Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rigtheous Indignation

Christopher Hitchens goes off on realism for the second straight week over at Slate. This time it's within the context of the Darfur genocide. I'll leave you to read his argument but I wanted to highlight this sentence he wrote:
Any critique of realism has to begin with a sober assessment of the horrors of peace.
I think that's fundamentally accurate. Who today would say we shouldn't have stopped the Holocaust or the Rwandan killing fields? (I don't include the Kurds or the Cambodians in this estimation because we had much to do with each groups' slaughter indirectly.)Sometimes war is the only option and it's a favorable one at that. Furthermore, it should be legally codified in international law that whenever a conflict reaches genocidal proportions that the Security Council must act. That said, it will never happen because, well, one of the members of Security Council would surely veto that law, particularly the United States.

Nevertheless, even if we did want to act, we must be able to admit certain things. One is that there is a problem of democracy here and I'll use American soldiers here as an example. When most soldiers volunteer for the military, their idea is to serve and protect their country, not distant countries far away in lands they can't find on a map. Therefore, any international peace-enforcing force under a UN or regional organization's mandate would have to be drawn from international volunteers if it were to respect the rights and liberties of the soldiers themselves. It would act as a new "International Brigades" that fought alongside Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. However noble, I don't see enlistment being very high. I could be very wrong and indeed, I hope I am.

Second, the threshold for intervention would have to be relatively set and the benchmark would probably be atrocities on their way to genocidal levels. That means, a conflict like Iraq, to Hitchens scowl, would not pass the test since Hussein's crimes had ebbed and the Kurds were effectively protected by the no-fly zone. Humanitarian war would always be the last resort considering war may very well escalate the crimes against the vulnerable like it did in Kosovo.

Third, to stop any perception of imperialism, the intervention would have to be condoned by the international community in all except the most pressing of circumstances. Rwanda would have qualified as a most pressing circumstance. Also, the rebuilding of the country intervened in by the UN or by a regional organization with the UN's consent would have to be watched over by an impartial, international administration to ensure contracts were bid on fairly without the faintest hint of cronyism. (I know, I know, I live in a dream world.)

Nevertheless, I applaud Hitchens for attacking realism's callousness and we should be discussing new avenues for stopping the world's worst atrocities keeping in mind my little problem areas.