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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Saturday, April 24, 2004 ::

More unilateralist dishonesty
I wasn't planning on reading the latest article by Martin Peretz, the editor-in-chief of The New Republic, since I think he's quite the hack. But the most recent post on 60-40 Hindsight brought it up, so I did. In his continuing quest to occupy the unique position of die-hard Al Gore supporter who hates the UN and any sort of real commitment to multilateralism, Peretz unleashes this little gem about Rwanda:
[W]e have just observed the tenth anniversary of the Hutu extermination of the Tutsi, as many as 800,000 of them, in Rwanda, which Annan, as head of the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, on several occasions ordered his personnel not to impede--except if it were "essential for the evacuation of foreign nationals."

It wasn't as if the military force needed to block the vast machete genocide was unavailable. (Samantha Power tells us convincingly in "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide that, with appropriate and easy maneuvers, the United Nations could have both staged rescue operations and confronted the killers.) What was unavailable was international will, for whose flaccidity Annan was both incarnation and tribune.
Annan and other UN officials certainly didn't acquit themselves well in that crisis, but Peretz either hasn't read Power's book, or he didn't read it very carefully, except to pull out little excerpts that appear to confirm his opinions. I haven't read the whole book, but I'm pretty sure that Power's lengthy Atlantic Monthly article from 2001 is quite similar, if not identical, to the chapter about Rwanda in her book.

Peretz cites her as proof that Rwanda was all the UN's fault, but if you actually read what she says about it, her point is that the international community didn't intervene in Rwanda because the United States actively sought to avoid intervening:
[T]he United States did much more than fail to send troops. It led a successful effort to remove most of the UN peacekeepers who were already in Rwanda. It aggressively worked to block the subsequent authorization of UN reinforcements. It refused to use its technology to jam radio broadcasts that were a crucial instrument in the coordination and perpetuation of the genocide. And even as, on average, 8,000 Rwandans were being butchered each day, U.S. officials shunned the term "genocide," for fear of being obliged to act. The United States in fact did virtually nothing "to try to limit what occurred." Indeed, staying out of Rwanda was an explicit U.S. policy objective.
Read the rest of it for all the sordid details. Now, is Power claiming that "it's all America's fault," that everyone else around the world was clamoring for intervention, only to be foiled by the US? Certainly not. As she makes clear, almost nobody in a position of import in any major country was willing to intervene in any meaningful way at the outset of the genocide. Her point is that without active leadership by the US--which doesn't necessarily mean military intervention in every case--no external preventive action is going to happen in any case when genocide erupts.

People like Peretz, who claim to be in favor of taking action to avert such humanitarian catastrophes instead of embracing old-style isolationism, need to get their heads out of their asses about the UN and other international institutions. For all the flaws that they have, they will never work without active leadership from the United States. When we have a good case for taking action, as I thought we did in Iraq, we have the right to expect a certain amount of willingness to help from our allies. But when bad things happen where we aren't terribly interested in becoming involved, e.g. Rwanda, we can't sit around holding our dicks and then blame other people for not getting involved. When you're the leader of the free world, and you don't lead, no one will follow, whether you want to get involved or not. Them's the breaks.
9:33 PM
:: Thursday, April 22, 2004 ::
Is it "turn back the clock" week in Iraq?
I don't think any throwback jerseys will be involved, like they are when sports teams decide to revel in nostalgia. But after the recent effort to bring the UN on board for the transition of sovereignty, another why-didn't-we-do-this-12-months-ago thing comes up:
The United States is moving to rehire former members of Iraq's ruling Baath Party and senior Iraqi military officers fired after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, in an effort to undo the damage of its two most controversial policies in Iraq, according to U.S. officials.

The U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, proposed the policy shifts to broaden the strategy to entice the powerful Sunni minority back into the political fold and weaken support for the insurgency in the volatile Sunni Triangle, two of the most persistent challenges for the U.S.-led occupation, the officials say. Both policies are at the heart of national reconciliation, increasingly important as the occupation nears an end...

"The decisions made a year ago have bedeviled the situation on the ground ever since. Walking back these policies is a triumph of the view in the field over policies originally crafted in Washington," said a senior U.S. official involved in Iraq policy. Ironically, the two policies were the first actions taken by Bremer, who brought them from Washington, when he arrived in Baghdad to assume leadership of the U.S-led occupation last May...

Baathists in the top four levels of the party were fired and the military was dismantled because they were seen as the primary instruments of Hussein's Sunni-dominated government and their continued presence as a threat to the transition, even though vast numbers of Iraqis joined largely to ensure employment or even survival, U.S. officials now concede. They were allowed to appeal for job reinstatement, a process that has proved slow and unwieldy -- and has alienated vast numbers of Sunnis who are the main targets, U.S. officials say.
But there's still a bit of a problem here:
The administration is considering a range of options, such as a proactive approach that would identify other groups of Sunni professionals to reinstate, or expediting the current process by creating a new commission to adjudicate the appeals. The committee charged with "de-Baathification" is headed by Ahmed Chalabi, a Shiite Muslim and controversial politician on the Governing Council.
Chalabi in charge, what a great idea.
10:10 AM
:: Monday, April 19, 2004 ::
Might want to consider that Entebbe analogy again
I think Juan Cole has a lot of valuable stuff on his blog regarding Iraq, but it gets kind of dicey when Israel veers into the picture. Consider some parts of this post from yesterday about the Rantisi killing and the effect it might have in Iraq:
If the Israelis had wanted to arrest Rantisi, they could have. They pulled off Entebbe.
Uh, well, let's consider what actually happened at Entebbe, and the differences with the Rantisi situation. An Israeli commando squad flew to Uganda to rescue a bunch of hostages, and almost all of them got out safely. No hostages with Rantisi. And, in Entebbe, all of the terrorists were killed in the process of rescuing the hostages. Rantisi? A terrorist, who was not supposed to be, er, rescued by the IDF.

Now, what would have happened if the IDF did try to arrest Rantisi, or Sheikh Yassin before him? These guys usually had a lot of bodyguards around them, particularly Sheikh Yassin. And they lived in the densely populated Gaza Strip. There's a good chance that if the IDF sent in as much force as they would need to arrest those guys, the large gun battles that would almost inevitably ensue would kill even more Palestinians than the targeted killings do.
4:51 PM

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