Haitian crisis, 1991--1994: An opportunity for a shift in United States twenty-first century foreign policy

Patricia Anne Hardy-Jackson, Salve Regina University


The premise of this study is that the 1991-1994 crisis of Haiti following the end of the Cold War can be viewed as a catalyst for change in the focus of 21st century U.S. foreign policy. This policy shifted from selective commitments and conservative interpretations of national interests to broad commitments and globalized applications of national values. The 1991-1994 Haitian crisis challenged an evident preference of the U.S. to develop into an authoritative, yet detached, spokesman for democracy. In seeking to limit its national and international roles to this former approach, the U.S. essentially achieved national policy disequilibrium based on a myopic view of foreign affairs. Much as it tried during the Cold War, the U.S. could not escape her global responsibility. In fact, because of the moral and political issues raised by the 1991-1994 crisis in Haiti, American foreign policy is evolving into increased globalism, however reluctantly and contrary to its early history of isolationism. This new involvement with Haiti revealed unique cultural, ethnic, and linguistic characteristics to U.S. governmental officials and to an informed public. What is critical is that the 1991-1994 Haitian crisis occurred in the post-Cold War era. This crisis intersected with U.S. national introspection, a reemergent neo-isolationism, and an awakening sense of an "America first" domestic policy. While not forced to act there in the name of national security, the U.S. had not yet developed a leadership role beyond that of military defense against the threat of communism. In sum, Haiti's crisis took place while the U.S. was attempting to define its future national identity and policies. Thus, Haiti, a third world nation seeking democracy, and a relatively minor country compared to other global entities, has served as a catalyst for a more humane U.S. foreign policy. The 1994 U.S. military intervention in Haiti tested contemporary U.S. foreign policy. President Clinton, who applied his post-Cold War attention to developing a 21st century strategy, called for a revised foreign policy of "engagement and enlargement." The U.S. military, long accustomed to a Cold War mind set typified by the expression "we do only the big ones," was asked to pursue specific humanitarian objectives. Haiti thus presented a challenge to an entrenched foreign policy in requiring a new commitment to the strategic objective of democratization. In short, tiny Haiti helped modify the post-Cold War foreign policy of the United States. As a result, the 1994 military intervention of U.S. force in Haiti in pursuit of democratic principles is evidence of a shift in U.S. national security policies. Based on historical research, examination of official documents, and interviews with scholarly experts, this study investigates the human implications of advanced technology, including political technology. It reviews the historical ties of the U.S. to Haiti, addresses the current socio-economic challenges there, examines immigration policies, and suggests crucial considerations in developing an effective ongoing U.S. foreign policy toward Haiti. It concludes with an assessment of options available to the U.S. that support the pivotal democratization of this small West Indian nation.

Subject Area

International law|International relations|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Hardy-Jackson, Patricia Anne, "Haitian crisis, 1991--1994: An opportunity for a shift in United States twenty-first century foreign policy" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI9808224.

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