Monday, December 20, 2004

For Every Action, There is an Equal and Opposite US Inaction

Who here can spot the link between this December 17th Washington Post editorial by former Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and James Baker and this December 18th New York Times editorial by Nicholas Kristof?

Perhaps it is that the US can't hope to tame rising anti-American sentiment unless it is willing to invest time, money, and manpower to ending the most vile havens of injustice and moral depravity that still exist in the world. And nowhere is a better candidate for US action than the abomination that has become Sudan. Tragically, the US (and global) response to the ongoing genocide in the region has been all too typical: Lots of words coupled with precious little action.

Oh, and lest we think that Sudan represents anomaly, the Washington Post is kind enough to report that fighting has restarted in eastern Congo. One of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of natural resources, Congo has been cursed with poverty due to ongoing civil wars and conflicts with Rwanda, who is likely backing the insurgent group that has restarted the fighting.

The plague of conflict, war, famine, disease, and poverty has all the signals of a region ready to explode. That doesn't mean that the region is hopeless. But the US can no longer afford to ignore Africa and other impoverished regions around the world. The consequences of such an action would be catastrophic.


c_muedder said...

I definitely concur. But at what point is the United States' soft power stretched so thin that we become ineffective, or in danger of a higher threat - our own national security?

If we do aid the Congo/Sudan regions, it would be a clear instance in which the United States can actually prove legitimacy and aid those that WANT it, not those that the US thinks needs it - thus a marvelous sign to the international community and those individual threats in the African and Middle Eastern regions (terrorists) which would be likely to harm us.

But what if we don't prove ourselves to be able to make sufficient steps to resolve the conflict, due to the fact that we're aiding over 55 countries (where the majority of funding actually goes to those which are actually not impoverished by the UN's standards) and we're waging two wars in a close proximity to the Sudanese regions? Then this would give an even higher incentive to individual threats.

The answer is this: we need an effective leader that can figure out a resolve to these possibilities, or a leader that would hire one to figure them out, being that Colin Powell and a few other department chairs resigned.

Lack of US stability, anyone?

H said...

Soft power is neither here nor there. The problems in Sudan and Congo are sufficiently horrid to need a solution NOW. The continued existence of genocidal violence and internal oppression means that voluntary change is not a solution. Saying that the US will "use soft power" is bad because it binds the US to a solution which is unlikely to have any meaningful effect at all, much less in the short amount of time we have to prevent these atrocities. In the mean time, trying to solve problems in Sudan and Congo through soft power implies that the US will not be using force, preventing the realization of an actual solution. I think it's self-evident that the US is capable of mitigating or stopping conflicts by using force, but, as expected, this requires the use of force. Coercive power is not appropriate in every situation, but for now I'm willing to take the ad-hoc position that Sudan has clearly crossed the threshold for military intervention. I think that intervention in Sudan could be defended more convincingly (on grounds of genocides, mass rapes, planned famines etc.) but I think it's superfluous. Sudan presents one of the foremost cases of human rights violations today, and we need to stop it. Because of the magnitude of continuing violence in Sudan, and the possibility of war with an already unstable DRC, the situation needs to be resolved quickly, almost certainly through hard power. In the long term, foreign aid could serve as a stabilizing force, but looking at the short term is important to ensure that we GET to long term plans. To that end, the US needs to be willing to use coercive power

Of course, the article right below the Sudan/Congo article in the WP from a few days ago ("UN Sexual Abuse Alleged in Congo") deserves mention too. Somehow, abuses seem to be inherent to the way that military and peacekeeping forces work. Accountability and the open access to more information might go a long way towards making the US/UN effective as occupying powers.