Sunday, February 27, 2005

Deaniacs on the Warpath

Well, it looks like the Conservatives were right. Howard Dean's rabidly liberal base will never countenance the use of American force--even in the face of genocide. Why, just look at this post over at Dean Nation, a blog "dedicated to the spirit of the Dean Movement" (link: Oxblog). It's outrageous:
"Since this nation was founded, the world has become increasingly interdependent, and at least since Woodrow Wilson worked passionately for the League of Nations, Americans have been at the forefront of efforts to build an international community based off the interests of all rather than narrow alliances for the interests of the participants. And the international community has declared that there is no greater atrocity than the extermination of those whose only crime is to be both different and inconvenient. Genocide and ethnic cleansing are not mere instances of local conflict, but threats to the very foundation of an international order based on the interactions between peoples.

The time has come to enforce these principles, not merely with the words of diplomats and campaigns of activists, but, when necessary and practical, with strength. This is not just a humanitarian principle...
As wonderful as it would be, we cannot end all war. We can, however, draw a line in the sand at indiscriminate slaughter aimed at the elimination of whole populations. And right now in Darfur, we have the chance to act. The international community must enact and enforce a no-fly zone over the region to prevent the Khartoum regime from using its helicopter gunships. We must slap an arms embargo on the Sudan, and a deployed peacekeeping force must have the strength and authority to disarm combatants within the region. Finally, we must crack down on those responsible through referrals to the International Criminal Court. I am not interested in discussing the merits of this court; this is a debate which the United States must postpone due to the clear and present danger to innocent life. The world's most powerful nation must not cower at the expense [of] children who face unspeakable brutalization."

Well, I'll be darned. Looks like there might be some spine in the Deaniac movement after all. I wrote on Centerfield that the political community should hold off judgment on Dean and his cohorts until he had a chance to prove himself. After all, once upon a forgotten past, Dean was considered a DLC stalwart and a bit of a hawk. And while this post wasn't Dean himself, it is a positive sign that one of his more rabid supporters would come out so strongly in favor of American military intervention in Darfur. And judging by the rhetoric he uses, while it would preferable for the international community to act, he agrees that the US must be willing to act alone, if necessary, to stop the brutality that is rapidly encompassing the Darfur region.

On his other blog, however, the author of the above post is slightly less encouraging. He writes there:
"In the comments, someone has already raised the issue of the U.S.'s limited manpower, and I also anticipate objections to my doctrine as stated that we cannot become the world's police. I agree with both these concerns. When I make specific suggestions, my "we" should be interpreted as referring to the broader international community. The Bush administration has actually been pretty good on Sudan. As far as the "world's police" concern, I'd argue that we need to at least be a community leader, willing to jump on these issues wherever and whenever they arise. However, the actual military burdens should be born whenever possible by regional actors who have the most at stake in a given situation. In the case of Darfur, my understanding is that the African Union can do most of what is needed, and simply lacks logistical support."

This seems quite a bit more tame than what was written on the other blog. Still, as long as "whenever possible" actually has some meat behind it, then we're still cool. Certainly, the US acting as a "community leader" on the Darfur issue, pressing the world for action, would represent a major improvement on the half-hearted condemnations that are the status quo. On this point, I disagree with the authors assertion that the Bush administration has been "pretty good on Sudan," as it has been entirely too quite and complacent in the face of the genocide there. It has in no way made any major steps geared toward compelling an international response to the Darfur atrocity. We have seen barely any substantive US action on Sudan since we labeled it a "genocide" in the first place, a "response" which I've argued is impoverishing the entire meaning of the term "genocide". If the US can label something "genocide" and still not take an action, then I think we're worse off than when we started, because it sends the message that genocide is something the world will tolerate. This emboldens the killers, past, present and future. Genocide expert Samantha Power gives the example of Serbia:
"Slobodan Milosevic saw that he got away with the brutal suppression of independence movements in Slovenia and Croatia and he reasoned he would pay no price for doing the same in Bosnia and Kosovo. Because so many individual perpetrators were killing for the first time and deciding daily how far they would go, the United States and its European allies missed critical opportunities to try to deter them. When they ignored genocide around the world, the Western powers were not intending to 'green light' the perpetrators. But because the killers told themselves they were doing the world a favor by 'cleansing' the 'undesirables,' some surely interpreted silence as consent or even support."
. Indeed, it appears we're actually regressing, as the UN still refuses to apply the term "genocide" to the situation at all. So for possibly the last time in my life I will criticize a Bush policy than even a Deaniac is agreeing with: The current US policy on Sudan and Darfur is abominable and cannot stand.

All of the above carping notwithstanding, the original point still stands: the worst nightmare of Truman Democrats like myself of the Dean ascendancy, that the US will never intervene in foreign conflicts again, appears to be unlikely to pass. Get past that hurdle, and one of my key discomforts with the modern Democratic party falls by the wayside.


Anonymous said...


Excellent examination of the Sudan situation. I would argue, though, that your hope of a broader international response is ill-founded. The UN community is comprised mostly of dictators, not democrats or socialists. They would be risking their own interest to distinguish between tyrants, much as the the European monarchs decried democratic philosphies in the 18th century.

I strongly recommend Thomas Barnett's book, "The Pentagon's New Map," as a blueprint for handling these international problems. Barnett argues that the US's primary export is security, and the world pays for that security by investing in the US. Thus, the trade deficit measures the amount of security the rest of the world is buying from us.

Anonymous said...

Correction. Not the trade deficit, but foreign investing in American debt. (Hey, it's kind of early on a Sunday.)