Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Congo tragedy shows up the UN

I wonder how Jacques "War Always Means Failure" Chirac would propose to solve this particular mess. I also find it rather strange that none of those protesters who were in so much anguish over the impending humanitarian "disaster" in Iraq threatened by American unilateralism have anything to say about a conflict that is by far more catastrophic than anything that has unfolded in the middle east since the Iran-Iraq war. On the order of 5 million lives have been lost in the Congo and Sudanese wars in the last 5 years, and yet hardly anybody in the west has a word to say about them.

While the silence of conservatives on the Congo war (quite a few Republicans have advocated paying attention to the war in Sudan) is less than commendable, they have never deigned to claim the mantle of cheerleaders for the world's downtrodden. What is truly infuriating is the selective outrage so many self-proclaimed champions of the oppressed seem to display with regards to the conflicts in Israel and Iraq, when there are much bloodier disasters unfolding elsewehere in the world. How can any honest individual say that Israel is somehow uniquely bad, when more Congolose are killed in a single day than Palestinians have died since the Intifada began?

Which brings us back to the question - how exactly is the conflict in the Congo to be ended, if forceful intervention by the Western powers is to be ruled out? It serves no purpose to send yet more "peacekeepers" to the Congo to act as mere observers of atrocities in progress, and there is no reason to believe that yet more treaty-making will end this conflict when none of the parties to earlier treaties have thought them worth their while to keep. If France and Canada are honest in their evaluation of what is required, they will acknowledge that what is required is the imposition of peace by force of arms, which will require a hefty commitment of Western troops empowered to use force as necessary. There is just one problem with all of this: it would require Chirac and Chretien to admit that American intervention in Iraq was not without legitimacy, which they are both loathe to do.

At the same time, the Congo crisis poses a challenge for the Bush administration. Having justified the invasion of Iraq on the grounds of weapons of mass destruction, and having subsequently found none of any significance, the administration has fallen back on the humanitarian justification for acting. This is all well and good, but then it poses a question - if the human suffering in Iraq justified American intervention, why not that in the Congo? Seeing as no biological or chemical weapons have been found in Iraq, President Bush cannot fall back on national security considerations to explain a refusal to do anything about the Congo, which leaves him wide open to the charge that the Iraqi war really was all about oil after all.

It will be interesting to watch the contortions of logic that conservative commentators will be forced to perform to justify action in one case and inaction in another, assuming the left is willing to put them to the test; but I suspect that this is a task for which the left has no real relish, seeing as it defines itself purely in reaction against American activity, rather than American inaction.