"I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." (Karl Popper)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Darfur and international legitimacy

"In Rwanda, the killing was done in 100 days. In Sudan, this thing has strung on for 17 months. Sudan is Rwanda in slow motion. It’s unfolding in a way that has ironically given the world the chance to redeem itself for the failures in 1994. And the world has just dropped the ball."
John Prendergast, quoted by CBS October 20, 2004

The lack of outside action with regard to Darfur's "slow motion" ethnic cleansing is a black mark against the leaders of the rich democracies of the world. What has been going on there goes against every moral tenet we so loudly proclaim and parade on other occcasions. It is an unavoidable result, however, of arguments (or affectations) in favour of:
i. opaque sovereignty;
ii. non-interventionism as a cardinal rule of foreign policy; and
iii. the viability of a rule requiring the consent of each of the five post-1945 great powers for force to be valid.

International law is a useful and necessary concept. In the area of international trade, the WTO, although in need of reform, has been a force for good. The United Nations does much good unseen work. However its Security Council, under the presently constituted rules of membership and voting, has diminished to the point where the United States - and/or, depending on the occasion since (and including) the intervention in Kosovo, various of its allies - have used force without its authority. This is not to be celebrated. I do not argue that it makes the interventions wrong per se. But it means the system needs to be modified and updated. The Security Council, as arbiter of legitimacy in relation to the use of force in international affairs, died a death in the early 1990's after its shameful lack of action in regard to Bosnia. Legitimacy is required, however, in a legal as well as a moral sense. It is not necessary (indeed it would be counter-productive) to add to the Security Council's number of veto-wielding members. The challenge for all those inclined towards order in international affairs is to honestly and openly re-think this issue. Law already trails developments in history and strategy to a disconcerting degree.

For an option I believe to be a more flexible, yet durable, alternative to the current unsatisfactory position, see here.

Update March 3rd 11a.m.
I hadn't seen this before I wrote my post, but The Economist is arguing that NATO should commit forces to prevent and deterring the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Darfur. As the article makes clear, a UN force is being discussed. The African Union, having assigned a small few thousand troops to an area the size of Texas, and been largely without serious external logistical supoort, has failed. This was entirely predictable. As The Economist writes:
"Naive, ill-equipped, underfunded, outgunned, they now look an embarrassment. Darfur needs fixing. So do the international mechanisms supposed to prevent such
A step towards reform of those mechanisms was supposed to have been taken at last September's UN summit:
when every member, including Sudan, signed an agreement recognising a so-called
“responsibility to protect”, allowing intervention in cases where “national authorities [are] manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” That is precisely the case in Sudan, except for the twist that its government is not just failing to protect its people but also conniving in their persecution.
The Economist concludes as follows:
There is, however, another reason why the UN has not intervened in Darfur. It lacks the means. A record of incompetence deters capable western powers from lending it peacekeeping troops. Of more than 60,000 UN peacekeepers currently deployed around the world, only a few hundred are from the world's best armies. Which is why the rescue of Darfur cannot be a job for the UN alone. Putting together a UN force would in any case take many months. In the meantime, without serious troops on hand to stop it, the killing will continue. Someone needs to secure Darfur's border. Someone must force the Sudanese government's helicopters to stay on the ground. Someone must deter the janjaweed from continuing their attacks. At present, only NATO forces are capable of achieving this. The Security Council should give NATO its blessing. And NATO members should take a deep breath, and send in their troops.
I agree. A coalition should be put together via NATO. American domestic pressures emanating from Iraq are no excuse. It is unfortunate, but probably true, that nothing of the required scale will happen without American leadership. Better late than never.


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