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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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March 05, 2004

Noblesse Oblige

A gruesome story in the New York Times gives a picture of Haiti. A 21-year-old man who had joined an anti-Aristide group was taken by Aristide forces. They cut off his hands and feet, poked out his eyes, and set him on fire. His supporters tracked down the man who had ordered it done. They took him, beat him unconscious, put a gasoline-filled tire around his neck and set it on fire.

Do Americans understand such a place? I don’t think so. We have poked our noses into Haiti many times. Woodrow Wilson sent in the Marines in 1915; they stayed in Haiti until1934. Bill Clinton sent 20,000 Marines on Sept. 14, 1994, in “Operation Uphold Democracy”--upholding Aristide, the fellow whose supporters cut off the young man’s hands and feet.

Now, 1,000 Marines are back in Port-au-Prince. We are not claiming to uphold democracy, only order, but there are many voices telling us of our “responsibility” to rebuild a nation.

I deny that Americans have such a responsibility, and I don’t think we know how to do it. I note that our Marines are joined by French soldiers. Here is an idea: Let the French do it. It was their colony, not ours. The French have long experience in the business of nation-building, with a hand in such places as Niger and the Ivory Coast.

Let the French fix Haiti, if that country is a thing that can be fixed by a foreign army. I suspect that it isn’t, and would rather have that discovery be made by the French.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at March 5, 2004 12:28 PM



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