Monday, August 29, 2005

All in Perspective

David Corn writes a hard-hitting post regarding Clinton and the Rwandan genocide. It turns the left's pet slogan, "Bush lied, people died," and replaces it with "Clinton lied, hundreds of thousands died."

I agree that Clinton's inaction during the slaughter was, by far, the greatest blemish on his presidency, and one that's utterly unforgivable. I also think that it is equally unforgivable on the part of the nation. There was barely any agitation from any quarter (outside the usual human rights suspects) for an intervention. The Republican Party was in the heat of its "we're not the world's policeman" schtick, it would have fought any allocation of US troops to the region tooth and nail. Especially after Somalia, the use of American troops to stop African bloodbaths was just too tempting a target. In fact, we know Republicans would have taken that response, since they did just that when Clinton partially redeemed himself and intervened to stop the Kosovo slaughter. This isn't to forgive or absolve Clinton, rather, it is to note that being bystanders genocide is a crime that falls on all our heads. And with Darfur probably past the point of no return--we'll soon have yet another mark on our collective wall of shame.

An honest perspective on President Clinton's tenure will relegate his dabbles with Ms. Lewinsky to a troubling footnote, compared to his inaction in Africa. Similarly, it might be more to President Bush's shame that Darfur and its millions will have happened "on his watch" than WMDs or Plamegate or what have you. It's a non-partisan sin, contra some, both Clinton and Bush are roughly in the same boat when it comes to their respective genocides--an uncomfortable silence. While Uncorrelated argues that at least American has brought some attention to the dispute. However, to be honest--at least as a government, we haven't. And basically the only concrete action we have taken, labeling the conflict a "genocide," may have been worse than nothing, legitimizing the notion that a bona fide genocide is still ignorable and triggers no obligations on signatories of the Genocide Convention. Again, this shouldn't absolve the world for its silence--but it takes a rather perverse view of American obligations toward genocide victims to argue that merely saying the word "genocide" elevates our Darfur policy even marginally above abominable.

5 comments:

The probligo said...

There a number of other common factors behind both Rwanda and Darfur.

The reasoning behind the first common factor comes from one man's belief that the United Nations must never get involved in the internal affairs of ANY nation.

It was he who ordered the withdrawal of UN personnel and the "no-shoot" rule in Rwanda.

His name is Kofi Annan.

There is another name that ranks alongside that of Clinton in the Rwanda debacle.

She is the person who persuaded Clinton and Congress, and the UN, that what was happening in Rwanda was not genocide. The "reasoning" behind her position was as outlined by David - that mention of the "g" word would require intervention.

Her name was Madelaine Albright (did I spell that right?) who was US Ambassador to the UN.

To be fair, David, there are continual symptoms of the same malaise throughout Africa. The leading examples at present would be Sudan and Zimbabwe. Others that come to mind though are Sierra Leone, Congo, Uganda, Mozambique, and Zaire.

Repeated attempts to have African assistance in dealing with the wars and displacement of populations in these countries have been met with the same "...their problem..." or "...they are doing their best...we support them..." from the likes of Tanzania, Nigeria, and even South Africa.

None of it is pretty. None of this reflects well on either side of the argument.

But to place the blame entirely with one man is unjust.

I will say the same regarding George Bush and Iraq. There have been many mistakes made. There has been much untruth spoken. None reflects well upon the various personalities involved. But to blame just one person (and he could well be just a puppet of greater forces) in this instance too would be unjust.

David Schraub said...

The failure in Rwanda, like the failure in Darfur, is a sin that rests on all our shoulders. Clinton and Bush, Albright and Powell, the 1994 Congress and the 2004 congress, Annan and...er..Annan again, the world community then and now, all are culpable.

The probligo said...

I agree.

I think too, that while NZ media has reported "on odd occasions" over about the past five years, I have the impression that Darfur has only just (the past six or so months) reached the US media.

Is there a culpability there as well? I believe there may be.

Isaac said...

A question: when should the U.S. have intervened, and what should the intervention have been, in Sudan and Bosnia?

Perhaps there are genuinely good answers to these questions. But it's not enough to say that a bad thing happened on someone's watch. You have to say what a reasonable course of action would have been and why it would have been reasonable to take such a course of action. That is, you have to argue that inaction was the worse than the plausible alternatives (this is my qualm with Samantha Powers).

David Schraub said...

The US did intervene in Bosnia--Powers' point is that Milosevic had a pretty good reason to conclude we wouldn't, judging on past actions. Thankfully, Bosnia/Kosovo was one of the few times we made good on our genocide obligations (no thanks to the UN, one might add), so he was wrong.

Especially in cases like Sudan where its "genocide by attrition," its difficult to say when exactly the straw breaks the camels back. I think that as atrocities grow more and more horrific, US response should rise accordingly: from Diplomatic Protest, to economic sanctions, to limited military reprisals, to full-fledged military intervention. The Sudan situation has far surpassed the last threshold.