The Underlying Problem

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Underlying Problem

Kevin Drum had two posts today on Darfur.

In the first, he concluded
I'm willing to support half measures like the Darfur Accountability Act because half measures are better than nothing. But I'd like to see more people on both left and right face up to facts: if you consider yourself serious about stopping the genocide in Darfur, then you should be willing to support a serious commitment of combat troops - and all that that implies - for a period likely to last years. Are you?
He later wrote another one responding to response to his first post in which he stated
I agree that there are options in Darfur other than landing a few divisions of U.S. troops, and I support them even if I'm skeptical that they'll do much good. Rather, my point is a simpler one: if you're serious about stopping genocide, I think you have to face the fact that armed combat troops - not "monitors" or "peacekeepers" - are needed to do the job. I'd like to see more people taking a firm stand on whether they support this, both in Darfur and elsewhere, instead of tiptoeing around the subject and pretending that maybe the AU or the UN is up to the task. For now, they aren't.
I, for one, fully support the use of armed humanitarian intervention in situations such as Darfur and elsewhere in order to stop occurring or impending crimes against humanity or genocide. In fact, I happen to believe that such intervention is required under the Genocide Convention.

But of course, my support for such intervention and the political feasibility of such action are two completely different things and that is exactly the problem in Darfur.

In theory at least, people seem to support armed humanitarian intervention in situations such as this. As a matter of fact, a recently released poll from the International Crisis Group suggests as much and it was this poll that prompted both of Drum's posts.

But reality does not always correspond to our theories. When 18 Army Rangers were killed on a humanitarian mission in Somalia in 1993, the US immediately pulled out. Less than a year later, 10 Belgian peacekeepers were killed in Rwanda and nearly the entire UN mission was pulled out. And this is because people and their representatives support these missions in theory but not in practice.

I happen to believe that a legitimate willingness to deploy an intervention force and stick it out can itself potentially alleviate the need for such an intervention. Had the UN been reinforced following the deaths of the Belgians, many believe the genocide could have been stopped rather quickly.

On the other hand, half-assing things in order to ease our consciences only invites disaster because militias know that if they can just kill a few foreign soldiers, the entire mission will soon collapse.

And that is exactly what is likely to happen if the world half-asses intervention in Darfur.

On the other hand, if the UN or NATO begin seriously planning and preparing for the deployment of, in the words of the International Crisis Group, a "fully-mandated protection force in a non-permissive environment" to Darfur, the seriousness of the international community might be enough to force Khartoum to reign in the Janjaweed.

I would like to see the UN give Khartoum two options: either immediately disarm the Janjaweed and grant the African Union an expanded mandate to protect civilians or face a well-planned and strongly supported expanded AU/NATO force bolstered by liberal rules of engagement.

To date, Khartoum has not been swayed by any of the international community's "half measures" - and carrying this "half measure mentality" over into actual force deployment will only result in massive failure.

Avoiding that fate requires a serious and concerted effort on the part of world leaders to make Khartoum understand that it will be accountable for its genocidal policies. But of course, if world leaders were actually willing to make serious and concerted efforts to hold Khartoum accountable, the genocide wouldn't have dragged on for more than two years and 400,000 people might still be alive.

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