Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Satanicus Giganticus Doctrinaire'

Here's a prediction: Zimbabwe's Morgan Tsvangirai will win this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

He would be its worthiest recipient since the prize went to Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi (one of the prize's few worthy recipients, period) in 1991. He deserves it for standing up – politically as well as physically – to Robert Mugabe's goon-squad dictatorship for over a decade; for organizing a democratic opposition and winning an election hugely stacked against him; and for refusing to put his own ambition ahead of his people's well-being when the run-off poll became, as he put it last weekend, a "violent, illegitimate sham."

Here's another prediction: Mr. Tsvangirai's Nobel will have about as much effect on the bloody course of Zimbabwe's politics as Aung San Suu Kyi's has had on Burma's.

Effectively, zero.

Zimbabwe is now another spot on the map of the civilized world's troubled conscience. Burma is also there, along with Tibet and Darfur. (Question: When will "Free Zimbabwe" bumper stickers become ubiquitous?) These are uniquely nasty places, and not just because uniquely nasty things are happening. They're nasty because the dissonance between the wider world's professed concern and what it actually does is almost intolerable.

Look at the legislation that has been proposed or passed in the U.S. Congress on Darfur. There is the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act (H.R. 3127), signed by President Bush into law in 2006, which sanctions officials identified as responsible for the genocide. There is House Resolution 992, which urges the president to appoint a special envoy to Sudan. (The president did appoint an envoy; care to remember his name?)

There is the 2007 Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act, which allows (but does not require) U.S. states and municipalities to divest from companies doing business in Sudan. There is Senate Resolution 559, urging the president to enforce a no-fly zone over Darfur. There is the Clinton Amendment, the Reid Amendment, the Menendez Amendment, the Durbin/Leahy Amendment, the Jackson Amendment, the Lieberman Resolution, the Obama/Reid Amendment and the Peace in Darfur Act.

This is a partial list. Meantime, here are the accumulating estimates of the conflict's toll on Darfuri lives. September 2004: 50,000, according to the World Health Organization. May 2005: between 63,000 and 146,000 "excess deaths," according to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at Belgium's Catholic University of Louvain. March 2008: 200,000 deaths, according to U.N. officials. April 2008: The U.N. acknowledges the previous month's estimate might have undercounted about 100,000 victims.

In a video clip for the Save Darfur coalition, Barack Obama offered that the genocide is "a stain on our souls." His proposal for removing it? "Ratcheting up sanctions" on the Sudanese government and making "firm commitments in terms of the logistics, and the transport and the equipping" of an international peacekeeping mission for Darfur. No word, however, as to whether Mr. Obama would actually risk the lives of American soldiers to stop the slaughter.

It's a similar story in Zimbabwe. The U.N. Security Council met yesterday to discuss the crisis, while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told parliament "the world is of one view: that the status quo cannot continue."

But, of course, the status quo will continue. Just possibly, Mr. Mugabe and his senior ministers will no longer be allowed to travel to Europe, though that does nothing for the people of Zimbabwe. Other sanctions will have no effect: The regime is already busy expelling relief workers and seizing food aid. Mr. Mugabe wants "his people" to die – it means fewer mouths to feed, and fewer potential opposition supporters to jail, maim or murder.

A solution for Zimbabwe's crisis isn't hard to come by: Someone – ideally the British – must remove Mr. Mugabe by force, install Mr. Tsvangirai as president, arm his supporters, prevent any rampages, and leave. "Saving Darfur" is a somewhat different story, but it also involves applying Western military force to whatever degree is necessary to get Khartoum to come to terms with an independent or autonomous Darfur. Burma? Same deal.

International relations theorists, including prominent Obama adviser Susan Rice, justify these sorts of interventions under the rubric of a "Responsibility to Protect" – a concept that comes oddly close to Kipling's White Man's Burden. So close, in fact, that its inherent paternalism has hitherto inhibited many liberals from endorsing the kinds of interventions toward which they are now tip-toeing, thousands of deaths too late.

So let's by all means end the hand-wringing and embrace the responsibility to protect, wherever necessary and feasible. Let's spare the thousands of innocents, punish the wicked, oppose tyrants, and support democrats – both in places where it is now fashionable to do so (Burma) and in places where it is not (Iraq). If that turns out to be Mr. Obama's foreign policy, it will be a worthy one. It does come oddly close to the Bush Doctrine.

submitted by bReT sTePhEnS


Karen Townsend said...

I read this article this morning. As usual, the author has it right.

Findalis said...

You said it correctly. But one little problem. Nothing will be done about Zimbabwe or Darfur because they are African nations that do not border Israel. Now if either one was near Israel or had a small fraction of so-called Palestinians, then you'd have the UN crying about the people. But you have the Sudan, a Muslim nation, killing other Muslims and non-Muslims. That is allowed in the UN. And you have Zimbabwe, once one of the richest lands in Africa, now a mess, killing its white minority population. And that is allowed in the UN.

It will take a change of attitude in the world for there to be real change in Africa. I won't be holding my breath waiting for such a change.

Nikki said...

I suspect when and if Obama is sitting in the chair his eyes will be opened and he will indeed become a rhetorical lying lawyer politician like the rest. Bash the Bush doctrine and then adopt it only under a different name...the Obama doctrine...:)N

Ben Sutherland said...

This was a pretty good suggestion by Paul Wolfowitz, this morning, Courtney. I doubt the international pressure does much of anything, at all, frankly, except make us feel like we're doing something. But the rest of the policy suggestions in this piece are solid, I think.


I actually am in favor of offering Mugabe a deal with a backdoor loophole where he faces justice once out of the country and out of power. I don't have a problem with cheatin' when murdering dictator is involved. Especially given his recent most cynical moves.

Notice Wolfowitz's observation about an invasion and what the people of Zimbabwe want or don't want. It matters in geopolitics. Too many lives on the line.

If he won't take a deal, a diplomatic agreement will have to be met until we can be sure that the people of Zimbabwe would favor an invasion. If military force is necessary, it should be led by Zimbabweans, up front, as a symbolically indigenous effort, at the very least, and with as much material and intelligence support they would be able to provide. African troops should play a major role in that effort, if it is needed, since British and Western imperialism is already the boogeyman that Mugabe manipulates to maintain power. British troops should abstain, as such, and as few European troops as is necessary (though if they have the know-how, will, technology, and overwhelming force to keep more people alive, then that should be a factor, of course).

But Paul's right that a peaceful route should be found, as much as possible, to keep as many people alive as possible and to not create another needless quagmire that we can't sustain.

That's been the hold-up on Sudan. Western leaders don't trust that they can pull another invasion off, post-Iraq, with minimal casualities and with a sustainable, democratic outcome that does not necessitate further military sacrafices.

We can, I'm confident. We just have to think our way out of that problem, as Paul is doing here, rather than try to foolishly bludgeon our way out.

We're smarter than that. So we need to start acting like it.

Paul's suggestion isn't a bad start.

Ben Sutherland said...

I lost a big long post on this, Courtney. So I'm just going to provide the link to Wolfowitz's article that I think is a pretty decent idea for handling the situation in Zimbabwe. I went through scenarios for a military invasion in my post, as a back-up plan, but given that noone is asking my advice on the matter, I'm not sure it actually matters:).


I'd actually rather see a loophole in any deal offered to Mugabe where he is brought to justice after he is out of power and out of the country. After his ugly, cynical behavior in the last few months, especially, I think he needs to see some justice.

But Paul's isn't a bad idea for getting some movement on the situation.