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Threat of Invasion Raises Many Questions

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The U.N. resolution on Haiti, which was adopted by the Security Council on Sunday at the urging of the United States, authorizes an invasion of Haiti to depose the military government and restore the elected president, who was overthrown in 1991.

Beyond that, many questions remain about the fate of the Caribbean island nation. Here are the best answers now available:

Q: Will there actually be an invasion?

A: Not necessarily. Clinton Administration officials say they still hope Haiti’s military leaders will step down and leave the country in response to economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure. If that doesn’t work, an invasion will be more likely, but officials say there is no certainty.

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Q: When might an invasion occur?

A: Probably no sooner than early September. Officials say it will take at least a month to recruit troops from other countries to join the invasion force and to make other arrangements.

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Q: What countries will join the United States?

A: Although the invasion, if it comes, will clearly be a U.S. show, the Clinton Administration is eager to line up support from other nations to give the operation at least the appearance of an international effort. So far, Argentina has promised 600 troops. Other Western Hemisphere countries, especially tiny Caribbean republics, are expected to send token contingents. Israel has announced that it will not commit troops.

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Q: What does the United States hope to achieve?

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A: The objective of military action, if it comes to that, will be to force Haiti’s de facto government to make way for the restoration of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the only democratically elected president in the impoverished island republic’s history. Aristide was forced into exile in a military-backed coup in September, 1991.

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Q: Why does President Clinton believe an invasion is the right way to do this?

A: All of the evidence indicates that he does not think that. Haiti’s military high command, however, led by Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, so far has thwarted all attempts to return Aristide to office through peaceful means.

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Q: Some countries argue against an invasion. Who are they and what do they say?

A: Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela and Cuba have expressed strong opposition to an invasion. They complain that it would set a dangerous precedent to mount the first U.N.-endorsed invasion in the Western Hemisphere.

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Q: How many troops might be involved? How many ships?

A: The Pentagon has not said, but the number of troops is expected to be 15,000 or more, giving the invaders a better than 2-to-1 advantage over the 7,000-member Haitian army. At the present time, four ships with more than 2,000 Marines aboard are on maneuvers in the Caribbean, a number that will surely grow rapidly if an invasion is imminent.

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Q: What is the estimated cost?

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A: There are no reliable estimates, but if the operation takes very long, the cost will certainly reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Q: Are heavy casualties expected?

A: The Pentagon clearly does not expect heavy casualties in a battle between a well-trained, well-equipped and numerically superior invasion force and the ragtag Haitian army, which has few heavy weapons and is ill-trained for warfare. Some casualties are inevitable, however, and the U.S. political system has shown very little tolerance for any casualties at all.

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Q: What would our troops do once they defeated the Haitian military?

A: Under the Security Council resolution, the invasion force will be replaced by a 6,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force when order is restored and Aristide is back in office. The Administration says that the peacekeeping force will be led by Americans and will have a large American contingent, although the U.S. contribution will be far smaller than in the invasion force. U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright has said that at least a dozen countries have indicated that they will contribute troops to the peacekeeping force.

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Q: How long might the troops have to stay?

A: The invasion force can probably complete its work in a brief period, almost certainly measured in weeks. But the peacekeeping force may have to remain for a long time, perhaps for years. The United Nations envisions keeping the peacekeepers in place to maintain law and order until a Haitian police force can be trained and deployed--and that could be a lengthy process.


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