Haiti and US Security

The scenes from Haiti are shocking. Looting, lynching, and the excrescence of gang warfare as a corrupt state dies are all over our screens. The history of Hispaniola has never been happy, of course, and since Jefferson showed just how much he valued liberty by abandoning L'Ouverture, it has gone steadily downhill.

I note that the ports and airport have now been secured by the United States, so an outflow of those remaining after a collapse equivalent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki on one day is at the moment being stemmed, though many people seem to be leaving on what aid planes can land.

How is reconstruction going to be paid for? This is a serious question, since if the US does so (as seems likely), with no collateral and no reserves, Haiti will simply be dollarised. What would be the effect of several billions of American money being diverted from the US economy at this time? That sounds callous, but it isn't meant to be. What's going on could help both sides in the face of a natural disaster, or drag them both down.

We may be seeing the emergence of a sort of awful version of Puerto Rico or the Phillippines adventure, the governance of which will become an American nightmare. I also wonder at the geology of this and what might happen to Jamaica in any future quake, since it is on the same fault line. It is better governed and would not, you might think, collapse as Haiti has done. Inevitably, I also wonder what will happen to San Francisco or LA, when the Big One comes?

But my thoughts are with the casualties, and I pray for the fifth of a million reasonably estimated to be dead.

UPDATE: the economy of Haiti is already significantly dollarised in four ways; its returns for remittances, a widely-disregarded constitutional peg to the dollar that still affects expectations, the vast amounts of aid being monitored by the IMF, and the amount of dollar money in the black market (though figures on black market indices do not seem reliable). What I meant, for the avoidance of doubt--is that, previous to the earthquake, Haiti was clawing its way towards a degree of stability. Not much, because of corruption, but it was starting to, for instance, seek relationships with countries like Venezuela and the wider region without upsetting the United States.

Given the numbers of Haitians in the United States, usually in Democrat districts, this was something in the long term interests of the US because a collapsing and lawless state full of connections to the Americans would have fed into their cities. One of the few good uses of his French that John Kerry made in 2004, I noticed, was to talk to Haitians with a vote. Anyway, now, America has acquired de facto government of the country, and aid will move at its rates and in its currency, essentially, or in a Haitian cover-currency truly backed by the US.

Dollarization with no constitutional requirement to maintain Haitian monetary stability, or even to provide them with money, and as yet no political instruments to coordinate vastly different economic policy, means that the US has acquired a sort of mandate-cum-colony that is not of its own making. Yet the fact that it has done so, rather than stand aside and talk, like the Europeans have, is telling in itself, and goes some way to redeeming America's history with Hispaniola; I wonder if that is what is playing on President Obama's mind.


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