« A City On A Hill | Main | More Abu Ghraib Photos »

February 16, 2006

Comments

A democratic invasion Video

Charles: gets a small break?

The U.S. encouraged and helped complete a coup against a freely elected president whose "dictatorial" behavior you do not bother to document. (Aristide doubled the minimum wage, disbanded the corrupt and repressive army that had participated in overthrowing him previously, and... ???)

Lavalas leaders -- members of a democratically elected party -- have been hunted down and killed or imprisoned continuously since the 2004 coup. The UN forces have killed dozens of unarmed demonstrators in the last two years.

USAID is funding, to the tune of at least $3 million, parties that will be busily destabilizing the Preval government for the next few years.

To the condescension of your post title I can only respond in a way that is not easily conveyed in words (maybe there's an emoticon somewhere). It involves spit.

Even if that's your tongue in Charles' ear, maybe you should consider keeping that reply to yourself.

"Mixed signals" is kinda putting it weak, I'd say. Allende got mixed signals too, then. Charles is more forthcoming than many conservatives would be on this, I'm guessing, but why not come right out and say that the US government helped plunge Haiti into further chaos and misery? As it has often done in the past, in Haiti and other places.


Now one thing I'd be afraid of is that Preval might morph into the sort of "consensus builder" who favors the rich and does what he is told by the US government. That's the sort of consensus-building the US government usually likes to see.

As for unparalleled respect for US troops, perhaps that's true. It'd be nice to see lots of quotes from a representative cross-section of Haitians hearing what they think of US policies and US troops and so forth, rather than just a blanket endorsement by the NYT, speaking on behalf of all Haitians.

Thanks for performing your posting rules duties, Slarti. My response was intemperate.

No thanks for performing them in a way that evokes an image less attractive than my comment.

The U.S. encouraged and helped complete a coup against a freely elected president whose "dictatorial" behavior you do not bother to document.

One, Aristide wasn't "freely elected" at the time of his removal. He was ruling by decree, caused in part by his party's questionable election practices in 2000, which the OAS concluded was unfair and flawed. The NYT also didn't bother to document Aristide's dictatorial behavior, choosing instead to let Curran soft-pedal Aristide's actions. Reporters Sans Frontieres has written on the murders of journalists who were critical of Aristide, and Amnesty International documented the abuses by Aristide supporters prior to his removal, as did Human Rights Watch. Christopher Caldwell well outlined Aristide corruption. But all that doesn't matter because he doubled the minimum wage and disbanded the army.

BYW, no "condescension" was intended or implied from the title.

"Mixed signals" is kinda putting it weak, I'd say.

I'd say, too, Donald. If Stanley Lucas of IRI was indeed getting tacit approval from Reich & Co., then the U.S. was complicit in undermining Aristide. A more honest policy would have been to forthrightly express no confidence in Aristide much earlier.

Donald Johnson:

Charles is more forthcoming than many conservatives would be on this, I'm guessing, but why not come right out and say that the US government helped plunge Haiti into further chaos and misery?

Not just the US government;
Anthony Fenton on Canada's role in the coup, from an interview published by Seven Oaks Magazine:

Canada is perhaps as deeply involved in Aristide’s ouster as any client government has been historically in assisting the U.S. in enforcing Monroe Doctrine-like principles in the hemisphere, and this includes the present cover-up that is being undertaken. Diplomatically, as the Jean Chretien regime was wringing their hands in the face of popular opposition over their potential role in the ‘coalition of the willing’ in Iraq, they were helping to plan regime change in Haiti. Three weeks before regime change, on February 5, Pierre Pettigrew consorted with rebel “mastermind” Paul Arcelin, who had previously been arrested for plotting a coup in 2003. Pettigrew also has strong ties to Gildan Activewear, Hydro Quebec, and other corporations that stand to benefit from a government that is willing to follow the “American Plan” in Haiti. Just the person we want as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Since the coup, Canada has helped prop up the puppet regime and has actively prevented the realities of post-coup Haiti from being heard or seen by the ‘mainstream’ Canadian public. The Canadian Commander of ‘Task Force Haiti’ deliberately evaded questions about extensively documented human rights abuses that took place while Canadian soldiers were still occupying the country. Among other things as well, Canadian NGOs such as “Development and Peace,” “Rights and Democracy,” and “FOCAL,” helped foment the demonization and destabilization campaign against the elected government, and are aiding and abetting this massive cover-up.

no "condescension" was intended or implied from the title.

I believe you about your intentions. But you should look at how people usually use the phrase "poor, poor, pitiful [whomever]" before you try to argue that condescension isn't implied by its use.

No thanks for performing them in a way that evokes an image less attractive than my comment.

No pain, no gain. And of course I...well, I'm poking fun at practically everyone these days, including me, and it's possible I might offend someone. Rest assured, no offense is intended.

As for the poor, poor pitiful thing, it does come from a song of woe, does it not? That it was written by Warren Zevon and therefore probably has some flavors that are...not immediately evident to the pop culture listener, well, in that sense I think Charles' title is problematic.

No one mentions the real reason for Aristide's ouster: crush the 200-year celebration of the first successful slave rebellion in the world and the first black republic.
It is not by coincidence that France was deeply involved in the coup.

In addition, Aristide had dared demanded that France return to the country the billions of dollars it had to pay its former master to recognize its independence.
What would happen if France had agreed to pay back the indemnity?
Wouldn't other former colonies want the same?

This has happened before, when Haiti was to celebrate its 100th year of independence.

So, the articially created chaos is not particularly about Aristide as it is about economics and suppressing the fact that poor, uneducated Africans kicked the mighty Napoleon's army's ass.

Reporters Sans Frontieres has written on the murders of journalists who were critical of Aristide, and Amnesty International documented the abuses by Aristide supporters prior to his removal, as did Human Rights Watch.

Just to round out the picture:

2005 Amnesty Report on Haiti
2005 Haiti Annual Report - Reporters Sans Frontieres (marginally better!)
Human Rights Watch - 2005 Haiti Overview (things got worse)

Whoops...the link to HRW

and he looks to be a consensus-building type who will refrain from resorting to Aristide's dictatorial tactics.

All of which is to say the "dictatorial tactics" carried on into 2005. If the government of one (or in this case more than one) sovereign country takes the extraordinary step of assisting in the removal of the government of another sovereign country, democratically elected or no, then at the very least it should "make things better". Otherwise...shades of the United Fruit Company era.

But yes, here's hoping for a brighter 2006.

Charles, I appreciate your providing some support for your use of the term 'dictatorial.' It overstates the case, but it's a longer argument than we can probably have here. Speaking for myself; I have to go return a stray beagle. Others are welcome to take up the discussion.

OAS views on Haiti's legislative and presidential elections in 2000 are here.
Anti-Aristide parties boycotted in the presidential due to grievances with the earlier legislative vote count. The nature and degree of U.S. involvement with those parties is not discussed in the OAS paper; it was substantial, but I'm not going to be able to provide links on that until after beagle delivery.

The fundamental issue is that it is not up to the governments of the U.S., Canada, and France to determine who should rule a sovereign nation, nor to overthrow an elected president.

Which they have done, and have supported the interim government they helped install for the last two years while members of Aristide's government and party have been arrested, beaten, and killed. And the U.N. has gone right along, further eroding confidence in 'peacekeeping' missions.

A clarification on the title. It's a play on an old pop song. I think Linda Ronstadt sung it (Zevon wrote it?), but it's been a few years since I listened to it.

Several above wrote that conditions post-Aristide did not improve or became worse. True. That's why I wrote that we handed the reins over to the UN peacekeepers prematurely. We could have done a better job at security and holding the armed gangs, rogue police and whatnot at bay.

Yes, Charles, that's what I was alluding to. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that the song was written as overdone self-pity.

Which is probably not where you want to go, here. Dunno if this is what people saw as objectionable; this is the only thing I can think of.

That's why I wrote that we handed the reins over to the UN peacekeepers prematurely.

Another, possibly more logical, take would be that it might have been better to have left the Aristide government alone, and work for stabilization from there.

As Nell points out, and I strongly agree with, the fundamental issue is that it is not up to the governments of the U.S., Canada, and France to determine who should rule a sovereign nation, nor to overthrow an elected president.

Or even an unelected President.

Logic suggests, Charles, that you would thus have no problem with France, Canada and Haiti assisting with the removal of a U.S. President who governs badly and came to power in disputed election, no?


I'm gonna go with "no", there, spartikus. Not just for Charles, but for myself.

As in "No, I'd have a problem," he hastily clarifies.

I'll get on the horn to Ottawa and Paris and let them know Operation Arrache Buisson is postponed.

For now, mind you.

Anarch, can we assume from your answer that you therefore also have a problem with the U.S., Canadian, and French undermining and then assisting in the removal of the Aristide administration?

"Operation Arrache Buisson is postponed.

For now, mind you."

Magnifique, spartikus!

Logic suggests, Charles, that you would thus have no problem with France, Canada and Haiti assisting with the removal of a U.S. President who governs badly and came to power in disputed election, no?

Why would logic suggest that, sparti? Seems like there are some not-so-small differences between the U.S. and Haiti in pretty much every facet.

Seems like there are some not-so-small differences between the U.S. and Haiti in pretty much every facet.

Sure, but is one of those differences the right to be free of outside interference with respect to its leadership?

I presume you think the US has a right to select its leadership in the manner it chooses, without interference from other countries, and for that leadership to continue, again without interference, as we choose.

Or is it just a question of might makes right?

Ah, yes, the poor pitiful Melians come to mind.

Well, then, we Athenians will use no fine words; we will not go out of our way to prove at length that we have a right to rule, because we overthrew the Persians; or that we attack you now because we are suffering any injury at your hands. We should not convince you if we did; nor must you expect to convince us by arguing that, although a colony of the Lacedaemonians, you have taken no part in their expeditions, or that you have never done us any wrong. But you and we should say what we really think, and aim only at what is possible, for we both alike know that in the discussion of human affairs the question of justice only enters where there is equal power to enforce it, and that the powerful exact what they can, and the weak grant what they must.

Poor pitiful Radovan Karadzic.

Heaven forfend we ever interfere with the govt of Sudan or Burma or NK. I kinda ruined a friendship once with a established-govt absolutist over Rwanda. Maybe I'd do it over again.

Touché rilkefan. That would be a wicked return if we possibly had not (though opinions obviously differ on this) been complicit in forcing Aristide out (I think it's agreed that Aristide had 91% of the vote in the election that he won, setting aside questions of whether that's a good or bad thing) by not only destabilizing the economy and disrupting aid, but also possibly forcing Aristide to sign the resignation letter. I cheerfully admit that those links are not the most unbiased, and would love to have some countering sites, as I only vaguely followed the saga of Aristide and I don't know precisely what is true and what is false. I am always a bit suspicious of anyone who gets 91% of any vote, but then, I am also suspicious when Charles claims someone is a dictator :^)

But seriously, it's not that I violently disagree with Chas' take, but I really don't know enough to energetically agree with it. It seems to me that it is quite possible that it wasn't that Aristide who suddenly morphed from a popularly elected leader to a dictatorial monster out of his own volition and if the situation can be blamed, even partially, for pushing Aristide down the path he chose, then we need to think about our role in that. As such, I don't want to be using Haiti as our standard to determine the kind of intervention that Chas seems to take as a matter of course. In fairness to Charles, he was pushed a bit into that corner.

Sure, but is one of those differences the right to be free of outside interference with respect to its leadership?

Not if the failure of leadership leads to an armada of Haitian boat people landing in Florida, then it very much becomes our interest, Charley.

Don't know if you can justify this by invoking Haitian boat people.
Figure 1 presents the U.S. Coast Guard data on Haitian migrants that the Coast
Guard has encountered on boats and rafts in the years following the Mariel boatlift. Most notably, there was a drop of migrants after the Haitian elections in 1990 followed by a dramatic upturn after the 1991 coup

link

Furthermore, the absence of a stable policy has contributed as much, if not more than Aristide.

It seems to me, as others have pointed out, is that part of Haiti's problems stem directly from US intervention, including US support for death squads. So if we have the right to overthrow governments in Haiti because of Haitian boat people, they have the right to overthrow our government because of our support for death squads in their country. And since they don't have the power to do that, then they should have the right to bring the guilty US officials to justice.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Thucydides understood how things actually work.

Heaven forfend we ever interfere with the govt of Sudan or Burma or NK.

Does, say, China have the same right to interfere? Or is this something reserved only for the United States?

The Westphalian system has had it's detractors for, oh, decades now. But it's still the bedrock upon which the international system rests.

And there hasn't been an alternative that everyone is willing to accept.

The question is precisely when does it becomes acceptable for the international community to intervene. Is it genocide? Is it a collapse of a nation-state's central authority? Because they're "icky"? Did Haiti fit the bill? If Aristide was toppled because he was a dictator, why was he going to be allowed back...as long as he privatized Haitian government utilities, which he refused to do?

The Responsiblity to Protect is a new idea about what would trigger intervention. It's worth a look.

If China installs a sane regime in NK tomorrow then makes sure things are stable for a while, I for one will cheer.

When precisely action becomes accepable is of course not something people will agree on - I can't even get Mrs. R to eat an omelet or a steak cooked to the exact point of perfection, only seared to death will do.

Anyway, thanks for the Responibility link, it looks interesting (though perhaps over-reliant on the UNSC for my taste).

If China installs a sane regime in NK tomorrow then makes sure things are stable for a while

The Chinese have done an excellent job of stabilizing Tibet, too.

Ah yes, I forgot that the Dalai Lama was a crazed tyrant developing nuclear weapons and running a repressive regime so badly administered that his people are subject to regular famines despite Chinese humanitarian assistance. I also forgot that China got out of Tibet after setting up a reasonable govt there.

Well, the Chinese thought it very important, so I guess it's okay. Definitions of sanity and stability vary, you see.

"Definitions of sanity and stability vary, you see."

Like I was saying, poor pitiful Radovan.

Anarch, can we assume from your answer that you therefore also have a problem with the U.S., Canadian, and French undermining and then assisting in the removal of the Aristide administration?

No, because the whole point of my objection is that the two cases aren't analogous in key ways. For starters, the US has no experience with, nor real tolerance for, dictators a la Papa (or Baby) Doc; there's no way in heck that our elections are going to get suspended by any President; we don't have a tradition of military involvement in the apparatus of government; and so forth. Long story short, "Vote the bastards out" continues to be a legitimate remedy in the US -- even if poorly executed -- whereas it's not at all clear that that is (or was) true in the case of Haiti.

Now as it happens, I do have a problem with the foreign interference in Aristide's government, but that's a separate issue -- one that doesn't follow from my earlier objection, in other words -- which is precisely my point.

but that's a separate issue

I'm confused, because Aristide was the example at hand, not Duvalier.

Regardless, without some sort of international consensus on the criteria and mechanisms for intervention, you (that's the royal you) are advocating empire.

Given that there won't be an international consensus on addressing awful crimes (Tibet, Sarajevo, Darfur), you (that's the royal "you") are advocating just feeling bad about them.

... by the above logic, I should say.

I'm all for international consensus when it's available - props to Pops Bush. But with China (and Russia) on the SC, and Syria on the human rights panel, we have to come up with practical ways to bless interventions. Like, let Jimmy Carter decide, or Nelson Mandela.

Given that there won't be an international consensus on addressing awful crimes

Is that so? Probably not right at this particular moment of February 2006. But there have been moments, some quite recently in fact, where the opportunity for a consensus was there. The period after Rwanda springs to mind, as does the Fall of 2001.

The paths not taken. Oh well. empire it is, then.

you (that's the royal "you") are advocating just feeling bad about them.

I guess. Hope you do, in fact, read Reponsibility to Protect.

we have to come up with practical ways to bless interventions

Let's hope the empire du jour is always benevolent, then.

I'm confused, because Aristide was the example at hand, not Duvalier.

The example at hand is a country that has been incapable of running itself without dictatorship or anarchy or violence or some combination thereof. In my own view, and like with Iraq, because we had a hand in upending the regime, we have a responsibility to give the Haitians a hand up and help them get a fair shot at representative democracy and rule of law.

I'm confused, because Aristide was the example at hand, not Duvalier.

No, Haiti is the example at hand. You can't simply look at Aristide in a vacuum as if the Duvalier regime(s) had never happened; there's a history, a context and an environment in which this particular drama played out which necessarily shaped the various concerns. That context is precisely what's missing by the facile analogies -- which I freely admit to having made myself, but only to those who'd be shaken out of their equally facile understandings of foreign policy -- to overthrow of the US government by foreign powers.

Regardless, without some sort of international consensus on the criteria and mechanisms for intervention, you (that's the royal you) are advocating empire.

Given that I've been saying roughly the same thing for the past 20 years, this is news to me how?

Just wanted to plug Graham Greene's _The Comedians_. It's set in Haiti, and the Catholicism/guilt-tripping/gravel-of-grimness of some of the earlier novels is mostly gone or is more bearable or overlookable.

"we have to come up with practical ways to bless interventions"

Let's hope the empire du jour is always benevolent, then.

And let's enjoy the genocides until the UN has an army. And let's hope the UN is always benevolent.

Round and round we go. If the US + Canada + France = an empire in your view, and a joint action by them in Sudan would be "imperial", then fine, I think I've made my point.

who'd be shaken out of their equally facile understandings of foreign policy -- to overthrow of the US government by foreign powers.

Sarcasm is apparently lost on some. I think the idea of the "facile example" was to point out that yes it's ridiculous to have the expectation that government of the United States could be replaced by foreign powers. Every nation enjoys that expectation. Unless they're weak.

I'm still a bit confused, though, as to how the existence of the Duvalier regimes grants the United States, Canada, and France the right to topple the Aristide government.

Round and round we go. If the US + Canada + France = an empire in your view, and a joint action by them in Sudan would be "imperial", then fine, I think I've made my point.

Mischaraterize other people's arguments much?

US + Canada + France = an empire in your view

Ducks quacking, and all that.

and a joint action by them in Sudan would be "imperial"

As long as your prepared to accept the reverse of that coin, and object to China occupation of Tibet.

Personally, I'd much rather work on creating the mechanisms that would allow for humanitarian interventions...mechanism that won't bit you in the a$$ down the road. It's hard, I know, but the alternative in my opinion is more brutal.

I think I've made my point.

Indeed. You favour the principle of might makes right.

and object to China occupation of Tibet.

That should read "won't object".

because we had a hand in upending the regime

But what gave you the right, Charles. Under what principle?

"Personally, I'd much rather work on creating the mechanisms that would allow for humanitarian interventions."

Yes, I agreed we should work on such mechanisms, which is why I said so above. But there's a sucky world to live in until then. Weeping in the general direction of the tragedies is not a stop-gap solution.


"Mischaraterize other people's arguments much?"

Project much? Learn to grep the thread, and what "If" means.


"Indeed. You favour the principle of might makes right."

Actually, you favor the principle of "making s*** up". Bored now.

Er, isn't this exchange getting kinda HOCB for ObWi?

*hinthint*

mb - good point, but I wasn't kidding about my last line. Anarch is free to represent my point of view, or rewrite it as he sees fit.

I'm not sure what Darfur has to do with American policy in Haiti. One could advocate US intervention in the Sudan and still think that our various interventions in Haiti have been mostly malign.

It seems to me that if the United States really does have a moral obligation to overthrow bad governments in Haiti, then we'd have an even greater obligation to bring Americans to justice when they support death squad leaders, terrorists masquerading as "freedom fighters" (not that the difference is clear), and so on. Somehow, though, our moral obligations only seem to extend to our duty to go after the bad people elsewhere, not the ones here.
Maybe Haiti would be better off with a benevolent US running the place for a short time--I'd consider that possibility. But surely this hypothetical benevolent USA would support the ICC and hold itself to fairly strict moral standards when it comes to how it intervenes in other countries. I'm not holding my breath.

spartikus: Sarcasm is apparently lost on some.

I doubt what you've been indulging in here could be called sarcasm. Not entirely sure how to describe it, but then again I'm not particularly interested in it either.

I think the idea of the "facile example" was to point out that yes it's ridiculous to have the expectation that government of the United States could be replaced by foreign powers. Every nation enjoys that expectation. Unless they're weak.

In general, that particular facile example is used to illustrate a measure of reciprocity that's generally lacking in American discussions of foreign policy interventions. [I usually regard this as a form of American exceptionalism, but YMMV.] I've seen, and engaged in, innumerable examples of this; I don't think I've ever seen it used in an attempt to illustrate the point that "it's ridiculous to have the expectation that government of the United States could be replaced by foreign powers" since there are far, far better illustrations of same (e.g. nukes).

[And fwiw, I think your claim that "every nation enjoys that expectation" is woefully ill-supported by history, and probably woefully false even today. Most nations, even strong ones, fear some kind of overthrow by foreign powers; that's at least the ostensible reason for the existence of the various armed forces, after all. Whether it's a rational, reasonable or even plausible fear depends on the nations in question, obviously.]

To expand slightly: the usual variant of this argument that I've seen is to show the legal or moral ramifications of foreign interventionism by placing oneself in the position of the affected people. [H.G. Wells did much the same thing in The War Of The Worlds, incidentally.] So the issue there is not whether the US government could be replaced by foreign powers, but whether foreign powers would have the moral or legal right to try to replace it. That's the crux of those mutatis mutandis examples, to try to get people -- usually Americans nowadays, sadly -- to see things from the other side and to ask themselves whether, as moral creatures, such actions are justified.

Like I said, these examples tend to be facile precisely because they're disanalogous in certain key ways (e.g. traditions of democracy and the like) but they're useful tools for illuminating the moral dimensions of the issues to people who have uncritically accepted certain paradigms -- Dictators Bad! US Good! etc. -- without considering the true ramifications of our actions. That's pretty much the limit of their utility, however, unless you're willing to amplify or refine them; so while I appreciate the gesture of these arguments, I've got to say that I find it more than a bit underwhelming in present context.

I'm still a bit confused, though, as to how the existence of the Duvalier regimes grants the United States, Canada, and France the right to topple the Aristide government.

I am too, especially with the implication that I said anything like that. Might I commend to you the virtues of actually reading what I wrote, in particular the sentence containing the only word I've bolded in this thread? One would think, especially after the Chomsky thread, you'd be more diligent in such matters.

And fwiw, I pretty much agree with Donald Johnson's post immediately prior to mine.

If you still have some energy after flailing away at each other, a thread at HoCB has been opened.

Well, I've done my part here and here.

Bon soire!!!

"The Miami Herald has a bio on Preval here, and he looks to be a consensus-building type who will refrain from resorting to Aristide's dictatorial tactics."

Charles, are you saying you were unfamiliar with Rene Preval prior to reading that bio, and that you learned significant facts about him from it that you didn't previously know? I'd like to be clear if I'm understanding you correctly.

Slart: "As for the poor, poor pitiful thing, it does come from a song of woe, does it not?"

No. It comes from a song that makes bitter fun of people feeling sorry for themselves in exaggerated fashion. I can only assume that either a) Charles's use of the lyric, if that's where his usage came from, is intended to mock Haitian people for feeling sorry for themselves when they shouldn't feel sorry for themselves; or b) it was some sort of lack of understanding of the lyric as seemed to be the case when the Reagan campaign desired to use "Born In The USA" as an upbeat, pro-American, campaign song; or c) another explanation. I tend to assume c, but perhaps Charles will clarify.

"That it was written by Warren Zevon and therefore probably has some flavors that are...not immediately evident to the pop culture listener...."

They aren't? What do you base that statement upon?

On general issues in this thread, I'd suggest that it's entirely possible to observe and believe that the U.S. has a fairly wretched, though not entirely so, history with Haiti, and also that Aristide had some significant good points, but also some significant bad points. None of these thoughts in the least contradicts any of the others, I suggest.

"It's a play on an old pop song. I think Linda Ronstadt sung it (Zevon wrote it?)"

Charles, the following is a point I try to largely avoid, based upon some past experiences with being misunderstood when I've made it in the past, and on the question being taken as having offensive implications in a way I entirely did not mean, but, you know, you could take five seconds to drop "poor poor pitiful me" into Google, and get the answer to those questions. Then you wouldn't have to ask them, and you wouldn't have to "think," but you'd know. Wouldn't that, perhaps, be worth the five seconds investment?

But perhaps this thread is done now, anyway. If not, though, I'd suggest watching out for the excluded middle, though there seemed to be some venturing into it towards the end.

But what gave you the right, Charles. Under what principle?

Assuming "you" refers to the US, I didn't know nations had rights, sparti, other than the right to defend itself from attack, although that may depend on the legitimacy of the government in question. BTW, I think I was pretty clear that I opposed what Lucas and IRI were doing, but there is nothing wrong with Powell withdrawing American support from the Aristide regime. But if you want to get into rights, we could talk about the rights and protections the Haitian people are afforded by its government, or actually the lack thereof.

Charles, are you saying you were unfamiliar with Rene Preval prior to reading that bio, and that you learned significant facts about him from it that you didn't previously know?

I knew very little of Preval up until about two or three weeks ago, Gary.

Wouldn't that, perhaps, be worth the five seconds investment?

If I cared that much, Gary, but the words in the title were meant literally, as I wrote upthread.

I'm late to this having been on vacation, but I've written extensively about Haiti and I want to comment on the issue of disbanding the army.

The military in Latin America and the Caribbean has often been anything but the friend of the government. Haiti doesn't need an army. The Dominican Republic is not going to poor over the border and attack. The army in Haiti has traditionally been the source of coups and support for the elite.

What would have been effective would have been the establishment of an effective, but limited national police force, perhaps modeled on Costa Rica's.

What also would have been effective would have been the Bush administration making both sides sit down and work out their differences. Say what one will about Aristide, but the fact is that he was willing to accept a power-sharing agreement, the opposition wasn't and the Bush administration, to their everlasting shame sided with the opposition, undercutting their own Secretary of State.

Charles, are you saying you were unfamiliar with Rene Preval prior to reading that bio, and that you learned significant facts about him from it that you didn't previously know?

I knew very little of Preval up until about two or three weeks ago, Gary.

Thank you for clarifying that.

Charles, Rene Preval is not an obscure figure as regards Haiti.

"Results 1 - 10 of about 1,780,000 English pages for preval haiti."

Rene Preval is the only elected President (1995-2001) of Haiti in history to be democratically elected and to democratically give up his Presidency. He's only the second elected Haitian head of state ever.

This was not in the distant past, when you were a child.

He is one of the two most important political figures of Haiti in the last twenty years, and, of course, of the last ten years, and of today.

If you were unfamiliar with him, you were utterly unfamiliar with the most basic facts about Haiti of the last twenty years.

I'd like to think of a politer way to put this. I really would. But, please, why do you feel qualified to write commentary to masses of other people as regards Haiti when you have, by your own words, no more familiarity with the situtation in Haiti then a couple of, or handful of, articles you've read in the past few weeks? How does this educate or inform anyone?

I don't understand this. Wouldn't it be more reasonable to write about subjects you have some familiarity with and some qualifications to write about? (I don't mean formal qualifications, of course; I mean some basic knowledge, though preferably a bit more; something that you've maybe, say, at least read five or six books about, at the very least.)

It would be one thing to voice a casual opinion in some passing blog comment. But shouldn't the standard for writing a blog post addressed to a whole bunch of people be higher than that?

But shouldn't the standard for writing a blog post addressed to a whole bunch of people be higher than that?

I'm curious: why?

I'm curious: why?

Anarch, isn't it obvious? If it becomes a new standard that one has to have a certain threshold level of knowledge about a subject before blogging it, then 90% of blog posts will disappear, leaving Gary with much much less competition for his (always well-informed) blog.

But shouldn't the standard for writing a blog post addressed to a whole bunch of people be higher than that?

I'm curious: why?

Well, naturally everyone is perfectly entitled to blog as they see fit, and if they want to even just type a bunch of random letters for each entry, that's their right, and nothing wrong with that in any abstract sense.

So I certainly wasn't trying to suggest a ukase for how All Blogging Should Be Done, or anything of the kind.

More specifically, obviously jillions of blogs are just personal nattering and blathering and opining, and that's well and fine, too. People get to express themselves, they talk to their friends, they don't have to make the least sense, or fulfill any conditions whatever, and that's great. I'm all for it.

All I had in mind was the far more limited set of blogs that attempt to seriously address political and other serious issues (of morality, culture, whathaveyou), and that seem to have as their goal stimulating educational debate and exchange of views.

Within that set, which I'd take -- and this is purely a personal impression, and nothing more, and in no way binding on a single soul -- ObWi to be within, I'd think that it's helpful for posts to be factually based and not factually incorrect, and for the person writing them to have some vague minimal level of knowledge of what they're writing about.

But that's still just a personal opinion of mine, and nothing more, and I certainly have no power to enforce it, nor do I try to. If Charles wishes to respond to my query with an answer of "no," then he is obviously free to do so.

"...leaving Gary with much much less competition for his (always well-informed) blog."

But the number of subjects I address is, in fact, extremely limited. The number of blogs that address subjects I have little, or absolutely nothing, useful to offer about is, on the other hand, effectively infinite. I could actually run through a list of the number of subjects I address; it's effectively only a few dozen at most. But there are beelions and beelions of subjects in the world. I don't write about them.

In fairness to Charles, this post was relatively low on opinion and recommendation and higher on just passing on fact, so it's certainly not an egregious example of someone writing at length on a topic they know little aobut.

I don't have any great argument with anything Charles wrote in this post. I was just stunned that someone would write about Haitian politics and know nothing about Preval. Further deponent sayth not.

"knew very little" != "know nothing".

I know very little about, uhh, François Mitterand. How much is that? Can I comment on French politics? 80's French politics? If you don't know about ortolans can you really understand him, or his time, or the world?

I was just stunned that someone would write about Haitian politics and know nothing about Preval. Further deponent sayth not.

He knew nothing of Preval until just recently, yes. That doesn't equate to nothing when he wrote the article, as rilkefan pointed out. What's more, I'm not convinced that there's a good line to be drawn in this vein; he clearly attempted to educate himself somewhat prior to posting and while it may or may not have been enough to bolster any opinions presented in the post -- I don't know enough about Haiti myself to say -- I'm not convinced that it warrants this kind of reaction. Then again, maybe if I knew more about Haiti, I would be.

The real sin, IMO, would be if he were to post subsequently about Haiti without having taken on board the comments of those who know Haiti significantly better than he; or if he were to post from a position of ignorance as if he were possessed of knowledge or understanding that he lacked. The former clearly doesn't apply here and I'm also not convinced that the latter does too. As you said, it's primarily a factual post and that's fine by me.

As always on such matters, however, YMMV.

But the number of subjects I address is, in fact, extremely limited. The number of blogs that address subjects I have little, or absolutely nothing, useful to offer about is, on the other hand, effectively infinite.

You're confusing two different measures of size here; one is comparing the size of things against each other, the other is comparing them against the infinite, effective or otherwise. And outside of math, the latter is pretty much a worthless measure; anything IRL is negligible compared to infinity (again, effective or otherwise).

But shouldn't the standard for writing a blog post addressed to a whole bunch of people be higher than that?

Show me the rulebook on blogs that mandates these standards, Gary. I read, I learn, and sometimes I write about what I read and learn. If there are factual errors in the post, please feel free to point them out.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad