Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Never Again?

NATO has announced that while it may be willing to assist peacekeepers in Darfur, either from the UN or the African Union, NATO is not prepared or willing to commit troops to help the situation on the ground in Darfur. There are several good reasons for this, including the increased number of NATO troops needed in Afghanistan.

However, on top of any logistical impediments to a NATO involvement, there also seems to be a philosophical objection as well; namely, the commitment to sovereignty that I've previously identified as the bugaboo of the UN. Many seem to doubt whether Sudan will allow US or NATO soldiers on its soil. The French are questioning whether NATO can be the "gendarme of the world." US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick stressed that African problems should have African solutions.

This is pathetic. A government that is massacring and ethnically cleansing its populations gets to decide whether peacekeepers can protect those people? That won't go far in preventing genocide. What meaning can international law have if sovereignty permits a government to block peacekeepers? How can the AU possibly hope to protect the people of Darfur? AU troops are woefully underfunded and undertrained, not to mention the political in-fighting that gets in the way of meaningful political improvement. And finally, if NATO, and the US in particular, won't act as the world's policemen, then who will?

The international community has to face up to a question. What is more important: adherence to the existing rules and norms, or commitment to the norms of liberalism, which are rapidly being seen as commensurate with the international system writ large? The two cannot co-exist. If the existing laws and norms are to prevail, then the protection and promotion sovereignty will be the international imperative, and people should simply stop talking about law and morals in international politics. If the international community truly wants to prevent genocide and promote human rights, then it needs to drop this knee-jerk commitment to the existing rules of the system and start punishing those who break the norms. If Sudan doesn't want peacekeepers to interfere with its genocide and ethnic cleansing in Darfur, should a belief in sovereignty enable that desire? If France is concerned with the well-being of Africans, should NATO do what it can to ensure those Africans aren't slaughtered?

The existing rules of the international system simply cannot coexist with a concern for human rights and preventing genocide.

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