Thursday, March 01, 2007

More about Genocide

As I have progressed academically and professionally, it´s become quite clear that one of the issues that is most troublesome to the core of my humanity is the unchecked slaughter of men, women, and children simply because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or what have you. I´m continually shocked that the lens of foreign policy interest filters out things like genocide because it seems like stopping those types of horrors goes to the core of what it means to be human. Even though I know that stopping genocide will never be in a nation´s "national interest", it does seem that it´s in every human´s interest and that since humans make up nations, which make up interests, it should be a priority in our foreign policy agenda. And, given how relatively easy it is to stop genocide, it´s something we might actually get right if we were willing to give it a shot. Call me an idealist.

And perhaps this is why the Bosnia ruling in the ICJ is so troubling. Right or wrong (legally speaking) the ruling essentially gave a blank check to the genocidal Sudanese government that´s already been living on a blank check for the last four years. What we, as a global community, have said is, go ahead and kill anyone you want, for any reason you want. We won´t do anything about it.

The reasons commonly given for not acting to stop genocide include the lack of national interest and the risks of foreign intervention. Pessimists and/or realists generally cite Somalia or Vietnam (and soon to be Iraq) as examples of the risks of foreign entanglement in situations we don´t fully understand. But those comparisons fail the laugh test. Stopping genocide is a completely different task than those undertaken in Somalia, Vietnam, and Iraq. In fact, stopping genocide can´t exactly be seen as terribly difficult. When the guilt-ridden French finally went into Rwanda, it took little more than lifting a finger to brush the genocide away.* Machetes versus tanks, yo. And, if you´ve ever watched a video about Darfur, you could conclude that a few attack helicopters tasked with the mission to protect could pretty much shut down the genocide permanently. But, we don´t act because of the "risks" involved.

*(Note: The situation in Rwanda was much more complicated and the French deserve no credit as the Rwandan Patriotic Front actually halted the genocide as they were better armed and organized than Paul Kegali´s genocidal forces. But the point remains the same. It wasn´t hard to stop the genocide in Rwanda. A few well armed troops against machete armed militias wasn´t a contest. In two months the RPF crushed the Hutu regime. Imagine what a well trained, high tech equipped army could have done.)

As a young Bosnian woman who I recently had as a guest speaker in my IR class so eloquently stated, "there´s a difference between fighting a war against [genocidal regimes] and protecting the innocent." I found her comment to be particularly insightful because of the shameful performance of the UN in stopping genocide. When the UN sends "monitors" that´s exactly what they do, monitor. In Rwanda, in an outright disgrace of human decency, UN forces were tasked with protecting foreigners only. So, as soon as the UN troops left an area, out came the machetes, off came the heads. Rwanda was the most primitive of genocides and there was clear evidence at the time that the mere presence of armed UN forces would have shut it down. But we didn´t authorize that. The world instead prefered to let between 800,000 and 1,000,000 people die from the machete than risk the lives of 10 or 20 soldiers.

Darfur is a particularly horrid case as some powerful governments cite the lack of national interest for not acting and others cite national interests for not acting. The US and Europe, for example, are just gun shy when it comes to out of the way areas with few resources to exploit. But the Chinese, on the other hand, are pretty much acting the asshole on this one. The Chinese, God bless their Realist loving souls, want something that Sudan has - Oil. And they know that a hostile position toward the genocide in Darfur will curtail their oil interests. So, the Chinese have not only refused to lift a finger of assistance to the refugees in Darfur, they have actively frustrated UN Security Council efforts by threatening to veto any resolution against the Sudanese government stronger than weak tap water. Hu Jintao meet Adolph Hitler.

The complexity of diverging national interests in a vertical (consensus) system of government essentially guarantees that, as currently composed, the UN Security Council has little hope of acting against genocide in the near term (next 50 years). That leaves two options: unilateral or non-UN multilateral intervention and legal remedies.

Given that 3rd party intervention is extremely rare and unlikely absent strong national interests, the campaign to stop genocide has largely become a legal battle to punish perpetrators after the fact as a means to deter future genocidal leaders. I think that with the history of the last 16 years (post-cold war era) it can be reasonably concluded that this tactic has been a complete failure. Genocide continues. Leaders don´t get punished. And, as seen in Bosnia, responsible parties evade guilty verdicts.

I´ll put it this way. If the Army of the Serb Republic was seen as "independent" from the Serbian government, then what are the odds a future court would rule that the Janjaweed are acting under the auspices of the Sudanese government? I´d say slim to none.

The real conclusion from the Bosnia ruling is that the best way to prosecute a vicious and evil war against civilians is to Outsource Genocide. And that´s exactly what seems to be happening in Darfur.

Unless and until we step up, as a global people, and put an end to this type of violence, we all bear the shame of complicity in murder. I, for one, don´t want blood on my hands.


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