PRESIDENT Jean-Bertrand Aristide's year as the restored president of Haiti has been more successful than his benefactors dared hope. Reconciliation and reconstruction are under way. He has kept his word, especially his intention to step down, as the constitution prescribes, in favor of a new president to be elected.
Haiti looms now as one of President Clinton's successes, though the drama is far from over. Some 20,000 American troops restored the deposed president to power in October 1994. Some 6,900 U.N. troops and police keep him there in law and order.
The charismatic president might have been entitled, in many s minds if not the U.S. Senate's, to prolong his term by the three years that military thugs kept him in exile. A parliament dominated by his followers was freely elected. He dominates his country as few personalities ever have. Whoever he supports will win the election for the new term beginning next Feb. 7.
Not that everyone is happy and well, or could be in a country suffering Haiti's endemic misery. Slum dwellers protesting the way U.S. health aid is administered stoned a motorcade including Tipper Gore, wife of the American vice president. Prime Minister Smarck Michel, favorite of American aid-givers, resigned after the president undermined his privatization program. Less international capital and fewer Haitian exiles have returned, delaying to see if stability and legitimacy really take hold.
The most treacherous circumstances are the timetable for the U.N. troops and police to depart, shortly after the inauguration in February, before the 5,000 newly trained Haitian police are up to the job. And the U.S. will not come through on its aid obligations -- no matter how good President Aristide's behavior -- if Sen. Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has his way.
But the Clinton administration is right to take satisfaction in the fruits of its Haiti policy, which has been more successful in its third year than in the first two or than nay-sayers predicted. President Aristide's own Haiti policy is not doing badly, either.