Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Darfur v. Iraq

As some may remember, last year I wrote a bi-weekly column for The Picket, our campus newspaper, in an attempt by them to become "more balanced." They asked me to beging writing the column after I sent a long and heated letter-to-the-editor about how they had (in the middle of September) not had a single conservative writer.

With this year, as I discussed in the 'back to school' post, my bi-weekly column was done away with. Instead, they asked that all conservative writers (particularly who are associated with the Shepherd Republicans) to contribute to a weekly pool. This week was my turn.

Here is the essay promt: "The situation in Darfur: Have the U.S. and the U.N. done enough? What should the U.S. foreign policy be on international humanitarian crisis?" Last week they ran a piece on the situation which outline (in a relatively objective manner) the current state of things in Darfur, as well as a little history lesson.

Here now is my column (with a title provided by The Picket staff):

The world must step up to aid the atrocity

The Sudanese region of Darfur has been transformed from a once stable region of mostly peaceful villages to a war torn wasteland in the past three years. Beginning in 2003, a rebel group known as the Janjaweed has been armed by the Sudanese government in order to put down those not faithful to the current Sudanese government. In these three years, an estimated 45,000 to 500,000 have been murdered and 1.8 million have been forced out of their homes and into refugee camps in neighboring regions.

The situation, or rather the response, offers a strange sort of parallel to the situation the world faced just over three years ago as the Bush Administration led the effort to force the United Nations to enforce past resolutions against Iraq. In 2002, President Bush gave a speech making the case for a war with Iraq. In that speech, he said, “Failure to act [to enforce UN resolutions against Iraq] would embolden tyrants. The United Nations would betray the purpose of its founding, and prove irrelevant to the problems of our time.” This statement could easily be applied to the current situation in Darfur: the United Nations has failed yet again to act and thus is proving its irrelevancy.

Just as in the 2002 buildup for the Iraq war, the Bush administration is diligently working to alleviate the crisis and find a lasting, stable peace. The White House has outlined a two prong plan: firstly, Bush explains that the United States and other nations must act to prevent and ease the humanitarian crisis that has resulted in the region; and Bush has met this goal. Under the current administration, the US government has provided some $1.33 billion dollars in aid, accounting for 85% of the total amount given.

This spawns the question: how is the rest of the world helping? In short, they’re not and they must do more. The second component of the plan calls for Americans and others to increase security in Darfur. It is at this point that the plan seemingly falls apart.

Just as was the case prior to the Iraq war, Bush has repeatedly called on the United Nations to act. On August 31, 2006 the UN passed Resolution 1706 which calls for the placement of approximately 20,000 troops to act as peacekeepers. This, though, has been met with distain by the Sudanese government who says that such action will jeopardize Sudanese sovereignty. They have subsequently refused the entry of the peacekeeping force. Just as before the Iraq invasion, the United Nations has remained silent and refused to enforce its own resolution.

The true difference between the lead up to Iraq and the current situation in Iraq lies in the response to the United Nations’ silence. When they refused to act on Iraq, the Bush administration pressed on with war plans. These plans were met with protests from anti-war activists led by Hollywood liberals who labeled Bush as a power hungry war criminal. The silence this time, though, has been met with an uproar of publicity (again led by Hollywood liberals) calling for immediate action—even if it means unilateral action on the part of the United States.

Why the difference in reaction? How is stopping the killing of Africans in the Darfur region somehow a more noble cause than toppling a ruthless dictator? Are the lives of those slaughtered by the Janjaweed somehow more valuable than those murdered by the regime of Saddam Hussein? Does stopping the genocide in Darfur offer some benefit that was not to be found in Iraq? These questions must be answered, and those who have reacted so differently to the idea of unilateral action must be held accountable for their ighly varied reactions.

More importantly, though, than any debate about reaction to the UN’s lackluster performance, is the debate on how to move forward. Who should take the lead? What should be done? These questions are of more value, but are unfortunately not so easily answered.

The United States cannot act alone, but the United Nations is clearly not capable to, or perhaps simply not willing to, deal with the situation.

Some see UN reform as the answer, but this is not a timely response which would see results in Darfur. Still others, such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich recommend that, “…we should be actively trying to create alternatative institutions that matter…[and] take virtually nothing to the [UN] Security Council.” This seems to be a more probable course of action, yet even this would be difficult to do in a timely manner.

Regardless of which course of action is taken, something must be done now. Citizens of the world—not simply the United States—must stand up and demand action from the United Nations. If they continue to fail to act, then we—citizens of all nations—must hold them accountable, even if that means completely dissolving the UN. Then and only then may we hope to finally find legitimacy in a world body.

Is it the most comprehensive coverage of the situation? Probably not, but given NO MORE than 800 words, it was difficult to keep this bad-puppy slim and I did indeed tip the scales at 834 words (which they let me squeek by with).

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