Time and Space Constraints

Tony Kinsella’s analysis in today’s Irish Times seeks to identify the underlying reason for the level of destruction inflicted by the earthquake in Haiti, yet it leaves out some inconvenient events from the narrative:

Dear Tony Kinsella,

Reading your account of failing, unorganised states in today’s Irish Times a question occurred to me, is there any particular reason you decided to brush over the last 20 years of Haitian political history with the misleading summary: "the world acted as benevolent if inadequate midwife"?

You also write: "Afghanistan is a failing state despite direct military intervention by the Soviet Union in 1979 and the US in 2001." Is it really fair to say that Afghanistan’s political vacuum is really the result of failed military interventions or would it be more reasonable to say it is partly a direct result of those interventions?

Best wishes,


For some other background info on Haiti try Patrick Cockburn over at ZNet.

And while I’m writing this, post title already picked, a response:

Dear David,

Thank you for your reaction. I largely agree with your suggestions but within my 950 word allocation I was trying to emphasise the differences between Haiti and other "failed" states. The factors of French colonialism (in a particularly brutal expression of same), the racist shunning of the newly-independent Haiti by ALL other states 1804-1850, the reparations and subsequent US invasion/occupation are horrific but can, to one degree or another, be found across the experiences of others.

The destruction of ethnic and/or local cultural, social and political networks by the slave trade left Haitians uniquely without other networks to fall back on when their state was destroyed.

The far-from-glorious modern US interventions, particularly those of Clinton and George W, were horrific, but were largely covered by Peter Hallward in last Friday’s Irish Times.

The foreign interventions in Afghanistan have had little positive effect BUT there was not all that much of a central Afghan state under the old monarchy, and Afghans have fallen back on their ethnic/regional structures, rather like Somalis and to some extent Yemenis. By kidnapping Africans, primarily from West Africa, and shipping them across the Atlantic to Haiti, France deprived Haitians of such a fallback option.


Tony K.

2 thoughts on “Time and Space Constraints

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