Haiti welcomed a new leader this month after mercenaries, including some who received U.S. training, allegedly helped assassinate President Jovenel Moïse. While not directly tied to the Moïse assassination, U.S. government investments have helped create the infrastructure for operations like the one that allegedly led to the assassination of Moïse.
After investigation, the U.S. government confirmed that it had trained seven of the 26 Colombian mercenaries alleged to be involved in the assassination. This outcome is unsurprising, considering that the United States has trained over 107,000 Colombian security personnel in the past 20 years. Rather than training thousands more in violence and increasing the likelihood of similar attacks, we ought to explore peaceful investments in countries like Haiti and Colombia.
Training foreigners in force is only part of the problem, though, as the U.S. invested over $1 in law enforcement for every $500 in the Colombian economy between 2001 and 2011. The Colombian economy lacks peaceful employment alternatives for the beneficiaries of American investment who are trained in the use of force and are bound to retire early. Many of these people later become mercenaries for private military and security companies, or PMSCs, like the American company CTU Security LLC, which is now facing questions about its alleged role in Haiti.
The training of foreign security forces provides a broad talent base for PMSCs that lack full democratic oversight. The U.S. government has nurtured the growth of the industry — now a $200 billion behemoth — by relying on PMSCs itself.
One possible result of this decades-long trend is that seven American-trained mercenaries allegedly became desperate enough to join a dangerous job organized by a seemingly insolvent company. The United States should shift its focus, investing instead in peaceful and constructive industries like medicine, computer science, and education. We the people must take responsibility for slowing American investments in the use of force, while calling on our allies to do the same.
After all, our global investments in violence have created a global problem. Before the pandemic, an average day saw the U.S. train over 5,000 security personnel from 153 countries — 78% of the countries on Earth. PMSCs are similarly global in nature, with headquarters scattered from Switzerland to South Africa, soldiers coming from Sweden to the Philippines, and with PMSC involvement in conflicts from Ukraine to Haiti.
This system is highly flawed on strategic grounds. More importantly, however, it is fundamentally anti-democratic. The idea of democratic self-government is founded upon John Locke’s contract theory, which commands a self-governing people to maintain political control over the use of violence via the police and military. It is a theory that has stood the test of time.
Rather than serving as a democratically controlled mechanism for the non-state use of violence in society, this system of widespread training and privatization has become an exploitable and abhorrent weapon used to assassinate an allied president. The training of foreign military personnel and the proliferation of PMSCs are just two features of this system that contributed to the murder of Jovenel Moïse, but the problem is far less limited.
Re-establishing democratic control over militaries will help to limit overflowing violence, though more than anything, we must change our attitude about how we invest.
This process starts domestically, where the poor treatment of American soldiers supplies the American PMSC industry. Rather than cutting loose our well-trained protectors after their knees and backs begin to weaken, we need to ensure that the best option for Americans trained in the use of force is to use and evolve their expertise under the democratic control of the U.S. military.
Internationally, rather than trying to act as a self-appointed superior to our neighboring nations, the United States needs to invest in peaceful institutions and industries while genuinely respecting the local people.
The United States and Europe also need to stop intervening in the politics of Haiti and other neighbors, as both did yet again in the aftermath of Moïse’s assassination. American and European powers were quick to impose their collective will on Haiti by publicly supporting interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry instead of interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph. Three days later, Joseph stepped down and backed Henry exactly as the global powers suggested.
Such interventions may seem harmless, or even necessary in a nation characterized by political instability, where more than half of the people survive on less than $2 per day. In reality though, American and especially French interventions have helped to ensure the perpetual poverty of the former slave colony. While military training in Colombia and a Miami-based PMSC may seem unrelated to Haitian poverty, investments in violence have enabled turmoil in Haiti and are likely to continue promoting instability if they are not reined in.
Samuel Teixeira was born in New London, Connecticut and graduated from the University of Virginia in 2015 with a BA in Government. He is a Contributor with Young Voices and has volunteered his time mentoring Haitian youth since 2016. The views expressed are the author's own.