Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Darfur - Consider the horrors of peace

Another good column by Christopher Hitchens on Realism in Darfur - Consider the horrors of peace.

As he says: "What was all that garbage about 'never again'? What was the meaning of Clinton's apology to the Rwandans? What did Colin Powell mean when he finally used the word 'genocide' to describe the events in Darfur, just before resigning as secretary of state and becoming an advocate for more realism all round?"

He conducts a thought experiment on Rwanda:
Any critique of realism has to begin with a sober assessment of the horrors of peace. Everybody now wishes, or at least says they wish, that we had not made ourselves complicit spectators in Rwanda. But what if it had been decided to take action? Only one member state of the U.N. Security Council would have had the capacity to act with speed to deploy pre-emptive force (and that would have been very necessary, given the weight of the French state, and the French veto, on the side of the genocidaires). It is a certainty that at some stage, American troops would have had to open fire on the "Hutu Power" mobs and militias, actually killing people and very probably getting killed in return. Body bags would have been involved. It is not an absolute certainty that all detained members of those militias would have been treated with unfailing tenderness. It is probable that some of the military contractors would have overcharged, and that some locals would have engaged in profiteering and even in tribal politics. It is impossible that any child of any member of the Clinton administration would have been an enlisted soldier. But we never had to suffer any of these wrenching experiences, so that we can continue to wish, in some parallel Utopian universe, that we had done something instead of nothing.

Or not exactly nothing. The United States ended up supporting the French military intervention in Rwanda, which was mounted in an attempt not to remove the genocidaires but to save them. Nonintervention does not mean that nothing happens. It means that something else happens. Our policy in Darfur has not just failed to rescue a stricken black African population: It has actually assisted the Sudanese Islamists in completing their policy of racist murder. Thank heaven that we are tough enough to bear the shame of this, and strong enough to forgive ourselves.

Does anyone think that this would not have been the reality in Rwanda? We might have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, but still had people complaining because we didn't go through the UN or listen to the French (who have their own problems now).


  1. Was surfing around and noticed your post on Hitch:

    Hitch always makes provocative points - but judging by the bulk of your posts, you might like Hitch now, but if you read his old stuff, you might not - He is protean, he always has larger point he is making than the question he addresses - Hitch would like to lay blame at for Rawanda at Clinton's door. Clinton could have done a lot more, but it's never been clear to me why the US or France should receive so much blame for that.

  2. I think you're right - I wouldn't have agreed with Hitchens before Sept. 11, and I don't always agree with him now (for example, on Israel, although it seems his views have moderated some). It's possible you're right about him and Rwanda - I don't enough of his earlier writings on Rwanda. I do like what he's saying about Darfur - he makes some effective arguments, but other people certainly have been activists about Darfur long before Hitchens.