Sunday, August 07, 2005

Africa Can't Stop Genocide

In a column in The Washington Post, Susan E. Rice paints a stark portrait of genocide and death enabled by the inaction of the international community. The victims of Darfur, in the nation of Sudan, continue to suffer and die:

By some estimates, the genocide in Darfur may have already claimed as many as 400,000 lives. Almost 2 million people are internally displaced, many languishing in crude camps where they are unable to plant crops or return to their burned-out villages. The government of Sudan, along with the militia it has armed and trained, is responsible for the genocide. While the pace of the killing has diminished in recent months, since there are few villages left to burn, the Sudanese government continues to support the militias that prey on vulnerable civilians, especially women. As [U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice affirmed during her recent trip to Africa: "By our accounts, it was and is genocide."

One major obstacle to saving lives in Darfur is President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. For reasons of politics and prestige, he wants the African Union to appear to be real, rather than just another example of failure in Africa. Mbeki told President Bush in June:

It's critically important that the African continent should deal with these conflict situations on the continent.... We have not asked for anybody outside of the African continent to deploy troops in Darfur. It's an African responsibility, and we can do it.

He's wrong, of course. So far the AU has deployed about 3,000 troops to Darfur, an area about the size of Texas. Logistics and other kinds of support have also been inadequate. The AU claims it will deploy up to 12,000 troops within about nine months, but there's no reason to believe that it will meet that goal or that the effort would be effective. More has to be done, for the reasons stressed by Susan Rice:

We should not lose sight of the fact that conflict and genocide are fundamentally different phenomena, even though they may occur in tandem as in Darfur and Rwanda. Genocide, as distinct from conflict, is a crime against all humanity regardless of race, religion or region, and it is the obligation of the entire world to stop it. In Rwanda, humanity -- the U.N., Americans, Europeans and Africans -- failed to halt the killing. In Darfur, despite the African Union's belated best efforts, the world's nations are still failing. This time, our failure lies in accepting the dubious proposition that halting genocide against Africans is solely "an African responsibility."

Thabo Mbeki gets more deference and respect than he deserves. He may walk in the shadow of Nelson Mandela, but he's no Mandela. South Africa may represent the hope that an African nation can succeed under majority black leadership, but it's on a downward glide path, sustained mainly by past strength. Mbeki himself hopes to be the leading light of Africa through the African Union, as re-named a few years ago to resemble the European Union, at least in name. The AU, however, is no more than the sum of its parts, and that isn't much.

Mbeki fiddled while people died in South Africa because he didn't personally believe that the HIV virus caused AIDS. Now he's fiddling again as the people of Darfur continue to die because he wants to demonstrate the effectiveness of the AU. The rest of the world must ignore him and deal with the problem.

So far, the U.S. and the international community have addressed this latest African genocide with words and humanitarian aid. Taking the forceful steps necessary to stop it would be relatively cheap and easy. Let's get on with it.


Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

So do you believe that it is time for military action? I think that's what it would have to be in part.

It is a serious step but I agree that something needs to be done ASAP. This cannot be accepted if we want to pursue a civilized world. These people's lives must transcend politics.

7:17 AM, August 08, 2005  
Blogger John Walter said...

Military Action?! I'm as belligerent as the next red state conservative, but we don't have a direct interest there.

When we liberated Kuwait, Bush Sr. laid out a triple justification including regional stability, international justice, and oil price stability. With Afghanistan, we took out a repressive regime which had supported attacks against our homeland. In Iraq, we not only had Saddam breaking international law and defying the U.N., but also his own genocides, his support for terrorists, and a very real belief that he was trying to hide WMD's.

In Darfur, we have a nasty government and death on a massive scale, but we still need more reason than that before sending in the Marines.

8:12 AM, August 08, 2005  
Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

"Let's get on with it."

I agree. If freeing Iraqis from tyranny is "beautiful" enough to justify the war in the absense of WMD's (and I believe it IS), then what about the people of Sudan. It may be a tough "sell" to the American public, but either we're liberators or we're not. If we're not, then stop justifying Iraq this way. If we are, then, as Tom says,

"Let's get on with it"

3:50 PM, August 08, 2005  
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4:05 PM, August 08, 2005  
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4:33 PM, August 08, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

The international intervention alternatives that have been discussed so far are limited to an international force on the ground provided by the UN or NATO. The U.S. part of this would most likely involve few forces on the ground, most likely limited to a token element of a larger force, probably engaged in logistics and coordination of us air support. This would include fighter support to the international force and military cargo flights. This is well within our current capabilities, regardless of other military commitments. This isn't much of a price to pay for saving a huge number of lives. It would also save us from the humiliating prospect of another U.S. president going to Africa and publicly apologizing for our not saving them from themselves. Beyond all that, it's the right thing to do.

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4:55 AM, August 09, 2005  

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