Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Larger Case For Intervention

The genocide in Darfur has been going on for some time now; hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered and millions have been chased from their homes. In response, the international community has done, essentially, nothing. This lack of interest is not difficult to understand. States are extremely reluctant to risk their own soldiers and resources on humanitarian interventions. The US experience in Somalia in 1993-4 is the model for this reluctance, but the failure to stop the bloodshed in Rwanda demonstrates that the lesson was learned. NATO's intervention in Kosovo is the exception that proves the rule, as Kosovo was much more about strategic and national interests than enforcing moral or ethical values.

Darfur, goes the argument, may be a tragedy, but it is worse when states become involved in conflicts in which their interest is low. When interest is low, states do not devote sufficient resources and lack political will (as happened in Somalia), making it unlikely that the intervention will succeed and often making the situation worse. There is no national interest in ending the genocide in Darfur. So nothing will happen. The UN fails to condemn it, the international community fails to act, and "never again" becomes a meaningless catchphrase.

But, does the genocide in Darfur really not threaten US, Western, or international interests? Not at all. As I blogged a few weeks back, humanitarian intervention can be understood as part of American national interest, and this is especially true in Darfur. First, the US is and always has been (current debates over Guantanamo aside) a leader in the promulgation of liberal values, human rights, and international law. That role depends on the US putting its money where its mouth is; only by acting to prevent the grossest violations of human rights and international law and norms can the US maintain its position that it held during the Cold War of the defender of freedom. Without US leadership and military force, the world would be a much more violent and much less free place.

But there are other ways that humanitarian crises like Darfur represent more serious threats to US national interest. For example, tensions are rising between Sudan and Chad over a border incursion by Chadian forces into Sudan this past weekend. Sudanese-backed rebels often cross into Chad to attack Darfurian militias, as well as refugee camps, and Chad has begun crossing into Sudan in pursuit of the rebels. This has the potential to spiral into a larger war, and this is exactly why ethnic conflicts should be understood as part of national interest. Ethnic conflict creates larger regional conflicts and creates failed states; these things destabilize regions other states, creating even larger wars as well as the conditions for terrorism. Al Qaeda and the Taliban had their Afghani roots in the fact that once the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan, the US failed to devote any resources to building a state, allowing the Taliban to seize power and collaborate with al Qaeda. The failed US operation in Somalia led to the control of that country by an Islamic fundamentalist group with connections to al Qaeda. What happens in African states that seem to have little strategic import can in fact matter greatly to the US.

Fighting against those states that would allow the massacre of their populations is not just a moral issue. In fact, the moral argument is not likely to be one that produces the desired result. Opposing genocide is, however, also in the strategic interest of the US and its liberal allies. Building an international community based on respect for basic human rights is of strategic interest to all. And that is why humanitarian intervention should remain an active component of US foreign policy. Especially and immediately in Darfur.


Anonymous said...

While the case can be made for US intervention, there is not much justification for going with the current Bush Administration plan, one that involves targeted sanctions against a few Sudanese officials and a group of Sudanese companies, combined with vague proposals to restrict Sudanese oil transactions using U.S. dollars. The administration only recently decided to move toward implementing the policy and already U.S. agencies tasked with the job are either unresponsive or lack the resources and manpower necessary to carry it out.

There is a hearing tomorrow in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on this plan, called "Plan B." Read more about what the plan should be here: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/04/plan_b.html

Anonymous said...

the end of the URL above is:

Seth Weinberger said...

Too true that current US policy towards Sudan has been lacking. Sad to say that it has perhaps been the best response from anyone; Europe has done even less and the UN has been completely ineffective. Until the case can be made that intervention would be in the national interest, this is probably the best Darfur is going to get.

WeeZie said...

Seth, perhaps the largest mass slaughter of people since WWII has been in the Congo where upwards of 4 million people have died. Yet searching your blog, there is one mention of the Congo and that is a positive story. As you wrote, "the AU has decided to select Congo to its presidency" and "We can only hope that this deal is an example of the classic IR tactic of kicking the can down the road" but you completely ignore what is happening in Kivu, in the Congo. Can it be that you step away from criticising these atrocities is because the Hema and Lendu militias who are conducting these atrocities(and who employ child soldiers) are trained by American allies (Rwanda and Uganda)?

If violence in Darfur neccesitates an intervention by the United States, why does the violence in Kivu (which is on my MUCH wider scale) not require intervention?

Seth Weinberger said...

Weezie: I'm really getting tired of this. Is it possible for you to present your ideas and opinions without insulting me, or accusing me of being a shill? Your comments are incendiary and accusatory. I will not respond to you (and yes, there is a perfectly good reason that I have not addressed the situation in the Congo, and it's not because I'm an apologist for genocidal militias backed by the US) until you are capable of engaging in reasonable and appropriate discourse.

WeeZie said...

WO. Since that last time when I said the "crying wolf" thing, I have not said anything either disrespectful or that is personally attacking. My question was "If violence in Darfur necessitates an intervention by the United States, why does the violence in Kivu (which is on my MUCH wider scale) not require intervention?"

I do not see where I called you an apologist, I simply asked why you do not address a bigger international atrocity. Your readers can plainly see that I am neither being condescending or making straw man arguments, but I am asking a quite legitimate question. Perhaps I need to do a better job in framing my question.

So in all due respect, why is the situation in the Congo not as big of a problem as the one in Darfur?


Seth Weinberger said...

Weezie: Your question was quite clear in the original post...and it is in and of itself an excellent and legitimate question. What is not acceptable was your asking "Can it be that you step away from criticising these atrocities is because the Hema and Lendu militias who are conducting these atrocities(and who employ child soldiers) are trained by American allies (Rwanda and Uganda)?" The accusatory tone simply has no place here. These are the kinds of things that you need to drop from your posts.

As to why I haven't discussed the Congo, the Congo is not a genocide. Yes, it's true that nearly 4 million people died between 1998 and 2003, but the vast majority of those deaths were due to disease and starvation. That's of course tragic and the deaths are due to the war; but those deaths were not intentionally inflicted as a result of a policy decision to wipe out a specific ethnic group, as in Rwanda, Sudan, or Darfur. There are lots of wars around the world; many of them create large numbers of civilian casualties. And while the Congolese civil war may be the worst of all, the situation on the ground is sufficiently different from that in Darfur, for example. Humanitarian intervention is almost unthinkable in an active civil war; the stakes are infinitely higher and the chance of a lasting success much lower.

WeeZie said...

well what if I argue that the situation in Darfur is not a genocide either? Many people fail to mention that that their actual insurgents in Darfur. Furthermore, there are many "Arab" Sudanese that do not support what the is being done while there are many "African" Sudanese fighting in the Sudanese Army.

Only the United States defines the situation in Darfur as genocide, certainly the African Union or United Nations doesn't see it that way. You mention that the chance of success in Congo is much lower. How is that? It would seem that since the United States has more allies there, it would be easier to intervene.

Seth Weinberger said...

It is not whether there are insurgents in Darfur, or rebel armies in Congo, that determines whether the situation is a genocide. What makes that determination is whether acts are "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group." In Congo, this is not what is happening; the civil war is about political control and the majority of the deaths are occurring incidentally to that war. In Darfur, there may be insurgents, but the deaths and displacements are clearly designed to rid the geographical area of Darfur of the Darfuri people. That is why it is genocide.

Looking to the UN or the AU as your arbiter of what is and what is not genocide isn't going to get you very far. These organizations are crippled by their political structures; the AU hasn't even been able to condemn Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Sometimes you just have to use your own judgment; there is no independent and legitimate judiciary in international politics.

Finally, the reason an intervention in Congo would have been less likely to succeed was because in Congo all parties were actively warring on each other. In Darfur, the rebel militias are much less capable and much smaller than the Sudanese army. It is less open war than a small scale rebellion. Furthermore, the Darfuri militias are not fighting for political control over Sudan; rather they seek security from the Sudanese government and a modicum of political autonomy. Those goals indicate that intervention that ended the Sudanese campaign in Darfur would likely put an end to the rebel actions. That could not have been said in Congo; an intervention would have had to challenge all the warring parties. That is why civil wars are much more difficult to solve than situations like Rwanda or Darfur.