Nation-Building With Bombers
Jude Wanniski
October 18, 2000


Memo To: George W. Bush
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Commitment to Haiti

You're getting tons of advice, I know, but I can't resist making a suggestion that I believe would help your presidential campaign in these last few weeks: I think you should tell the nation that once elected, your first act of foreign policy would be to send a team of supply-side economists, headed by Jack Kemp, to Haiti, to help the Haitian government get on an economic fast-track. As Haiti has come up in the debates, you have stated you would not have invaded that impoverished island nation because you are opposed to using our military for "nation-building." I agreed with you completely, but as you know, the Republican Party is divided on that issue. The old Cold Warriors, always looking for something to bomb, take continual potshots at General Colin Powell for his reluctance to build nations with bombers. Here, for example, is Tunku Varadarajan, one of the WSJournal editorial page editors, in a Monday op-ed, “The Case for ‘Nation Building.’”

Aspects of Mr. Bush's foreign policy trouble me, and here's why. He appears to be dogmatically opposed to "nation-building," as well as to be wedded to the belief that the U.S. should be "a humble nation." His advisers will say, no doubt, that his position is a pragmatic one, akin to the conservative realism of his father's foreign policy, scripted largely by Brent Scowcroft. Certainly, that is the intellectual tenor imparted by Condoleezza Rice, his redoubtable advisor on foreign affairs. But I detect another flavor in Mr. Bush's foreign policy -- the quasi-isolationism of Colin Powell. "I wouldn't have sent troops to Haiti," [Bush] said in the early stages of the debate. "I didn't think it was a mission worthwhile. It was a nation-building mission." The last phrase was uttered often in the debate, always with distaste, and contrasted always with "strategic interests," the endangering of which would give rise to the only situations where U.S. intervention is acceptable.

I'm sure you're not aware, Governor, that when we were pondering invasion of Haiti in 1994, I was advising Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole on a daily basis. I urged him to ask President Clinton to send a fact-finding mission to Haiti before he sent troops. I recommended General Colin Powell for the assignment. Dole agreed, got Clinton to agree, and a team was sent, with Powell joined by two Democrats, former President Jimmy Carter and Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn. It was Powell, though, who persuaded the Haitian military regime to step down peacefully, even as the U.S. Marines prepared to invade. I'd also advised Dole to urge Clinton to follow-up with a team of economic specialists, headed by Jack Kemp. Inasmuch as Dole still viewed Kemp as a potential competitor for the GOP nomination in 1996, that did not happen. Haiti was returned to the tender mercies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which have employed all their usual poisonous nostrums to keep the poor people of Haiti in a perpetual state of desperate poverty.

Jack would be available, I'm sure, as he has now retired to a role as elder statesman. It would not take him and his team more than a week or two to help Haiti figure out how to "nation build" without bombs or U.S. troops.

If you decide to do this, Governor, it should be more than a vague promise, and you should make it clear that the people you would send would understand the nature of economic growth. I say that from bitter experience. In 1980, when I was advising Ronald Reagan in his campaign for the presidency, I urged that he make the island economy of Jamaica his first target of foreign policy. Back then, Jamaica was probably the most politically troubled of all the Caribbean island economies, its prime minister, the late Michael Manley a pure Keynesian with a Ph.D. in economics from the London School of Economics. (In early 1976, I'd written an op-ed for the WSJournal about Manley and Jamaica, "How to Destroy an Island Paradise.")

Imagine my shock when Reagan was inaugurated in January 1981 and said his first act of foreign policy would be to send a delegation to Jamaica. As the voters had ousted Manley in their own 1980 elections, Reagan clearly was offering to help it rebuild the wreckage wrought by Manley's Keynesian formulas. Great news, huh? Sorry. Where the Gipper had seen the wisdom of my suggestion, his newly-found friends on Wall Street, who had been making fun of him a year earlier, persuaded him to send David Rockefeller to Kingston. David Rockefeller!!! The upshot was that the new regime in Jamaica was granted a new multi-million dollar loan package on "favorable terms," to help pay down their New York bank loans. There were no recommendations from the Rockefeller team to deal with the oppressive tax system or the confetti currency.

The greatest failure of the Reagan administration, I've always felt, was the President's failure to confront the power elite in the banks and insist upon supply-side reforms of the IMF. Certainly a Gore administration would never attempt such reforms, with Keynesian Ph.D. Larry Summers at Treasury and Bob Rubin representing the interests of Citigroup as well as his old pals at Goldman, Sachs. Heck, they might dust off David Rockefeller to go to Port-au-Prince, to cook up a new low-interest loan.