T Nation

When Force is the Answer

A few side comments on the Iraq thread highlighted for me that a key area of disagreement in foreign policy discussions concerns the use of force. WHile that may seem obvious, I want to set up a paradigm on how I see the disagreements.

On the one hand, you have those who view use of military force as an extension of foreign policy, to paraphrase Bismark.

At the other extreme, you have those who want force used only as a “last resort,” and by last resort they mean that you can see the invasion forces lined up on your borders, or they are already sacking your capital and you can prove it to the standards of a court of law.

In between you have most people, who view the requirement for the use of force as some combination of the necessity of solving the problem quickly due to the size of the threat and the probability of success in solving it that way – with disagreements occurring over just how to weight the various categories.

Unfortunately, a lot of the actual statements about using force adopt the “last resort” phraseology, which most people don’t really mean. Most people don’t really think that EVERY other option, no matter how plausible, should be exhausted in the face of a dire threat or a dire injustice.

Case in point – here is an article by Human Rights Watch, which advocates use of force to solve the problem of Darfur in Sudan. This is not the LAST RESORT. In fact, they haven’t even tried to get a lot of stuff through the U.N., because they know France and China would block it.

Anyway, here’s the article – I’m interested as to what everyone else thinks on this:


Repeating Clinton’s Mistakes

By Tom Malinowski

Tuesday, May 3, 2005; Page A21

In his willingness to confront evil head-on, President Bush likes to think he’s more decisive than that mushy-headed multilateralist Bill Clinton. But when I look at the Bush administration’s response to what it has itself called genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, I can’t help thinking I’ve seen this movie before. It recalls the early Clinton administration (in which I served) and its initially ineffectual stand against genocide in Bosnia.

In 1993 and 1994 the United States could point to dozens of good things it had done about Bosnia: imposing sanctions, brokering peace talks, supporting U.N. peacekeepers and providing humanitarian aid. But America’s commitment to end genocide was hollow, because it was not, at that point, backed by political and military muscle. The same is true in Darfur today.

In 1993 the Clinton administration sent Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Europe to urge NATO to intervene against the Serb forces committing atrocities in Bosnia. America’s European allies said no, and Christopher did not insist. Last month the Bush administration sent Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Europe, where they raised the possibility of NATO help for a tiny African Union (A.U.) peacekeeping force deployed in Darfur. Without a larger and more capable force to protect civilians, the killing there will continue. But European countries were skeptical about a NATO role beyond, possibly, help with logistics. (France said that NATO should not be “the gendarme of the world.”)

And if U.S. officials wanted more, they did not insist. After a key NATO meeting last week, all Rice had to say was: “The NATO Council today, as foreign ministers had lunch, discussed the situation in Sudan and in Darfur and what support NATO could give in the form of planning and logistics to support the A.U.-led effort, should a request be forthcoming or should it be necessary to help.” Hardly a ringing call to action.

Before it took action in Bosnia, the Clinton administration hid behind the United Nations. Warren Christopher said in June 1994, “NATO has done [in Bosnia] whatever has been asked of it by the United Nations.” The Bush administration is hiding behind the African Union, which has taken months to deploy just 2,000 troops in Darfur. Rice said last week: “We’ve been very active, but what we really all are focusing on now . . . is the African Union, which is taking the lead. . . . The African Union may need some help with capacity. If there is a request, I would hope that NATO would act favorably.”

In the early 1990s the Pentagon resisted American involvement in Bosnia, seeing it as peripheral to U.S. interests. Today the Pentagon resists American involvement in Darfur, for the same reason. Nine slots in the African Union mission in Darfur are supposed to be filled by Americans. Of that tiny number, the Pentagon has filled at most three.

I have no doubt that the Bush administration cares about Sudan. The United States has done more than any other Western country for Darfur. To its credit, the administration even allowed the U.N. Security Council to refer the atrocities there to the International Criminal Court, despite its bitter opposition to this court.

The administration has been clear and correct about what should happen. The African Union should deploy additional forces. Sudan should cooperate with those forces, rein in its murderous militias and seek a diplomatic solution. But, as with Bosnia, no one wants to confront the obvious question: What if none of these things happen? What if the African Union, for reasons of regional pride or fear of confronting Sudan, never asks NATO for real help? What if Sudan concludes, as the Serbs did in Bosnia, that the way to ease international pressure is to complete its ethnic cleansing? Then Darfur will be free of violence (since the victims will be dead or concentrated in camps), and the international community might move on.

There is only one sure path to saving lives in Darfur: deploying a much larger military force with a clear mandate to protect civilians. The African Union should put in place a concrete plan to deploy more troops, at least 10,000, within a month. If the A.U. will not do that, the U.N. Security Council should immediately deploy a civilian protection force to do the job. And if the Security Council will not do that (because of, say, a Chinese veto), then NATO and the European Union should be prepared to step in. In any event, the United States and its allies should start planning now to provide logistical support and troops.

Persuading allies to back this approach will be hard. But for all of its good works on Darfur, the administration has not really tried. Since January Bush and Rice have met with leaders from NATO and U.N. Security Council member countries 29 times, and they have mentioned Darfur publicly only once. That’s no way to convince the world – and Sudan – that America is serious.

When the Clinton administration finally made Bosnia a priority and began leading international institutions instead of hiding behind them, the killing there ended. It’s not too late for the Bush administration to do the same for Darfur.

The writer is Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

“War is an extension of politics by other means.” - Karl von Clausewitz

Bismark was really correct on this. However I think leaders tend to greatly underestimate the costs and overestimate the benefits of armed conflict.

In the case of Darfur, we are too occupied with Iraq both militarily and politically to do anything about it.

I agree with Soco:

Afghanistan and Iraq have, and are continuing, to suck up so much Military, Political and monetary resources and capital, that we are pretty much limited in any response we could have…

What disturbs me most is the thought that we may be in position where Military force has to be a “last resort” because of our stretched resources…

Just a thought…


Some more small attention to Darfur - and taking the rest of the media (and the Bush Administration) to task for not doing more. I must admit that I wonder why this doesn’t get more attention.


All Ears for Tom Cruise, All Eyes on Brad Pitt

Published: July 26, 2005

Some of us in the news media have been hounding President Bush for his shameful passivity in the face of genocide in Darfur.

More than two years have passed since the beginning of what Mr. Bush acknowledges is the first genocide of the 21st century, yet Mr. Bush barely manages to get the word “Darfur” out of his mouth. Still, it seems hypocritical of me to rage about Mr. Bush’s negligence, when my own beloved institution - the American media - has been at least as passive as Mr. Bush.

Condi Rice finally showed up in Darfur a few days ago, and she went out of her way to talk to rape victims and spotlight the sexual violence used to terrorize civilians. Most American television networks and cable programs haven’t done that much.

Even the coverage of Ms. Rice’s trip underscored our self-absorption. The manhandling of journalists accompanying Ms. Rice got more coverage than any massacre in Darfur has.

This is a column I don’t want to write - we in the media business have so many critics already that I hardly need to pipe in as well. But after more than a year of seething frustration, I feel I have to.

Like many others, I drifted toward journalism partly because it seemed an opportunity to do some good. (O.K., O.K.: it was also a blast, impressed girls and offered the glory of the byline.) But to sustain the idealism in journalism - and to rebut the widespread perception that journalists are just irresponsible gossips - we need to show more interest in the first genocide of the 21st century than in the “runaway bride.”

I’m outraged that one of my Times colleagues, Judith Miller, is in jail for protecting her sources. But if we journalists are to demand a legal privilege to protect our sources, we need to show that we serve the public good - which means covering genocide as seriously as we cover, say, Tom Cruise. In some ways, we’ve gone downhill: the American news media aren’t even covering the Darfur genocide as well as we covered the Armenian genocide in 1915.

Serious newspapers have done the best job of covering Darfur, and I take my hat off to Emily Wax of The Washington Post and to several colleagues at The Times for their reporting. Time magazine gets credit for putting Darfur on its cover - but the newsweeklies should be embarrassed that better magazine coverage of Darfur has often been in Christianity Today.

The real failure has been television’s. According to monitoring by the Tyndall Report, ABC News had a total of 18 minutes of the Darfur genocide in its nightly newscasts all last year - and that turns out to be a credit to Peter Jennings. NBC had only 5 minutes of coverage all last year, and CBS only 3 minutes - about a minute of coverage for every 100,000 deaths. In contrast, Martha Stewart received 130 minutes of coverage by the three networks.

Incredibly, more than two years into the genocide, NBC, aside from covering official trips, has still not bothered to send one of its own correspondents into Darfur for independent reporting.

“Generally speaking, it’s been a total vacuum,” said John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group, speaking of television coverage. “I blame policy makers for not making better policy, but it sure would be easier if we had more media coverage.”

When I’ve asked television correspondents about this lapse, they’ve noted that visas to Sudan are difficult to get and that reporting in Darfur is expensive and dangerous. True, but TV crews could at least interview Darfur refugees in nearby Chad. After all, Diane Sawyer traveled to Africa this year - to interview Brad Pitt, underscoring the point that the networks are willing to devote resources to cover the African stories that they consider more important than genocide.

If only Michael Jackson’s trial had been held in Darfur. Last month, CNN, Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, ABC and CBS collectively ran 55 times as many stories about Michael Jackson as they ran about genocide in Darfur.

The BBC has shown that outstanding television coverage of Darfur is possible. And, incredibly, mtvU (the MTV channel aimed at universities) has covered Darfur more seriously than any network or cable station. When MTV dispatches a crew to cover genocide and NBC doesn’t, then we in journalism need to hang our heads.

So while we have every right to criticize Mr. Bush for his passivity, I hope that he criticizes us back. We’ve behaved as disgracefully as he has.

The situation in the Sudan is bad.

With our armed forces tied up at the moment I am ashamed the rest of the world refuses to respond. Yet they like to criticize us for our actions.
Bunch of phonies.

I am also ashamed we refused to do anything in Rwanda in 1994. I have read Clinton’s administration was afraid to interfere based on what happened in Somalia the year before.

With Rwanda being a Catholic country and Somalia being Muslim, I don’t think we would have had much resistance in Rwanda.

Actually, the rest of the world, at least part of it, is responding. It’d be nice if the response was a lot more vigorous.

Canada, yesterday, committed to sending more vehicles and troops to help with the situation in Sudan: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/July2005/28/c5480.html

I think we (Canada) should stop buying outdated submarines from the UK and increase our troop count. That might improve our responses to international crisis.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
The situation in the Sudan is bad.

With our armed forces tied up at the moment I am ashamed the rest of the world refuses to respond. Yet they like to criticize us for our actions.
Bunch of phonies.

I am also ashamed we refused to do anything in Rwanda in 1994. I have read Clinton’s administration was afraid to interfere based on what happened in Somalia the year before.

With Rwanda being a Catholic country and Somalia being Muslim, I don’t think we would have had much resistance in Rwanda.


I’m with you about the lack of action in Rwanda. I am definitely not a pacifist and I think humanitarian crises like Rwanda and Darfur are situations where diplomacy and humanitarian aid backed by a solid military kick in the ass have a place.

It would also be nice to see the rest of the “civilized” world putting their money (weapons, soldiers, whatever) where their mouths are. I sometimes think that the US is expected to be the worlds policeman/bully-boy, but only on their terms. There are times when I think we run amok without really considering the situation and how it will affect our relationship with the world but I also think they don’t know what they want from us and how to deal with such might as we possess.