August 8, 2004

THE UNPLEASANT MORAL OBLIGATIONS OF A GREAT NATION:

Stop the Slaughter (Bob MacPherson, August 8, 2004, Washington Post)

Although this is the worst humanitarian disaster in the world right now, the United Nations has received only $158 million of its $350 million donor appeal for Darfur. While catastrophic loss of life is occurring, the international community is buying time. For what, exactly? How many people have to be killed or starved to death before the world acts? The international community has the resources to mount a swift response, but thus far it has lacked the will to stop the slaughter. Rich governments must respond, both for the immediate crisis and for the long term.

The Security Council has invoked Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter and endorsed deployment of African Union cease-fire monitors and troops to protect the monitors. To date, a mandate has not been endorsed to provide protection for the Sudanese population and the security required for humanitarian assistance. This could be mobilized under the auspices of the African Union, with support from the international community.

Since my return, my heart has sunk as arguments intensified about whether the Darfur situation should be defined as genocide or ethnic cleansing, and whether sanctions should be applied. What's happening in Darfur is the wholesale slaughter and rape of unimaginable numbers of human beings. Sudan is a sovereign nation. But it has utterly failed in its responsibility to protect its citizens. Definitions should be left to the dictionary -- now is the time for action.

The situation in Darfur is not an American issue. It is not a European issue or an African issue. It is the most fundamental statement of what we stand for as members of the human race. The slaughter and rape of hundreds of thousands of people is not acceptable by any standard of humanity. If there is ever a time the international community has to come together, and do so in a decisive fashion, it is now.


It's just unrealistic to expect any government to respond on a dime to even such an awful situation and we are proceeding apace. But we do have to be ready to go in with troops if it comes to that.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 8, 2004 8:27 AM
Comments

We responded on a dime in June 1950.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 8, 2004 2:08 PM

That wasn't genocide, just war. Plus it was two years too late to matter.

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2004 2:41 PM

It was mass slaughter. I don't care what else you want to call it.

But the salient point was that when we wanted to, we did turn on a dime.

If we wanted to do anything about Darfur, we'd have done it. We won't be in any better position to do it a month from now than we were last month.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 8, 2004 4:23 PM

Harry:

Of course we will, we'll have the will to do so.

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2004 4:36 PM

Harry:

Whether we are the world's policeman or fireman, there has to be some 'event' to get us there. It takes more than a few days.

If Sudan decided to invade Egypt and used chemical weapons in the process, would American bombers be there the next day? Probably yes. There's your difference.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 8, 2004 7:59 PM

We responded on a dime in June 1950 because we had people there in harms way and it was obviously in our interest to do so. It was actually just a nickle of a response initially.

Posted by: genecis at August 8, 2004 10:05 PM

Genecis:

Good point - we basically withdrew to Pusan until people could figure out what to do next. And remember that Truman's greatest fear was that Stalin would attack West Berlin.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 8, 2004 10:41 PM

Should Bush decide to do something, it will be great to watch the protests of all those who proclaimed the US should, you know, do something.

Like they did some years back with that dictator Saddam.

Posted by: jsmith at August 9, 2004 12:51 AM

jim, we didn't 'withdraw' to Pusan. We were chased.

It happens I was reading Steve Ewing's new biography of Jimmie Thach last night.

Thach commanded the carrier Sicily in August 1950. He was hustled from San Diego to Guam, to offload his antisub planes and pick up a Marine close support outfit, then on to Japan.

No chance to load supplies. When he docked at Yokosuka, he told the admiral Far East he needed a bit more than a day to resupply.

He was told, "If you don't go in an hour, there's no point going at all."

He went in an hour and the Marines helped the GIs hold, just barely, the Naktong Line.

Sending an aircraft carrier across the Pacific without escorts and into combat with provisioning is not turning on a dime. It's turning on the head of a pin.

If we wanted to be in Darfur, we'd be in Darfur.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 9, 2004 10:37 PM

We don't want to be--we have to be. Similarly, Truman withdrew our troops from Korea even in the face of the North Korean communist forces. Had to send them back later in a rush. At least he thought he did.

Posted by: oj at August 9, 2004 10:43 PM

Whether we have to be or not, we have to want to be to be.

What's the point of delay? It is not necessary, and the longer the delay, the more people get killed.

Either that's tolerable or it isn't.

You've said it is intolerable.

If that's so, then delay is immoral. Not just immoral, but politically stupid.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 10, 2004 3:21 AM

The sooner the better, but nations don't move terribly quickly.

Posted by: oj at August 10, 2004 9:06 AM
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