Yon Tanpèt Pafè

In the wall mural of global incompetence that is our Crisis Era, Haiti has become the most lurid corner, a hallucinatory labyrinth worthy of Hieronymus Bosch; not so much the canary in the mine as a collapsed side tunnel whose maimed and trapped victims are within earshot and line-of-sight of First World institutional leaders already fumbling with a dozen groundwater leaks and toxic gas buildups in the main shafts.

I. Skip This Section

… unless you haven’t read my earlier posts about Haiti; this is only to establish my bona fides. Lacking credentials, I have to get by on ability, experience, and (occasional) accomplishments.

tl;dr: 20 visits and ~6 months cumulative time in country from 2011–19. Lots of associated reading, mostly about the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). Less facility with kreyòl ayisyen than I should have mastered by now. One fictional work in progress (nearing completion) by way of emotionally processing it all; others possible. Brief instances of actual life-saving activity involving water filter distribution and a fiber-optic cable run to a maternity clinic. Due to unrest, had to leave work sites in … other than the originally planned manner, which is to say more or less got exfiltrated, on my first (March ’11) and last (September ’19) visits. This included encountering burning barricades in ’19 in Jacmel and vicinity, to say nothing of the atmosphere in Port-au-Prince.

See Dilèm Aksyon Kolektif nan Matisan and Pwosesis Ayiti A for earlier commentary on what might be called post-Petrocaribe Haiti.

me, not exactly being part of the solution, Petit-Goâve, Haiti, Monday 19 November 2012

II. Prekosyon

Attempting a logical order:

  1. My working assumption here is that everyone reading this has some awareness of recent events, enough to provide context to what I will be discussing. If you don’t, you may want to spend some time grazing (Midwesterners don’t surf) through a few recent news articles, bearing in mind that on-the-scene reporting has become largely infeasible due to the risk of violence. Reporters in (say) Miami, dedicated and talented as they are, quoting onshore academics and Haitian expatriates, however well-educated and concerned they might be, aren’t in the thick of things, and given that they could be abducted or killed within hours of arriving in Port-au-Prince, I don’t blame them.
  2. In particular, be aware of structural media biases in the availability and quality of information about Haiti’s situation. In Afghanalysis, I noted their applicability to the fall of Kabul in August of ’21, and in this situation, “temporal,” “bad news,” “narrative,” and “expediency” biases are especially pernicious. To quote myself, “[media reports] may attempt to connect ambiguous events into a coherent whole in a situation which is deeply chaotic and full of minimally- or entirely non-related factors.”
  3. The general picture is of course one of state failure, although I believe that the PNH (Police Nationale d’Haïti) has acquitted itself better than most observers in the Global North seem to think. Quantifying the effects is desirable:
    • What is the violent death rate per 10⁵ life-years?
    • … in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area vs the rest of the country?
    • How do these figures compare with the … more difficult areas of large cities in the US? Bringing this home, how do they compare to, say, the Englewood or Austin neighborhoods in Chicago?
    • How much have fuel and food imports decreased over the past six years since the unraveling of the Petrocaribe agreement? (I earlier attempted to analyze the fuel situation in Ayiti Pa Nimewo Yo.)
    • What has happened to baseline daily per capita food consumption, formerly ≈1850 kcal?
    • … in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area vs the rest of the country?

(I don’t know how to get the numbering to format correctly; the items below are supposed to be #s 4-8.)

  1. Getting back to that “attempt to connect ambiguous events into a coherent whole,” and to propound something like a general heuristic here, do not imagine that all the things you don’t like are somehow connected. As Claire Berlinski has commented, we are in an era characterized by a decline of American competence, which I note may be nearly the definition of the first half (at least) of a Strauss-Howe “Crisis Era.”
  2. The situation on the ground in Haiti is a continuum from pure banditry at one end … to a surprising degree of interest on the part of the larger gangs in obtaining a Westphalian/Weberian monopoly on violence in a defined territory (up to and including the entire country) to restore order and provide public services at the other. Plus whatever remains of functionality in the PNH and other legitimated organizations.
  3. This is not much like what goes on with gang violence in the US, which is heavily tilted toward the pure-banditry end, in a national atmosphere of dysregulated attention and a pandemic of mental illness underway since at least the early 2010s. There have been as many traffic deaths as homicides this year in the city where I live—and they’re in the same neighborhoods, usually involve intoxicants, and are often hit-and-runs. Haiti is not the same kind of crazy.
  4. See the Lewis Model for the contrast between “Linear-Active” and “Multi-Active” societies for an elucidation of the behavior behind the differences between US dysfunctionality and Haitian dysfunctionality. (Tangentially, I note that anyone who has spent time on the Haitian short-term mission circuit will be familiar with the phenomenon of adjusting to Haitian insanity while in country, followed by readjusting to American insanity upon returning home.)
  5. Not so tangentially, 28% of Americans believe immigration is our most important problem, but only 3% say “foreign policy/foreign aid/focus overseas” is. That’s a massive and senseless disconnect, not only, but most urgently, in the context of the Caribbean Rim. And the gap is even higher among Republicans.

III. Aksyon Desizif

If I do this right, I’m about to offend everyone, including my younger self.

  1. Haiti is entering the “suddenly” phase of “gradually, then suddenly.” My contrarian admiration for the PNH notwithstanding, the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission authorized by the UN in early October is just not going to get it done, not least because the countries tabbed to provide the manpower were selected more for skin color than language; only 3 of 11 are Francophone (including creole languages). Also, there doesn’t seem to be much actual, like, y’know, money to pay for the whole operation.
  2. Lack of institutional functionality is bad, m’kay? Attempting to answer some of the questions posed in the earlier section, the aggregate homicide rate for Haiti in 2023 was ≈41 per 100,000. Quite high, although assuming a Pareto distribution of homicides in the US, we have many areas that are up around 30, and I can tell you that on the East Side of KC, it’s much higher than that, as bad as the Port-au-Prince metro itself, that is to say ~100. The Haitian equivalent of the East Side (and the North Side of St Louis, and certain sections of Chicago, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade) is the notorious Cité Soleil, just west of Aéroport International Toussaint Louverture, where Médecins Sans Frontières purports to have found that 40% of all deaths are violent.
  3. … which means there’s an argument for calling out the National Guard in Missouri, Illinois, and undoubtedly several other states, because what I’m promoting here is an invasion: a full-scale, surprise attack, taking the form of an airborne assault on scores of targets simultaneously, deliberately timed to catch as many gang members on the streets of Port-au-Prince and at roadblocks in the countryside as possible. The smart ones would surrender; the rest would die.
  4. Imposing order and reducing the violent death rate by >75%, to ~10/100k/yr, in a country of 11 million directly saves ≈17,000 lives in the first 5 years—at the 2023 homicide rate, which may of course increase considerably during 2024. The number of gang members likely to be killed outright in the first days of the invasion is a small, albeit quite noticeable, fraction of that, and extra lives saved by public health programs carried out during the occupation could easily reach the low six figures.
  5. As usual, the problems with this scheme may be divided into “hardware” and “software.” The hardware problem is availability of forces, which are unlikely to be found anywhere other than in the US, and which necessarily—even if only a single brigade of Marines proved sufficient—would thereby become unavailable for anything else, in a world with plenty of other … situations, and incidentally with noticeable recruitment problems domestically.
  6. The software problems are something else. Any US force would be ~75% non-Hispanic white, and every single Haitian casualty would be very visibly otherwise. Unflattering comparisons with the 1915–34 occupation, however inaccurate, would not be slow in coming. Haiti’s problems would be blamed on outsiders—except for Venezuela, an actual external culprit, which would be ignored.
  7. The even larger software problem, though, would be the tectonic mindshift required to carry out decisive action. Driving Russian forces from Ukraine and eliminating their ability to return, sweeping Hamas into the dustbin of history, securing the sea lanes leading to the Suez Canal (and, perhaps, those leading to the Strait of Malacca), and neutralizing multiple large predatory groups in sub-Saharan Africa all fall into the same category. Dealing with failed-state levels of homicide in bottom-rung ZIP codes in the US may as well.

So Haiti is a barometer after all, of the level of provocation required to awaken the sleeping giant and fill it with resolve. We are not yet even at the end of the beginning of our Crisis. We will be fortunate if its scale only matches WWII and thereby takes two hundred million lives globally by the end of this decade. What may distinguish our efforts, as did those of earlier generations, is that the measures we take end in a net saving of human life.

dèyè mòn gen mòn
La Vallée De Jacmel, Haiti, Monday 12 March 2018


9 thoughts on “Yon Tanpèt Pafè”

  1. Driving Russian forces from Ukraine and eliminating their ability to return, sweeping Hamas into the dustbin of history, securing the sea lanes leading to the Suez Canal (and, perhaps, those leading to the Strait of Malacca), and neutralizing multiple large predatory groups in sub-Saharan Africa all fall into the same category.


    Dealing with failed-state levels of homicide in bottom-rung ZIP codes in the US may as well.

    One of these things is not like the other. One of them involves internal affairs of the United States, the rest are about foreigners and foreign problems most Americans have no reason to care about.

    Thank you for taking the time to write about the problems of Haiti. But they are not the problems of America. If they become so, it is only because the present American regime refuses to enforce US law and prevent the mass immigration of foreigners, from Haiti and elsewhere.

    So Haiti is a barometer after all, of the level of provocation required to awaken the sleeping giant and fill it with resolve.

    Sleeping giant? The people ruling the United States- whomever they are- have spent my entire life throwing away what made the country wealthy and powerful, with both hands, like when I watched firemen throw candy away for a Fourth of July parade decades ago.

    The United States presently has about one percent the shipbuilding capacity of China, has just passed an expensive DEI-infected law that is chasing semiconductor manufacturing out of the country, and has an aircraft company that is a murderous global joke. This isn’t a sleeping giant, it’s the rotting corpse of a giant. Added bonus- a guy who has been testifying about Boeing’s lack of safety was just found dead by “suicide.” Mm-hmmm.

    As Claire Berlinski has commented…

    I remember Claire Berlinski. Last I saw anything she wrote she was calling the “men of the West” cowards because there wasn’t a mass movement to invade Syria and do whatever to save people who weren’t and aren’t Westerners. My nasty thought of the time was that she should her send her children to go fight in Syria- but she never had any. In any case her comments were inspired by the Syrian colonist who managed to drown his own son by washing him overboard while colonizing Germany. This event was celebrated by murals and widespread media attention.

    The occasion soon after where several dozen French citizens- including a young girl- were killed when a muslim colonist ran them over with a truck was never noticed by her at the time nor was it memorialized by any mural.

    I emphasize- that dead muslim colonist nit got murals, the dead French girl never did.
    Claire Berlinski was fine with that.

    Bottom line- I despise Claire Berlinski. Still, after at least ten years. Fsck you, Claire.

  2. Xennady is correct — there is no relation between the tragedy in Haiti and the tragedy in the Ukraine. Haiti is stewing in its own juices, whereas the pot in the Ukraine is being stirred by Western Political Classes for no apparent good reason.

    Tragic as the situation in Haiti undoubtedly is, it is a problem that the Haitians themselves will have to work out. It may be loosely comparable to Europe’s Thirty Years War — senseless large-scale violence for reasons which are hard to understand. Eventually, enough Europeans died and new generations grew up, and they found a solution to that senseless violence. Not a good solution, but at least enough of a solution to let peasants return to a productive life.

    In a sense, the problem facing Haiti might be like the problem facing drug addicts or alcoholics — outsiders can’t help until the individuals themselves hit rock bottom and decide they want to change. It is not obvious that Haitians have reached that decision yet. Once they do, the rest of the world should be prepared to help.

  3. Haiti’s collapse is a problem, as it has been at several intervals since Baby Doc fell [albeit perhaps this is the worst one], because of its location and proximity to the US [Canada, even, is too close.]

    It would be irrelevant if Haiti were in Africa, but it’s not, and geography matters.

    I’m not immediately aware that Haitians form a huge chunk of illegals, but I can see why foreign policy and immigration are often [not always] linked issues. And why Haiti could become an example of that linkage.

    Those are the problems. As long as the approach to Haiti is clear eyed about that, fine.

    I can imagine many ways to manage those problems. One might be invasion, stabilization, and yet another attempt to build them a nation. It needn’t be the only option.

    The odd thing is, Haiti doesn’t seem to have much of a constituency in the US or much capacity to raise the hue and cry for massive US intervention. Maybe the US can get by without such a constituency forming. If it doesn’t, then other policy options remain available.

    All that said, I appreciate that if only for geographic reasons, it can be seen as an important foreign policy issue. More so than neutralizing multiple large predatory groups in sub-Saharan Africa.

  4. American troops into Haiti? No, simply no. Even if I had a better opinion of the utterly feckless leadership of both the government and the military, the fact remains that the last half dozen times we’ve tried “nation building” have been complete disasters, not least the previous interventions in Haiti. The number of times an airborne assault against dozens of targets has succeeded in the last century that such has even been possible stands at exactly zero, not so the casualty lists. Attempting such into the maze that Port-au-Prince is would be actionable murder.

    Haiti is not a problem that any army can solve. I wish I could think of something that would. I’m also sure that turning UN “troops” loose to rape more women and children and spread both disease and more corruption won’t be the answer either.

  5. claire was also part of the grapevine defamation campaign propounded by malathir mohammed against the reformist anwar ibrahim, eventually he disowned it when he discovered that his succesor najib was no good, of course this entailed the fabulously corrupt IMDB bank which had ties to the Saudi obaidi clan, whose senior figure worked with joseph mifsud,

    However you jigger al Hijra, invasion by mass immigration ‘ it worked didn’t it’ we have exceeded the number of ‘new comers’ that Europe suffered under in three years time,

    as for Haiti, I have peripheral knowledge I wrote a paper, a long time ago about it’s cursed history, and I went to school with the longest serving prime minister before the last bout of unpleasantness, Cherizier, is an ex? policemen, like Guy Phillippe was ex army, the late prime minister had arranged a symbotic relationship with this outfit, which turned out as you would expect to be a disaster,

  6. Nation building by the US would require a US leadership that both knows what it is doing AND has a strong desire to help build up others. Looking at the graft-grabbing myopic lot in evidence, Haiti would be better off receiving a plague of boils – it would cause a lot less damage.

  7. This is an excellent analysis, down to the caveats about reasoning fallacies.

    I will only disagree on one thing: no matter how many troops were involved, and no matter how many “gang” members (more like warlord armies in many ways – see Somalia) you eliminate, unless you change the hearts and minds of the people away from a religion and culture that accepts warlords and might-makes-right and such, you cannot succeed.

    And that requires a multi-generational effort/occupation (you know, colonizing) and a confident culture that can say, “No, your way is wrong and I’ll beat it out of you if I have to, in order to instill a culture that is good.”

    And there’s no way America is going to do either of those things, at this point.

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