, at par, a mountain of worthless Haitian bonds bought up as scrap paper by European speculators. The Crédit-Général's commission alone exceeded 9.5 million francs.13
Finally chartered in 1880, the Banque Nationale d'Haiti lost its charter in 1905, after refusing to back Nord Alexis' blizzard of paper money. A five year period of intense competition between French, German, and American (relative newcomers) banking interests ensued over rechartering a new bank. Finally, in late 1910, the Haitian legislature voted to dissolve the Banque Nationale d'Haiti, and created a new Banque Nationale de la République d'Haiti, which moved into the old Banque's headquarters. French banking interests, which put the package together with several German-American private banks, diplomatically invited in American interests (including the infamous National City Bank14). The French had a 75% interest in the new bank, the Americans and the German-American banks 20%, and the German Berliner Handelsgesellschaft Bank 5%. Not surprisingly, the new $13 million loan was discounted to $9.4 million.15
The government that backed this, in Haiti, was neither wise, smart or had any foresight. They would further back a railroad scheme by James P. McDonald that would effectively give him rights to half the land in Haiti for putting down a railroad. That rail line was never completed, but did lead to an unrest and an uprising in the northern highlands. Those highlands served as the place where mercenaries had traditionally gathered to serve the local tribal Kings, and they attacked the railroad camps and then the government itself. That racial division, then, served as one causative factor to an insurrection and the short-sightedness of the ruling elite then served as another: neither one is indicative on its own, and both required the long tradition of local tribes hiring mercenaries to come to a head as had happened before in Haiti.
Thus the 'root causes' argument of Haiti being the fault of France/US/Germany can be dispensed with. If Haiti had a functioning society it would seek to smooth out the differences between the urban, elite culture and the rural, tribal culture and offer opportunities for 'buy-in' by that rural culture without having to go through elitist intermediaries. No one has forced that societal structure on the Haitians, and while it was an artifact of colonial rule, that rule directly ended in 1804 with the rulers fled or dead. Yes France did play a role in the system, without a doubt and is a causative factor. The society, itself, by adhering to that for over a century is a primary factor: any society that wanted to do without such meddling, without an elite class, would have removed them either peacefully or under force of arms. The tribes had demonstrated that capability and by 1910 it would begin the ball rolling to further internal disasters.
If we replace kleptocratic elites for the French, you then get the same power structure with a different formulation of who gets what, but retaining the same societal agenda that was previously set. No amount of 'reparations' would improve this, and the similar work about to be undertaken by the US underscores that. You cannot 'make right' with money a society and culture that is failing.
Skipping ahead past sorry turmoil, insurrections and such, we come to 1915 the US President is Woodrow Wilson noted for his not wanting to get involved in the European World War that was going on, wanting to be the big peace maker and generally be a Progressive in pushing forward an isolationist agenda militarily but an expansive global agenda in other realms and the Admiral is Caperton of the (CA) USS Washington:
In July 1915, the Washington, Rear Admiral Caperton embarked, sat in Port au Prince harbor as still another Haitian presidency wound its way to a messy conclusion. This time it was Guillaume Sam, who was besieged in his palace by a new challenger, Dr. Rosalvo Bobo. At daybreak on 27 July 1915, Sam made a break for the French legation next door. Sam made it, although most of the people accompanying him did not. He sent a message to his chief of police, Charles-Oscar Etienne, at the police Arrondissement in the lower city, to the effect that his presidency was over and that Etienne should follow the dictates of his own conscience ["La partie est perdue, j'abandonne le pouvoir. Faites ce que votre conscience vous dictera."]. Accounts vary, but somewhere between 160 and 'nearly 200' political prisoners, from Haiti's mulâtre elite--including ex-president Oreste Zamor, died. The next day, a mob of the elite attacked Guillaume Sam in the French legation and murdered him. Sam's mutilated body was dragged through the streets. Having received a green light from the State Department via the Acting Secretary of the Navy, Caperton met with the American and British chiefs of mission and the French minister aboard the Washington and, with their concurrence, decided to land troops and restore order.24
While his small landing force secured the legations in Port au Prince, Admiral Caperton had a problem. With Guillaume Sam dead, there was no one really in charge in the city. There was a revolutionary committee formed by General Polynice,25 Charles Zamor (brother of the recently deceased ex-president), and others*, but no one, at least to American eyes appeared to be in charge. The landing force was disarming what remained of the Haitian Army in Port au Prince (and confiscated five wagon-loads of weapons the first day), and the Haitian legislature was going through the opening stages of voting for still another new President, but with the immediate crisis under control, Caperton didn't know what the United States Government wanted. The Secretary of State, Robert Lansing was relatively new (his predecessor, William Jennings Bryan, resigned in June 1915, in a disagreement over President Wilson's handling of the Lusitania crisis), so he asked the President: "The situation in Haiti is distressing and very perplexing. I am not at all sure what we ought to do or what we legally can do . . . I hope you can give me some suggestion as to what course we can pursue." Wilson apparently answered the next day:
I suppose there is nothing to do but to take the bull by the horns and restore order . . .
1. We must send to Port au Prince a force sufficient to absolutely control the city not only by also the country immediately about it from which it draws its foods . . .
2. We must let the present Haitian Congress know that we will protect it but that we will not recognize any action on its part that does not put men in charge of affairs whom we can trust to handle and put an end to revolution.
3. We must give all who now have authority there or who desire to have it or who think they have it or are about to have it understand that we shall take steps to prevent the payment of debts contracted to finance revolutions.
. . . In other words, that we consider it our duty to insist on constitutional government and will, if necessary (that is, if they force us to it as the only way), take charge of elections and see that a real government is erected which we can support.26
Caperton radioed Washington DC on 5 August that the president of the Haitian Senate, Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave, appeared most electable, and that he "realizes Haiti must agree to any terms laid down by the United States, professes to believe any terms demanded will be for Haiti's benefit, [and] says he will use all his influence with [the] Haitian Congress to have such terms agreed upon by Haiti."27 To insure Dartiguenave's election, all Caperton had to do was neutralize the Cacos, take Dr. Bobo out of the running, and make sure the election in the Haitian legislature went for Dartiguenave.
Thus under the best of intentions, to create a constitutional form of government, President Wilson ordered the intervention into Haiti. Notice that the unrest had caused a problem in the food supply? For a Nation that is barely 30 miles wide and has one really good deep sea shipping port, Haiti has a problem in that anything that causes Port au Prince to go into disorder soon puts the entire Nation in jeopardy. Also notice that the orders are from the top heading downwards? Create a constitution first, get everyone to run by it second? That is Progressivism at work, trying to create a new social order from the top and impose it on those beneath the top level. It would prove to have ruinous ramifications.
An extension of those ramifications would be brought up in Senate testimony given by Admiral Caperton in 1921 as he described trying to get agreement from the two major leaders of Haiti, Senator Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave and Dr. Rosalvo Bobo an associate of Davilimar Théodore who had fallen out the with Zamor family and took control of the Cacos army (a mercenary group that the Zamor family had hired, but couldn't finance due to banking troubles). In that testimony Admiral Caperton describes how the meeting he had with the two men went in 1915:
"Senator Dartiguenave, in case Dr. Bobo should be elected will you promise that you will exert every influence in your power to assist him for Haiti's good; that you will join with him heartily and helpfully and loyally?"
"If Dr. Bobo is elected president I will give him the most loyal, earnest support in every effort he may make for Haiti's welfare," replied Dartiguenave, with simple dignity.
"Dr. Bobo, if Senator Dartiguenave is elected president, will you help him loyally and earnestly in his efforts to benefit Haiti?"
"No I will not!" shouted Bobo. "If Senator Dartiguenave is elected president I will not help him. I will go away and leave Haiti to her fate. I alone am fit to be president of Haiti; I alone understand Haiti's aspirations, no one is fit to be president but me; there is no patriotism in Haiti to be compared with mine; the Haitians love no one as they love me."28
The Senator is one of the elite class in Haiti, while Dr. Bobo is a third-hand representative of the Zamor family, and neither had much in the way of scope or grounding to lead Haiti. With the Senator being the only one of the two elected, Dr. Bobo saw the handwriting on the wall and left just before Admiral Caperton would go through his chain of command to say that the US supports the Senator in his bid to be President of Haiti. With that the USMC secured the legislative building and a session of the Haitian legislature arrived, with members armed, to hold a vote for the next President, which was one by Senator Dartiguenave, overwhelmingly. Thus the elite would have their leader for the Nation that would serve their purposes and not so much those of the people of Haiti. The Treaty that would allow the US occupation of Haiti, however, had the US in a role of oversight for Haitian finances, and the analysis examines just who was the resistance to the occupation because of that:
Another byproduct of the American Haitian Treaty was the Haitian Union Patriotique, which was to become the principle organization of Haitian resistance to the First Occupation. Interestingly, it was an organization of and for the Haitian elite, the opinion of the noir peasantry towards the Occupation was apparently neither desired nor solicited.33 (A comment by the French minister in May 1916 (after the pacification of the Artibonite and the North by the Marines): "'The peasants, the pure noirs,' he wrote, 'are, like the tradesmen in the towns, delighted with the American occupation.'"34)
The US comes in, creates stability, pisses off the elites and gets the support of the middle class of Haiti. It must be remembered that the middle class is primarily urban, not rural, while the peasantry spans from urban to rural. The US would take over trade and customs control, putting in normal regulatory systems and set the Haitian currency on par with the US dollar, which would wipe out the elite class that depended on debasing the currency, running costly exchange venues and getting private deals for goods.
To get permanent reforms through the Haitian legislature would not be amenable to the necessary laws to put their favorite cronies out of business and President Dartiguenave dissolved the Senate and put the lower house representative body in charge of writing a new Constitution. It is interesting that although this was expedient for both the President and the US, it was not what was expected for a means of enacting reforms:
Using an ancient Haitian constitutional device, Dartiguenave dissolved the Haitian Senate 6 April, 1916, and instituted a Council of State in its place. He then designated the lower house a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution40 (Annex C, Appendix 8). Interestingly, a document from the Butler Papers (Butler was Chef of the Gendarmerie by this time), entitled "Coup d'Etat" details the reports the American had and made on the closing of the Senate41. From the title, and its inclusion in Butler's papers, it would appear that Butler, his Marine Gendarmerie officers, or both, disapproved of Dartiguenave's action, even though it served American interests as well as Dartiguenave's. This is especially interesting, considering Butler's part in the closing of the Haitian legislature the following year. According to his testimony before the Senate investigating committee in 1921, Colonel Waller, who had been told by Dartiguenave that he feared impeachment, was also opposed to the action.42
Maj. Butler (later Lt. Col. and Brigadier General) and Col. Waller (later Major General) were both of the USMC and were part of the force to stabilize Haiti. Both of these men are part of the US system of military in which there is civilian control over the military and the idea of dissolving a Constitution to get legislative reforms through is one that obviously did not sit well with them in their role as 'occupiers'. With that said it must also be understood that Haiti had gone through 17 Constitutions by that point in time.
This is actually a prime point: Haiti would be doing what Jefferson recommended, having a new Constitution every generation, save that it would be about every 6 years in Haiti between Constitutions. You cannot set up a government with any continuity in 6 years. You can't set up an orderly system of civil law if the Constitution on which it is based changes that frequently. The absolute reverence by the US military forces, here the USMC, for a Constitutional law process and civil command over the military puts them in stark contrast with what is going on in Haiti. No civil society that exists can survive such major changes so frequently and be a coherent society able to support civil needs as what may be perfectly allowable one year may not be in 6 years or 3 years or next year depending on who is coming to power and when.
Top down government that starts with a Constitution with only political representatives from the old system that do NOT offer widespread public input to a Constitution are unlikely to draft a Constitution that does anything but meet current needs. When the people are eliminated from the drafting process and only the political elites form that process, the result is an elitist supporting document. Here even the limited geography of Haiti, which should be the hallmark of creating a strong republic, has not sufficed for such a republic as the people have no means of input to it and the elites feel they can change the structure of government via overthrow of an existing regime and getting their cronies to support the takeover. The end product of that is not a government that has stability, but is seen as unstable from the start. As each ruling clique comes to power, they wash away the previous set of laws and support for them and will keep only a few 'traditional' forms of government. Like allowing the President to liquidate the Legislature and have the lower house draft a new Constitution. That makes the Presidency the key point of power and puts the Legislative branch into a secondary, and supporting role for the Executive.
Why bother voting if none of your input matters and none of the expected works of government (safeguarding the Nation, controlling its borders, ensuring equal opportunity for trade and commerce) can 'stick' via the legislative process? Without an adherence to a system of laws, you get no legal system from that as the crafting of such a system requires long term input and remediation, not overthrow of the whole thing in a term or two of a representative. Without the security that government brings via laws and governance to private life, to safeguard your wealth from the ravages of tyranny, you get a system that is tyrannical and sees private wealth as a 'cookie jar' to be raided by one set of elites or another. Basic security of ownership rights creates an atmosphere where achievement can take place and a society and Nation be built upon personal achievement for oneself and one's family. In being unable to get the basic underpinnings for personal rights Haiti does not create an atmosphere where you are expected to do for yourself.
If you cannot DIY and create the necessary safeguards to fall back on for yourself and your loved ones, and await the next group of elites that may or may not rob you blind, when a disaster strikes you are in a position of needing rescuing as the government has not allowed you to do the basics so you can rescue yourself.
In Nations with normal law processes, when the citizens start to safeguard themselves by supplying themselves with necessary long-term consumables before they are needed (stockpiling) a clear and exacting message is being put out: the citizens no longer trust the government to secure their rights to a civil economy. With that said, change the government via any means and overthrow entire systems of laws based on Constitutions that are ephemeral, then the supplies will run out and government will exercise its will over people's economic well being to the ends of government, not the people.
With one short episode and the responses to USMC members on what was going on at the time, we get a clear sign of why Haiti had problems and would continue to have problems: there is no ability to make the rule of law stick there.
The Harding Administration had a review of the Occupation performed to look into military abuses during and after an uprising. The claims were found to be over-blown and the committee recommended a number of civil works be performed to help the people of Haiti:
The committee also noted that the thrust of most of the accusations had been an effort to discredit the entire occupation of Haiti.57 More importantly, the Committee noted that the occupation was not serving its goals and recommended changes:
¨ "... [place] within reach of the Haitian masses, justice, schools, and agricultural instruction . . . [and] . . . send to Haiti a commission comprising a commercial advisor, an expert in tropical agriculture, and an educator . . ."
¨ "..advise the Haitian government against permitting foreign interests to acquire great land holdings in Haiti."
¨ "...as communications are opened up and as the peasants are secure in their life and property, . . . reduce the force of marines in the territory of the Republic and ultimately to intrust the maintenance of order and peace exclusively to the gendarmes."
¨ Eliminate provost courts for civil crimes and "offenses by the press against public order."
¨ Raise the caliber and qualifications of the Americans who represent the United States in Haiti.58
Interestingly, almost a year earlier, President Harding had apparently solicited an evaluation of the Occupation from the State Department shortly after his inauguration in 1921. Written by Sumner Wells, who at the time was Chief of the Latin American Division of the State Department and who would become the American High Commissioner in the Dominican Republic in 192259, it recommended similar changes in the Occupation and its administration:
¨ Increase the size of Gendarmerie d'Haiti in order to increase public order.
¨ Appoint a single representative of the United States to represent the President in Haiti and subordinate all United States "Treaty officials" to this representative.
¨ Change the basic supervision of the Occupation of Haiti from the Navy Department to the State Department, which would presumed to be more diplomatic in budget items, for instance.
¨ Develop the Haitian economy, principally by reforming the Haitian education system60 (Annex C, Appendix 16).
Thus, getting recommendations from all sides, the Occupation of Haiti entered a period of great change and, ultimately, some progress.
This is modern 'Nation Building' seen in a nutshell. It is famous for not working.
Notice that all the recommendations are top-down predicated?
Without exception this is the concept that good government can 'create' society that is civil. Yet our understanding is that civil society creates many organs of which government is but one, and not the brains, either, but the means to digest the rougher stuff so that sustenance can be garnered for the entire body. Government cannot create civil society, but is an outgrowth of civil society. Trying to build up a government and hope that it gets popular support is a dream of every individual supporting the conception that government is the leader of civil society and that we should vest all our effort, welfare and, ultimately, lives in the support of government. Getting good and honest bureaucrats is one thing, getting a good and honest system of government to find, maintain and support a modicum of good an honest bureaucrats is something else, again.
When the people are considered citizens, they get an input into society and government, and are able to protect themselves without the undue intrusion of government in their lives and can seek the recourse of law against government. When one is a subject of government, the people are considered objects of government and even with courts one must plea or supplicate to get justice done and the government may, at its convenience, forestall any suits against it in the civil venue. While all governments have that last as part of its background, in a civil system that is upheld by society, government rarely uses that ability and puts itself in the position of being controlled by the citizenry. Subjects are less able to assert civil control over government and when government pleases to do something that is against one or many of the people and seeks the refuge of its ability not to be held accountable, then one is left with arms as the only means to hold government accountable.
That last is the case of Haiti, save that only those with some money (the elites and land owners) have the ability to overthrow government by force of arms. Even when there is peasant input, it is to an elite group that they look for leadership or organization, not to themselves.
Our recent experience in Iraq points to these lessons being learned as COIN did not consist of getting this or that public works built or making this or that department of government able to stand up, but put up a framework of a government and then went to the bottom to start the re-building process. One of the prime testing grounds for this conception, and a large scale success, was in Fallujah where, post-combat and after some stumbling of initial stand-up, the US forces reached out to the local population and found what the diverse tribal groups actually wanted to feel secure. That turned out to be not water, sewage, or electricity or schools, but getting the family compound walls fixed.
In a city that has always been described as 'lawless' in travelogues going back to the 1920's, and even further back in local history, trust was won and built upon at the lowest level and built up, not downwards. At each higher level of needs there was local support for them and it wasn't imposed by a grand vision or scheme which would 'make everything right' and set down a government. The system of politics that arrives from that is one that is federalist in formulation: strong local governments, accountable provincial governments and the National government needing to address the needs of the provinces to be seen as legitimate, plus the people from the local basis have direct input and say into their own political structure.
By repeating the methodology and allowing the locals to set the course of their needs, first, the entire rebuilding would change the original framework by adjusting it, yet still leave its outlines visible. The civil society grew into an adaptable framework of government and populated it from the bottom-upwards. You will still get corrupt bureaucrats and politicians, yes, that is true in any system of government. What was put in place, however, was the concept of using the structure to weed them out via civil law.
In Iraq the people considered themselves Iraqi's, first, members of tribes, second, and family members and clans, third, with religion falling out into the much lower ranks for associative elements. That points to a class of people who have education, a knowledge of government and the ability to understand why you need a Nation and why you need strong social ties within society. Haiti would not be so lucky in the 1920's as even getting the basics taught met resistance:
One area in which the Americans encountered an immense amount of resistance was in the area of public education. In his memo for President Harding, Sumner Welles accused the Haitian elite publicly funding education at adequate levels, while actually pocketing the bulk of the money for themselves.67 In 1923, General Russell instituted a Service Technique de l'Agriculture et de l'Ensignement Professionel, or Service Technique as it became known, to provide a agricultural educational system for the noir peasantry under a Dr. George F. Freeman. This was "a matter of extreme social sensitivity for the elite," who feared both the social consequences of an educated noir peasantry and the loss of the noirs' loyalty to the blancs, who were improving their lives.68
The elites preferred an uneducated peasantry as educating the poor would change the entire power structure of society to the detriment of the elite classes. Yet that is the foundation of a civil society that supports any form of representative democracy: an educated population. The very foundation of the modern public school system was to get the very basics of what is necessary to be literate, reading, writing and math skills, to the poor or those who could not afford private schooling. In an agrarian system with so much time spent working for adults at manual labor, there was little or no opportunity to teach any skills to children. Adults, themselves, were often illiterate and unable to do basic and necessary math functions for understanding what their labor was worth.
DIYism does not, of necessity, predicate itself upon literacy or math knowledge. Without them you cannot judge changes in society either in type or scale, so as to estimate the impact of them on your life. One of the observations of the use of home computers is that they allowed the common man to utilize sophisticated analysis tools for economic review and forecasting, thus allowing people to change their perspective on what was coming to either maximize their profit or minimize their losses. This is a large step away from being able to see if changes are coming, but the literacy in reading and math skills means that such venues are open to you: without them you are relying upon the educated class for your survival, by and large, although still keeping some things for a 'rainy day' you cannot judge if it will be a gentle summer shower or a hurricane.
Education would prove one of the spark points that would usher in the end of the American Occupation of Haiti, in that student uprisings against the teaching of the peasants would spread throughout the cities and require the Hoover Administration to start the plans for leaving the Nation. Under FDR the last of the Marines would leave in 1934 and the works build over the prior years were turned over to the Haitians:
The Constitution, modified in 1928, was again changed in 1935 to invest more power in the President. According to the first Haitian Chef of the Garde d'Haiti-- Démosthènes Calixte, the same officer who was the Haitian deputy of the then-new Ecole Militaire in 1922 under General Russell--the Garde was rapidly politicized, beginning in 1934.78 This same officer offers some observations (1939) to what happened to the institutions left the Haitians by the United States Marines Corps and Navy:
¨ The Sanitation and Hygiene Service, which was originally an organization trained by the officers of the Medical corps of the United States Navy, has lost its real purpose as an institution. The persons responsible for its administration are rank politicians and the most ill-bred officials Haiti ever had.
¨ The Public Works Administration was also organized by officers of the Civil Engineer Corps of the United States Navy. But since its "Haitianization", it has become merely a payroll institution for all the friends of the President who are jobless, as well as those who do not care to work. The engineers and architects in charge of various departments cannot do anything to remedy the situation.This is why this service has spent so much money and Haiti still has no roads, no bridges, and no sewers in areas where such construction is badly needed.
¨ The Agricultural and Rural Education Service . . . was, after its "Haitianization." placed under another foreigner, a Belgian, who resigned in 1938. This department could have rendered great service if the five-year plan submitted by the scientific agriculturist-in-charge had been approved by the government. . .Political opportunism was rampant. No attempt was made even to try the plan.
¨ The Contribution or Internal Tax Service was also organized by Americans. The Haitians who have replaced the Americans are competent and honest; but again political interference was followed by embezzlement of Government funds, which of course went unpunished.
¨ Education is purposely neglected for the benefit of politics and social prejudice. The method of education in Haiti has always been a matter for "discussion." The removal from office of competent administrators and personnel of the Education Department for political reason renders the problem practically insoluble.
¨ There cannot be an independent press in Haiti, because of the enactment of a law against a free press. A 'state of siege' is maintained by the present government, but even in time of peace no one can express an honest opinion as to the general condition or administration of the country without being mistreated.79
Other observers, even those hostile to the United States Occupation, have noted the deterioration of the infrastructure: "American civil service reform, for instance, had little impact. After the occupation, Haitian politics reverted to the 'spoils system' whereby successive administrations installed their own partisans in public office."
"...The network of roads, potentially the most significant legacy of the occupation, didn't last long because almost all roads were unpaved and required elaborate maintenance."80
This is the crux of the matter for Haiti: without an educated peasantry there are not enough people to maintain civil works such as roads and understand good agricultural practices so as to prosper from their work. Land owning is a part of that, yes, but it is not a 'root cause' as individuals who are able to utilize their own liberty by understanding it can then gather up funds to go into farming or business for themselves. Unfortunately the society is in such a state of disability in those realms that there is not sufficient education for the population to take over such works on a local scale and depend upon the National government to maintain them.
Getting to the present day and the disaster in Haiti, we must ask: has this society remedied its ills as seen in the early 1930's, or have they continued on since then?
The unfortunate answer is the latter as we see individuals very much in the form of modern day peasants cast asunder by the extremely destructive earthquake, and the ruling elite have demonstrated their incompetence in either fostering a civil society or putting in good works to safeguard civilian infrastructure. While quakes of this magnitude are rare in Haiti, they are not unknown and even basic earthquake code building would stand a better chance of survival than the unreinforced masonry buildings typically seen in urban Haiti. Brick and masonry buildings are cheap, yes, but they offer no ability to ride out an earthquake without steel rebar or other internal reinforcements so as to maintain structural integrity of the building. As horrific as the scenes of apartments that have collapsed are, the scenes of modern hotels, police and fire stations and even modern hospitals collapsing stagger the imagination.
To have rescue services they must survive a disaster and not collapse with it. That is the lesson learned from every earthquake venue on the planet with inhabitants nearby: civil structures for police, fire and medicine must be reinforced as they are the first line of protection after a disaster for civil society. Just the structures, themselves, at the very least, must survive so that survivors can utilize them as community rallying points. Having competent and self-sacrificing police officers, firemen and medical personnel are also necessary, but they must have places to rally to so as to be effective. Their specialized equipment cannot be stored at home, great fire trucks cannot festoon the city parking spaces with individual ownership. Storehouses of medical supplies must be in structurally sound buildings so that the supplies are useful and not destroyed by the ravages of the quake and local climate.
Without those the local population must be able to fend for itself, which requires a pre-existing system that teaches self-reliance and that if things go wrong you are the first line of defense for yourself.
That is not what we see in Haiti.
With those commentators that want to see the US 'take over' rebuilding, our past must inform our current and future decisions.
We can put forward that a spare, lean framework of a government must exist while the local sections of Haiti put themselves back together and are allowed to state their own needs and get them met through bottom-upwards forms of government that does not rely upon an elite class. Yes emergency shelter is necessary, and yes temporary structures for housing and other needs is necessary. And if we do as we did in the past, then those will be the only things we leave behind and the Haitian people no better off and just in much danger tomorrow as they are today.
To get to a system that can help itself, first, must be the goal of any 're-building' efforts, and placing the tools and skills on the ground to help teach how to re-build and build anew must be a part of that process. Unfortunately with the ill-conceived notions of Presidents involved in the past, the government run venue must be temporary, limited and seek only to ensure that private aid and restructuring organizations willing to teach the basic and fundamental skills to Haitians are protected and supported.
Agencies that teach to ask for a hand-out can go to hell.
For Haiti to avoid future disasters and be able to coordinate their own relief, they require the very basics of understanding that personal freedom and liberty can build that for themselves and they can maintain it. To try otherwise is to place high value structures into the hands of those who cannot maintain it and who have elites wanting no power to get out of their control to the people of Haiti.
That hasn't worked so well before.
Perhaps it is time we try something different with a proven track record this time?