I want to study the 1994 American invasion of Haiti because I want to find out why it seems more successful than other democracy-promoting interventions in order to help my reader understand the broader context of military democracy promotion strategies.
The first point to establish is that the Haiti intervention was more successful than other interventions. It is important to note that this case be the case even if Haiti did not completely fulfill the intentions of its designers. When spearheading the effort, President Clinton focused his public justification on “restoring democratic government in Haiti,” as he stated in a national speech he gave regarding the invasion.  By that metric, the intervention has had mixed results. Jefferies (2001) finds that although the immediate democratic failings that led to the invasion were corrected, the intervention has also worked to weaken the institutions on which Haitian democracy would rely.  The event that precipitated the invasion was a military coup which ousted President Jean Baptiste Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected leader in decades, from power. Three years after that coup, the invasion did bring Aristide back to power. However, Haiti has remained plagued by governmental issues in the intervening years. Haiti has had a number of presidential elections since the invasion, and almost none of them have been recognized as legitimate by all participating political parties. The most recent elections, originally scheduled for December 2015, had to be postponed several times due to massive protests before it took place in November 2016.  Clearly, even though the invasion restored a democratically elected leader in Haiti, it did not “restore democratic government,” in part due to the fact that very little democratic government existed there to begin with.
But at the same time, other democracy promoting military interventions have been far less successful than the Haiti invasion. The two interventions that were clearly justified along the same democratic lines as Haiti were the second Bush administration’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Whereas Haiti’s most significant governance problem appears to be disputed elections, the governments installed by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan currently lack control over large parts of their own territory. Bridoux and Russell (2012) find that a main cause of Iraq’s domestic unrest is the poorly functioning democratic government set up in the wake of the 2003 invasion.  When disputed politics in Iraq causes the essential lack of a state over much of the country’s territory, this clearly signals that the intervention was less successful than Haiti’s.
This topic is significant first of all because of the gravity of the content. Military invasions to alter the government of countries carry monumental importance for both sides, particularly the country being remodeled. It is imperative to understand the subject as long as it has a possibility of happening. This particular topic can also help readers add nuance to their understandings of why such interventions work the way they do, and which conditions affect these outcomes. Although in all three cases — Haiti, Iraq, and Afghanistan — the United States invaded a country in order to establish a democratic government, the Haitian intervention had different results. It appears that there is some larger trend at work here. I would hypothesize that the strength of preexisting democratic alternatives can help explain the difference. Whereas Bill Clinton was essentially just returning a leader to power once he had already been elected, the two Bush/Obama interventions attempted to create a new democratic government in each country after eliminating a previously entrenched non-democratic one.
Before I draft some questions, I should note that I do not currently foresee choosing this case study, or the general topic of military regime change, to be the topic I finally choose. I am researching more subtle, non-military methods of democracy promotion. But until a puzzle arises in that area, the Haiti example is something I know some background about.
For a specific question I could research, “Why does the 1994 American intervention of Haiti seem more successful than other US democracy promoting interventions?” More broadly, I could research “How does the strength of pre-existing political institutions affect the outcome of external democratic regime change?”
- Clinton, Bill. “Address to the Nation on Haiti.” September 15, 1994. <http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=49093>
- Jefferies, Judson. “The United States and Haiti: An Exercise in Intervention.” Caribbean Quarterly 47, no. 4 (2001): pp. 71-94.
- “Haiti says election could drag on for months, protests grow.” Reuters, April 25, 2016. <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-haiti-election/haiti-says-election-could-drag-on-for-months-protests-grow-idUSKCN0XM0CC>
- Bridoux, Jeff and Malcolm Russell. “Liberal Democracy Promotion in Iraq: A Model for the Middle East and North Africa?” Foreign Policy Analysis 9, no. 3 (2012): pp. 327–346.