Tuesday, December 16, 2008

genocide prevention

Matthew Yglesias linked to my genocide prevention post, leading to the single highest 24-hour hit count in this blog's history. So I'm grateful for that. Thanks, Matt!

Yglesias makes a point that I probably should have made in my early post ("Don't Save Darfur"). Namely, that I'm not against genocide prevention per se, just against the way it's currently advocated in op-ed columns and press conferences.

There’s nothing wrong with preventing genocide, of course. But the public conversation on preventing genocide in the United States has, over the years, come to be dominated by a kind of myopic focus on the idea of using unilateral American military force to stop genocides. The basic way the conversation goes is basically that whenever humanitarian emergencies break out, we do nothing to stop them. And sometimes we invade Iraq. But then whenever anyone suggests that the U.S. commit itself to following international law and not using non-defensive military force absent a UN Security Council authorization, people show up insisting that we need to maintain the right to unilateral non-defensive war in order to stop genocide. Then whenever humanitarian emergencies break out, we do nothing to stop them. But the larger cause of unilateral militarism lives to fight another day. Or something.

I've had a few dinners with Salih Osman, an Darfur opposition parliamentarian and human rights lawyer in Sudan, and I can tell you it's impossible not to be moved by, and want to do something about, what's happening in Darfur. And there are things we can do. But unilateral external military force generally doesn't solve ethnic wars very well, and often makes them worse in the long run.

So when I say "Don't Save Darfur," what I really mean is "Don't Save Darfur The Way The Humanitarian Hawks Want To." Because it won't work.

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