The famous Prussian military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz once stated that when it comes to military operations “every plan is a good one—until the first shot is fired.”
Clausewitz intended to make a point about warfare’s unpredictability, but as the prospect of intervening in Haiti raises its ugly head, I contend that based on recent history, certain U.S. military intervention-related events or milestones can be predicted with reasonable certainty—and that’s not a good thing.
Fresh off our impending defeat in Afghanistan, the United States government is once again studying the possibility of intervening in another country’s internal affairs. The recent assassination of Haiti’s president has been followed by official Haitian requests for U.S. military intervention to help stem the current chaotic situation.
The Biden administration has expressed caution regarding any thought of providing military support; however, a fact-finding mission has been sent to Haiti to help guide any future decision-making.
Based on our Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan experiences, Americans are naturally very skeptical regarding our potential to bring peace and stability to another country. Yes, there is still something to be said for America’s idealism and can-do spirit. We usually mean well when we try to help.
Yet, as we ponder the possibility of Haiti intervention, I caution that one can already see the writing on the wall. As a student of history, I might not be able to foresee the exact outcome waiting for us down the road, but like a bad Adam Sandler movie, I can pretty much predict some of the things that will happen along the way to the closing credits.
Accordingly, based on what I recall from previous U.S. attempts to intervene throughout the world, here are my predictions should we decide to place boots on the ground in Haiti. Call me clairvoyant, or just very cynical.
1. Two months into this country’s humanitarian intervention, the commander of U.S. military forces in Haiti will claim that though he cannot give a precise date, completion of the mission is just around the corner.
2. Three months into this country’s humanitarian intervention, U.S troops will be accused of torturing Haitian combatants and/or civilians at a secret prison. High ranking U.S. officers will say they knew nothing about this torture. The TV show 60 Minutes will interview military whistleblowers claiming otherwise.
3. Four months into the humanitarian intervention, a U.S. drone will kill innocent Haitian civilians gathered to (pick one): a. play a soccer game; b. celebrate a wedding; c. watch a bad Adam Sandler movie. International outrage will ensue.
4. Six months into the humanitarian intervention, the commander of U.S. military forces will tell the press that victory is possible if only more troops are provided. How many? “A gradual but flexible increase over an indeterminate amount of time.”
5. Seven months into the extended U.S. peacekeeping effort, former President Trump will claim he would have achieved victory by totally flattening the s**t hole country of Haiti with nuclear weapons. “So simple. So simple,” he will say. “That I can tell you.”
6. A year into the extended U.S. peacekeeping effort, the commander of U.S. military forces in Haiti will testify to Congress that he sees light at the end of the tunnel.
7. Thirteen months into the extended U.S. peacekeeping effort, when asked to define the enemy in Haiti, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will comment, “This really isn’t a military problem. The enemy is political corruption. And a country can’t change its cultural norms overnight, so patience is going to be required.”
8. Fourteen months into the U.S. effort to install democratic institutions in Haiti, a U.S. military training facility in Haiti will be the target of a mass casualty terrorist bombing conducted by a rebel Haitian faction. The CIA, FBI, DIA, NSA, DEA and IRS will all claim to have picked up chatter of a possible terrorist bombing in the weeks leading up to the bloody incident.
9. At the end of his one-year assignment, the U.S. major general responsible for training Haitian troops will claim we can soon end our security efforts and hand over total military responsibility to the newly formed Haitian army, stating…“They are a much improved, professional fighting force.”
10. Fifteen months into the U.S. effort to install democratic institutions in Haiti, a young Haitian soldier undergoing training by the U.S. military will shoot and kill four U.S. military training advisors while shouting “Death to American Occupiers.” This incident will be repeated several times in the following months at U.S training facilities located at or near Port au Prince.
11. Sixteen months into the U.S. effort to install any kind of stable government in Haiti, a number of U.S Navy SEALs will write books about their highly classified special ops experiences in Haiti. Hollywood will scoop up the movie rights. Defying the limitations of age, Tom Cruise will star in one such movie as a young, cocky Navy SEAL who doesn’t play by the rules.
12. Two years into the desperate U.S. effort to install any kind of stable government in Haiti, the “new” commander of U.S. military forces in Haiti will claim “We are winning, though it may not look like it because the enemy is very devious. But we have to stay the course.”
13. Two and a half years into the U.S’s prolonged nation-building effort, when asked at a press conference what “victory” looks like in Haiti, the President of the United States will offer an incoherent response and blame journalists for being too negative.
14. Three years into the U.S.’s prolonged nation-building effort, a Senator with presidential aspirations will claim he/she was always against intervening in Haiti and never believed in nation-building.
My fellow Americans, don’t say I haven’t warned you…about bad Adam Sandler movies, that is.
Steve Rodriguez is a retired Marine Corps officer and high school teacher who last taught at Olympian High School in Chula Vista.