The Bush administration, having proclaimed that economic sanctions would force Iraq out of Kuwait and then that they would not, has now staked its prestige on the efficacy of similar sanctions slapped Tuesday against Haiti. Canada was following suit. Venezuela cut Haiti off its oil supply right after the Sept. 20 coup that overthrew the constitutional government. France is withdrawing all technical advisers. Probably, this will work; but if it does not, it will fail very visibly.
The privates who organized the coup, the general who took it over, the rich Haitians who apparently financed it and the judge who was installed as interim president know perfectly well what the Organization of American States requires: the restoration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the overwhelming choice of the poor Haitian people in a fair election last December.
Father Aristide, the populist firebrand who was overthrown for threatening the privileges of the soldiers and the rich, is not without blame. He whipped up violent support, justifying ''Pere Lebrun,'' or assassination by torch and gasoline, as a ''legitimate expression'' of popular will. But his decisive election in December is the only legitimacy that modern Haiti has known. The answer to human rights lapses on his part would be the kind of pressure that the OAS is bringing to restore him; not to overthrow the fragile constitution.