fallibilist

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Darfur and east Asia; humanitarian intervention and grand strategy

Two articles on very important topics in the Financial Times in recent days.

Tom Lantos, the the senior Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee and the founding co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, today addresses the situation in Darfur, and the inaction of the world in response. Lantos sets out the position:
"Khartoum still refuses to agree to let United Nations peacekeepers take over from the AU troops when they go home. The UN Security Council voted last month to deploy 20,000 peacekeepers to replace the AU troops; the Sudanese government immediately rejected that resolution and announced that the AU had no authority to transfer its mission to the UN. Then Sudan began to fan out more than 30,000 of its troops, allegedly to bring peace and stability to Darfur and to protect civilians. Imagine if Hitler had offered to "protect" Europe's Jews. As a Holocaust survivor, I cannot think of a more despicable act than to have Khartoum send soldiers who have raped and slaughtered thousands and displaced 2m people to "protect" civilians.Evidence is mounting that the Sudanese government is positioning air and ground forces to complete the genocide in Darfur that began three years ago. There is ample reason to fear a full-scale and imminent onslaught against civilians. The US government declaration calling the situation in Darfur genocide and a growing international civilian movement raised the expectations of the helpless. But we have failed to galvanise sufficient global commitment to protect victims of genocide. The May 5 signing of the Darfur peace agreement seemed to offer a ray of hope that the darkest days were behind the innocent men, women and children of Darfur. But that agreement is now on the verge of collapse because of resurgent violence."
It seems the May 5th agreement was not worth the paper it was written on. Should the rest of the world have expected anything else? Did Western governments, including our own (the Minister for Foreign Affairs was there a few months back) really believe the Sudanese governments' assurances? No answer to that question casts the inaction to date in a particularly good light. If they did, they look naive now; if they didn't, why settle for a sop in place of action involving a chance of success?

Lantos then continues:
"Whether to end genocide in Darfur is not a choice for Khartoum to make; it is a requirement to avoid not only international condemnation and isolation, but also an imposed civilian protection regime. I was proud to author a resolution calling on George W. Bush, the US president, to take immediate steps to help improve the security situation in Darfur, with a specific emphasis on civilian protection.If Khartoum continues to reject the deployment of UN peacekeepers, an imposed civilian protection regime in Darfur should be the priority of the AU, the UN, Nato, the European Union and the US government. I will continue to push for the immediate deployment of Nato assets as part of a transitional operation to stop the atrocitieswhile the UN forces are deployed. If Khartoum persists in pursuing genocide, I support military action to neutralise those military forces employed by Sudan to attack civilians or to inhibit peacekeepers from their deployment.Khartoum must be made to understand that there will be severe consequences for a further genocidal assault on the people of Darfur. Its reaction to the Security Council resolution authorising a peacekeeping operation is no surprise. Neither is its attempt to bully the AU into submission by issuing an ultimatum for the union to reject the UN resolution or leave Darfur.Evidently, the world needs reminding that the genocide in Darfur is not just an African crisis. It is a crisis for all humanity and obliges all of us to act with urgency. Words without deeds betray the people of Darfur."
The UN resolution to which Lantos refers in the second last sentence, 1706, must be acted on. It is problematic, however, because it seems to leave external action premised on the consent of the Sudanese government. That is patently absurd. Waiting for the regime there to voluntarily agree to an intervention force in Darfur makes no sense. The Secretary General of the Kofi Annan, recommended in a report published on July 28th that the UN mission in the country be expanded into Darfur as of January 1, 2007. The time is late; but better late than never. Where the approximately 17,000 troops (Sec-Gen July 28th report, pp. 17-18) will come from is an open question. The task is potentially enormous.

On a different topic, Daniel Twining, described as a former adviser to John McCain, the US senator, and a fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the US and the Fulbright/Oxford Scholar at Oxford University, addresses American grand strategy in East Asia. The future of Asia is crucially important for the rest of the world. According to Twining:
"Conventional wisdom holds that the US is a status quo power in Asia - and that a dissatisfied China seeks to undermine the US-centric regional order. But this assumption inverts both countries' roles in a period of dynamic change. China can rest content with the status quo: its rising wealth, power and influence naturally erode American preponderance. As one Chinese analyst put it: the US, not China, stands at a strategic crossroads as a consequence of China's rise. That is why Washington - not Beijing - is pursuing the revolutionary design in Asia, cultivating new centres of power that will shape the emerging international order as much as China's ascent."
So what is Washington's "revolutionary design" for Asia? Twining's answer:
"The centrepiece of President George W. Bush's Asia policy is encouraging Japan's normalisation as a great military power - a historic break from Japan's post-1945 tradition of pacifism. Similarly, Washington's intensifying partnership with New Delhi reflects America's determination to accelerate India's rise to world power - and India's aspirations for greatness. In India and Japan, the US is fuelling the strategic ascent of countries that intend to face China as equals.The US is also cultivating the emerging regional powers of Indonesia and Vietnam. Like India and Japan, they share a historical wariness of Chinese power and an interest in countering Chinese influence in south-east Asia. Lastly, the US is nurturing a strategic community of democracies in the shadow of Chinese autocracy. America and Japan have formalised trilateral defence co-ordination with both Australia and South Korea and are exploring a trilateral strategic dialogue with India. America wants Nato to develop military interoperability with leading Asian democracies. America's Asian design is more interesting than a crude effort to contain China. Rather than a neo-conservative plot to prolong US dominance, Washington is actually diffusing its preponderant power by encouraging the rise of friendly Asian partners to help manage a future multipolar order."
Of course, such a path, he notes will face problems of its own. Increased Japanese assertiveness - or nationalism - might alarm its neighbours, such as South Korea. Australia does not want to be caught between its American military ally and its Chinese trading partner. U.S. rapprochement with India's nuclear status risks a countervailing Chinese effort to strengthen Pakistan's deterrent. Will closer relations with Viet Nam risk solidifying its government's autocratic rule? Will increasing Chinese insecurity, in order to guard against a future Chinese threat, risk exacerbating - or bringing into being - just such a threat? Of questions Twining does not (get to) canvas in his article, what of the clear danger of North Korea's nuclear status? What is America's bottom line position on Taiwan, and how does that intersect with Washington's need for China to bring some pressure to bear on the regime in Pyongyang over the nuclear question? What about Burma, described by the Bush administration as an outpost of tyranny?

Twining recommends that the U.S. "abandon its scepticism and embrace Asian regional organisations led by the Association of South East Asian Nations, which promote pluralism, enhance Japanese and Indian leadership and socialise China as a responsible neighbour" and a U.S.-South Korea trade agreement. Such steps he says "would reassure the many Asian governments that, unlike countries in some other parts of the world, want more American leadership in their unsettled region - not less". Looking at the big picture, the first necessary step (admittedly at a time when Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and so many other matters command so much time) would be a reorientation of policy based on the realisation that - given that Asia has perhaps half the world's population and a growing impact on world economics - we can be said to be entering what Twining calls "the emerging Asian century". That goes just as much for Europe as it does for America.

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