American Plan 2.0: The Global Fragility Act Unfolds

Kim Ives
Des gens passent devant un poste de police abandonné dans le quartier Drouillard de Port-au-Prince, Haïti, le 7 novembre 2022. (Adriana Zehbrauskas/The New York Times)People walk past an abandoned police station in the Drouillard neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Nov. 7, 2022. (Adriana Zehbrauskas/The New York Times)

The Global Fragility Act may wear the humanitarian garb of USAID, but it is fundamentally a military deployment.

In the late 1980s, after the fall of JeanClaude Baby Doc Duvalier on February 7, 1986, Washington began implementing its neoliberal structural adjustment of Haiti in earnest. Structural adjustment policies are just an economist’s euphemism for crippling austerity cuts, laying off thousands of government workers, selling and closing down stateowned enterprises, drastically reducing tariffs and cutting social programs.

Journalist Michael Massing deftly described the devastation that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID or simply AID) brought to Haiti in late 1987 in the New York Review of Books.

As Haiti’s largest donor, the agency had enormous leverage with the Haitian government, and it now used its influence to push for a major overhaul of the Haitian economy..... Its main ally was the new [Haitian] finance minister, Leslie Delatour. He was an IDA mission’s dream, as one IDA officer put it. He had earned degrees from Johns Hopkins and the University of Chicago, and then went to work for the World Bank...Delatour passed an austerity budget and, as part of that, cut government spending...[He] reduced tariffs and eliminated import quotas, allowing a flow of cheap goods.

Arriving in Haiti in midAugust [1987], I found a country that was rapidly spiraling out of control...As for the economy, the policies of Delatour and the IDA had produced total disarray... [A] flood of cheap imports had a devastating effect on local producers, who simply could not compete... The employment situation, too, was dismal... Not only were few jobs created, but the closure of public enterprises drove hundreds of people out of work.

Many Haitians blamed the United States. The country was in the midst of discussions about a disturbing U.S. plan designed to keep the country backward and dependent. According to common wisdom, the plan was designed to keep Haitian wages low in order to make the country attractive to American capital. To an outsider, it appeared that some secret American documents had fallen into the wrong hands. In fact, the U.S. plan was a convenient political term for the annual country statements that IDA regularly prepares for countries around the world. The [IDA] statements had caught the attention of Haiti Progress, a lively leftwing newspaper published in Brooklyn. Its articles on AID were then picked up by Haiti’s powerful radio stations, the main source of information for illiterate Haitians. As a result, even the poorest residents of PortauPrince could speak knowledgeably about the American plan. By the spring of 1987, the IDA had become so weary of being attacked that it paid an American consultant $40,000 to find out why it was so hated.

When Haitians resisted neoliberal austerity by electing President JeanBertrand Aristide twice in 1990 and 2000, they were punished by two U.S.backed coups in 1991 and 2004, followed by UN military occupations.

Now, nearly four decades later, neoliberal policies, with their concomitant coups and invasions, have devastated Haiti, leaving it chaotic, crimeridden and without an elected government. And guess who came to save Haiti from the damage it caused? Washington, again.

The Global Fragility Act or simply GFA was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 20, 2019.

This time, the United States is using what might be called American Plan 2.0. It is essentially a new alliance of USAID knowhow with Pentagon muscle. The new American plan is called the Global Fragility Act or simply GFA.

Haiti Progrès sounded the alarm on the first American Plan, Haiti Liberté itself, drew attention to the GFA last summer. Although the GFA passed with bipartisan support under Trump in 2019, it has remained under the radar... until now.

Last week, the Biden administration for the first time trumpeted its plans, set for 2021, to make Haiti the pilot case for the GFA.

Unveiling The American Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote the Stability of the Ten-Year Strategic Plan for Haiti on March 24, Washington said it chose Haiti for its strategic relevance and proximity to the United States and the need for a longterm approach to address the drivers of instability in the country. To fulfill this mission, the United States plans to integrate U.S. diplomacy, development, and security sector engagement in Haiti. In other words, the State Department, its humanitarian arm, USAID and the Pentagon will all work in close coordination.

The next day, U.S. Secretary of State  Anthony Blinken followed up with a press release to emphasize that the new U.S. plan was about recognizing that the most pressing challenges of our time are not limited to national borders and that the U.S. is seeking to address the underlying causes of violence and instability before conflicts erupt or escalate.

This means that the new DOS/USAID/DOD complex will effectively take control of Haiti, if Washington gets its way, transforming the country from a neocolony into a Puerto Ricanstyle colony, broadly speaking. Nevertheless, they would try to keep a Haitian facade.

U.S. government efforts will engage and leverage Haitian civil society partners and the Haitian National Police (HNP) strengthen citizen security and the rule of law...[with a] focus on key highcrime and highviolence neighborhoods, [our emphasis] the March 24 statement says. Translation: Washington will deploy troops to fight and subdue armed neighborhood committees seeking radical social change, such as the federation’s Revolutionary forces of the G9 family and allies while putting Haitian civilians and cops on display.

As part of this month’s rollout, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, a Washington, D.C.based NGO that has been a major supporter of the GFA, released a paper entitled How Congress Can Break Through the Barriers to GFA Implementation. The paper argues that Congress must also address existing legal barriers  to accelerate implementation and take steps to provide integrated, unrestricted and adaptive funding streams, support to address staffing shortages, and an exemption from the material support ban for peacebuilding organizations operating in Haiti and other GFA target countries.

In short, the NGO proposes to give the GFA’s humanitarian/military apparatus complete freedom and no control over its operations. As their article states, The broad legal restrictions that create criminal and civil liability for providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) limit the effectiveness of programs designed to prevent people from engaging in violent conflict and extremism.

The previously classified Pentagon manual entitled Defense Support to Stabilization (DSS): a Guide for Stabilization Practitioners also contains revealing language about how the U.S. military will engage with its adversaries in GFA target countries. It contains excerpts from the December 2018 DOD directive, such as Stabilization is an inherently political endeavor involving an integrated civilmilitary process to create conditions in which locally legitimate authorities and systems peacefully manage conflict and prevent a resurgence of violence.

Today, Washington wants to use humanitarian aid as a cover to deploy troops to Haiti for the next decade.

The DSS aims to “synchronize missions” to “strengthen USG [U.S. government] stabilization efforts and promote stability…in conflict-affected areas outside the United States.

“The goal is to stop “violent extremism,transnational terrorism, refugees and internally displaced persons, and mass atrocities before they affect the security of the United States and its allies and partners.”​

Now Washington wants to use humanitarian aid as a cover for deploying troops to Haiti for the next decade.

Stabilization is necessary to translate combat success into sustainable strategic gains and a necessary complement to joint combat power at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. In addition, U.S. troops will conduct a range of military operations to counter subversion and consolidate military gains to achieve strategic success using small footprint, partnercentric teams with indigenous and other external partners, i.e., U.S. Special Forces working with the Haitian military and police. In short, the Pentagon aims to identify, train, equip, advise, assist, or accompany foreign security forces conducting stabilization efforts independently or in conjunction with other U.S. government efforts.

The DSS also complements Washington’s 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS), which articulates how the U.S. military will respond to growing threats to vital U.S. national security interests and act with urgency to maintain and enhance U.S. deterrence, with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as [the Pentagon’s] pace challenge. The strategy identifies four highlevel defense priorities for the Department to pursue to strengthen deterrence: (1) Defend the homeland. (2) Discourage strategic attacks against the United States, its allies, and partners. (3) Deter aggression, while being prepared to prevail in conflict if necessary. (4) Build a resilient joint force and defense ecosystem.

The Pentagon plans to do this by working seamlessly across the domains of warfare, theaters, the spectrum of conflict, other instruments of U.S. national power, and our unmatched network of alliances and partnerships. Integrated deterrence is made possible by credible forces in combat, backed by a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent. In other words, if AFM fails, the next step is nuclear war.

In short, Washington’s unclassified policy documents reveal that the GFA may be dressed in the humanitarian garb of USAID, but is fundamentally a military response to China, the main challenger to U.S. global hegemony. It seeks to make Haiti a partner in a front to gain an advantage against all competitors through logically linked military initiatives.

Nevertheless, Anthony Blinken puts it in more flowery terms: [T]hese tenyear plans [will] collectively address the drivers of conflict and violence and ... support our partner countries in the pursuit of peace and prosperity.

Translation by Internationalist 360°

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