A Right to Enforced Democracy?

September 12, 1994|By JEANE KIRKPATRICK

WASHINGTON — Washington. -- Is there a ''right'' to be governed democratically by rulers chosen in free competitive elections? Does Haiti have such a right?

The Clinton administration thinks so and has tried hard for many months to rouse support in the ''international community'' for action that will depose the military government of Haiti and restore elected-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Their sustained efforts and the political skills of chief U.S. delegate Madeleine Albright have produced a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing ''the use of all necessary means'' -- that is, force -- to achieve this end.

But they need troops as well as legitimacy, unless the ''necessary force'' is to be provided and paid for exclusively by the U.S. government.

Weeks of effort to persuade other governments to contribute have netted little: Four Caribbean island states finally agreed to provide 266 troops for non-combatant ''support'' roles. Canada turned down the appeals to join the expeditionary force but offered to send peacekeepers. No European ally of the United States will participate in the military phase of the Haitian operation. No major government of this hemisphere will join in the invasion.

But the Clinton administration is not deterred by this reluctance or lack of participants. It has the Security Council's authorization, the U.N. secretary general's endorsement, the encouragement of a small but intense group of Americans on the left end of our political spectrum and the comfort of a doctrine that justifies the use of force in just such circumstances.

The Clinton team justifies its plan to invade Haiti on grounds that force is required to ''restore democracy'' of which Haiti was deprived by the military coup. They offer other supporting arguments as well: that Gen. Raoul Cedras and his colleagues have refused to carry out the Governor's Island Agreement (calling for withdrawal under specified circumstances); that the Cedras government has violated the civil rights of Haitians; that it has failed to carry out the decisions of the U.N. Security Council. But these are marginal.

The fundamental justification for the use of force is that democracy should be restored. But the case being made for intervention finally depends on a postulated ''right to democratic government'' of which Haitians have been deprived.

Ms. Albright, speaking in the U.N. Security Council, described the resolution authorizing the use of force to restore ''legitimate, constitutional authority to Haiti'' as ''historic.'' Well she might. It is the first action of its kind ever. The authorization itself constitutes a significant expansion of the Security Council's jurisdiction over the internal affairs of member states and is for that reason alone important. But the idea of a ''right to democracy'' that can be imposed by force is a dramatic departure from previous theory and practice.

International lawyers, notably Thomas Franck, have written in recent years of an emerging ''democratic entitlement'' and an ''emerging'' right to democratic governance. Mr. Franck has argued that the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the disappearance of Marxism-Leninism as a competing paradigm for understanding the world and legitimizing political action, have resulted in a ''global move'' toward democracy, and the development of a new global ethos according to which all persons enjoy all democratic rights, and under which only democratic governments are legitimate because only democratic governments respect the rights of their citizens.

This ''democratic entitlement'' is rich in implications. If political democracy is viewed as ''a human right'' shared by all persons, and if the ''world community'' has an obligation to use force to protect those rights, then of course it is appropriate to use force to depose Haiti's military government or any other government that achieves power by force and violates its citizens rights.

If we act against the government of Haiti on these grounds we should understand that it may be necessary to act again should President Aristide prove deficient in his respect for the right of Haitians. And if we act against Haiti we should do so understanding that there are today 55 countries judged by the Freedom House analysis to be ''not free,'' and another 63 judged be ''partly free'' (as compared to only 72 ''free'' countries).

If the Clinton administration decides to use force against Haiti rather than against Cuba, China, or any of the other ''non-free'' illegitimate governments that deprive their citizens of democratic rights, it must be prepared to explain why.

Freedom and democracy are great goods but self-government and self-determination and prosperity and peace are also great goods. We want all these for ourselves and for others, even as we know that we will not be able to achieve them in the short run.

Thomas Franck, whose work was an important source for the ideas and arguments of Morton Halperin and other Clinton-administration officials concerning the ''right to democracy,'' can foresee the day when the ''global community'' guarantees democracy as a ''legal entitlement.'' But he adds, ''the collective use of military force to protect the people's right to democracy is an extremely remote bridge which need not be crossed at present.''

It is precisely the bridge President Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher must cross on their way to ''restore democracy'' in Haiti. Before they set out on this mission in which no substantive U.S. national interest is at stake, they should ask themselves what precisely they intend to do upon reaching the other side.

SG Jeane Kirkpatrick is a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.

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