In the late 1980s, after the Feb. 7, 1986 fall of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, Washington began to implement in earnest its neo-liberal “structural adjustment” of Haiti. “Structural adjustment” is simply an economist’s euphemism for crushing austerity cuts, comprised of firing thousands of state workers, sale and closure of state enterprises, the dramatic lowering of tariffs, and the slashing of social programs.
Journalist Michael Massing deftly described the havoc that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID or simply AID) brought to Haiti in late 1987 in the New York Review of Books.
As Haiti’s single largest donor, the agency had tremendous leverage with the Haitian government, and it now used its influence to push for a thorough overhaul of the Haitian economy…. Its chief ally was the new [Haitian] finance minister, Leslie Delatour. Delatour was “an AID mission’s dream,” as one AID officer put it. He had earned degrees from Johns Hopkins and the University of Chicago, then gone to work for the World Bank…. Delatour adopted an austerity budget and, as part of it, slashed government expenditures… [H]e cut tariffs and eliminated import quotas, thereby allowing in a flow of cheap goods…
Arriving in Haiti in mid-August , I found a country rapidly spinning out of control… As for the economy, the policies of Delatour and AID had produced utter disarray… [A] flood of cheap imports was having a devastating effect on local producers, who simply couldn’t compete… The job situation, too, was dismal… Not only were few jobs created, but the closing of the state-owned companies had thrown hundreds of people out of work…
Many Haitians blamed the United States. The country was rife with talk about an ominous “American Plan” designed to keep the country backward and dependent. According to the common wisdom, the plan sought to keep Haitian wages low so as to make the country attractive to American capital. To an outsider, it sounded as though some secret U.S. documents had fallen into the wrong hands. In fact, the “American Plan” was a handy political term for the annual country statements that AID routinely draws up for countries around the world. The [AID] statements had come to the attention of Haiti Progrès, a lively leftist newspaper published in Brooklyn. Its articles on AID were then picked up by Haiti’s powerful radio stations, the chief source of news for illiterate Haitians. As a result, even Port-au-Prince’s poorest residents could talk knowledgeably about the “American Plan.” By the spring of 1987, AID had grown so weary of being attacked that it paid an American consultant $40,000 to find out why it was so disliked.
When Haitians resisted the neo-liberal austerity by twice electing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1990 and 2000, they were turned back by two U.S.-backed coups d’état in 1991 and 2004, followed for UN military occupations.
Now, almost four decades later, neo-liberal policies, with their concomitant coups and invasions, have devastated Haiti, leaving it chaotic, crime-plagued, and without an elected government. And guess who’s coming to save Haiti from the damage its done? Washington, again.
This time, the U.S. is using what could be called the “American Plan” 2.0. It is essentially a new alliance of USAID “know-how” with Pentagon muscle. The new “American Plan” is called the Global Fragility Act or just GFA.
Just as Haïti Progrès sounded the alarm about the first “American Plan,” Haïti Liberté, started to call attention to the GFA last summer. Although the GFA was passed with bipartisan support under Trump in 2019, it has remained under the radar. Until now.
Last week, the Biden administration for the first time trumpeted its plans, established in 2021, to make Haiti the GFA’s “pilot case.”
Unveiling “The U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability 10-Year Strategic Plan for Haiti” on Mar. 24, Washington said it had chosen Haiti for “its strategic relevance and proximity to the United States and the need for a more coordinated long-term approach to address drivers of instability in the country.” To fulfill this mission, the U.S. plans to “integrate U.S. diplomacy, development, and security-sector engagement in Haiti.” In other words, the State Department, its humanitarian arm, USAID, and the Pentagon will all work in close coordination.
The next day, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken followed up with a press statement to emphasize that the new American Plan was to “acknowledge that the most pressing challenges of our time do not confine themselves within national borders” and that the U.S. seeks to “address the underlying causes of violence and instability before conflicts can break out or escalate.”
This means that the new DOS/USAID/DOD complex will effectively take over Haiti, if Washington gets its way, thereby returning the country from a neo-colony back into a virtual colony as it was from 1915 to 1934, when U.S. Marines occupied and ran it. Nonetheless, the U.S. would try to keep some Haitian window-dressing.
“Integrated deterrence is enabled by combat-credible forces, backstopped by a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent.” — U.S. National Defense Strategy
“U.S. government efforts will engage and leverage partners among Haitian civil society and the Haitian National Police (HNP)… to strengthen citizen security and the rule of law… [with a] focus on key high-crime and high-violence neighborhoods,” [our emphasis] the Mar. 24 statement reads. Translation: Washington will deploy troops to fight and subdue armed neighborhood committees seeking radical social change, like the groups of the “Revolutionary Forces of the G9 Family and Allies” federation, while putting some Haitian civilians and cops in front for show.
As a part of this month’s roll-out, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, a Washington-based NGO which has been a leading GFA proponent, issued a paper entitled “How Congress Can Break Down Barriers to GFA Implementation.” The paper argues that “Congress must also address existing legal barriers to expedite implementation and take measures to provide integrated, non-earmarked, and adaptive funding streams, support to address personnel shortages, and an exemption of the ‘material support’ prohibition for peacebuilding organizations” operating in Haiti and other GFA target countries. In short, the NGO is proposing to give the GFA’s humanitarian/military apparatus a totally free hand and no oversight in its operations. As their paper puts it: “The broad legal restrictions that create criminal and civil liability for providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) limit the effectiveness of programs designed to prevent people from engaging in violent conflict and extremism.”
The previously classified Pentagon handbook entitled “Defense Support to Stabilization (DSS): a Guide for Stabilization Practitioners” also has some telling formulations as to how the U.S. military will engage with its adversaries in GFA-targeted nations. It contains extracts pulled from the Defense Department’s December 2018 Directive, such as “Stabilization is an inherently political endeavor involving an integrated civilian-military process to create conditions where locally legitimate authorities and systems peaceably manage conflict and prevent a resurgence of violence.”
The DSS aims to “synchronize missions” to “reinforce USG [U.S. government] stabilization efforts and promote stability… in conflict-affected areas outside the United States.”
The purpose is to stop “violent extremism,… transnational terrorism,… refugees and internally displaced persons,… and mass atrocities… before they impact the security of the United States and its allies and partners.”
“Stabilization is required to translate combat success into lasting strategic gains” and “a necessary complement to joint combat power at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.” Furthermore U.S. troops will carry out a “range of military operations in order to counter subversion” and “consolidate military gains to achieve strategic success” using “small-footprint, partner-focused” teams with “indigenous and other external partners,” i.e. U.S. Special Forces working with the Haitian army and police. In short, the Pentagon aims “to identify, train, equip, advise, assist, or accompany foreign security forces conducting stabilization actions independently or in conjunction with other USG efforts.”
The GFA and DSS also complement Washington’s 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS) which “sets out how the U.S. military will meet growing threats to vital U.S. national security interests” and “act urgently to sustain and strengthen U.S. deterrence, with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the [Pentagon’s] pacing challenge. The strategy identifies four top-level defense priorities that the Department must pursue to strengthen deterrence: (1) Defend the homeland. (2) Deter strategic attacks against the United States, allies, and partners. (3) Deter aggression, while being prepared to prevail in conflict when necessary. (4) Build a resilient Joint Force and defense ecosystem.”
The Pentagon plans to do this “by working seamlessly across warfighting domains, theaters, the spectrum of conflict, other instruments of U.S. national power, and our unmatched network of Alliances and partnerships. Integrated deterrence is enabled by combat-credible forces, backstopped by a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent.” In other words, if the GFA fails, the next step is nuclear war.
In short, Washington’s unclassified policy papers reveal that the GFA might be dressed in USAID’s humanitarian garb but is fundamentally a military response to China, the principal challenger of U.S. world hegemony. It seeks to make Haiti a “partner” in a front to “gain advantage against the full range of competitors” through “logically linked military initiatives.”
Nonetheless, Anthony Blinken presents it in more flowery terms: “[T]hese 10-year plans [will] address drivers of conflict and violence collectively and […] support our partner countries in pursuing peace and prosperity.”