Plenty of mercy, but no muscle for Darfur

After the Holocaust, enlightened people around the world said “Never again.” They lied. I think they’re lying again on Darfur. And hallucinating. It’s apparently been agreed that we’re going to blast our way into Sudan and slap the natives silly until they adopt peace, order and good government plus, I suppose, gay marriage. After all, Hollywood stars including George Clooney are demanding action. Maybe they should make a movie about a brave president who doesn’t mind invading Muslim countries that oppress their own people and foment terror. Oops. Wrong George.

The Globe and Mail editorialized that “The international community now faces a question. Is it going to back down and let the suffering in Darfur continue because a terrorist villain and the leader of a rogue regime tell it to, or is it going to do the right thing and act? The question answers itself …” Yeah. But not the way you think.

The “international community” has ignored, or actively abetted, a number of genocides since 1945. Remember Cambodia? And Democratic Senator George McGovern, a key player in forcing the U.S. to abandon Indochina in 1975, reacting to the Khmer Rouge slaughter three years later with: “Why don’t we send the Marines to do something about it?” This combination of fatuous arrogance and tragic incompetence would have humbled a lesser man. Stop the Vietnam war because Communists aren’t tyrants. Start it again because they are. Or not. All in an afternoon’s work for a liberal idealist. Or a narcissist.

Narcissism is the key here. Start with this “international community.” I see nations, often in disagreement. But I see no such community. Nevertheless I am frequently assured it exists and, curiously, shares precisely the values and priorities of the speaker. Hence the bizarre faith liberals place in a mythical United Nations that occupies the same real estate as the actual one but is unified, decent and ready to act, without a Security Council paralyzed by Russian and Chinese mischief and French sulking about glorious projects for world domination they would have gotten away with if it weren’t for those darn Anglo-Saxons. This mythical UN would never ever acclaim Iran a vice-chair of its disarmament commission. Yes, we’re-building-nukes-death-to-Israel Iran.

Also the Iran whose president has said “Our revolution’s main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi.” Mahdi. Sounds familiar. Not just Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia in Iraq. The late 19th-century uprising against British imperialism led by the supposed Mahdi in … wait for it … Sudan. Want to go there again? Let’s. Yay. Peace, love and home in time for tea. Nothing to it, really.

Well, one small thing. The Globe concluded the editorial cited above: “Outside countries can’t let Sudan’s squawking abut sovereign rights and sacrosanct borders stand in the way of a muscular mission of mercy for Darfur.” I see the mercy. But who brought the muscle? The UN World Food Program just cut handouts to Darfur refugees to 1,050 calories per person per day because governments donated too little cash. Think those same regimes will spend billions, and soldiers’ lives, rescuing Darfurians, then policing the resulting mess for decades? Which only leaves Uncle Sam.

I have in the past warned liberals to be careful what they wish for in Iraq, because a U.S. administration, military and populace bloodied and demoralized by failure there, will hardly welcome a chance to do it again elsewhere under less favourable circumstances. Sudan’s neighbours aren’t likely to host a Western invasion force. We’ll have to do the whole thing from the air. With whose planes?

Liberals talked about the duty to protect. But they ignored the capacity. So now the pitch to those-awful-macho-Americans in sunglasses and body armour is, we didn’t join you in Iraq but you should join us in Sudan. Well not exactly join. More let’s you and him fight.

Ahem. Dear President Bush, remember all that joshing about how you lied and were a war criminal and the worst president in a century and an imbecile and stuff? Ha ha. Just kidding. Actually we share your idealism but um forgot to have an army, navy or air force so could you maybe just totally invade and occupy an oil-rich Muslim country for us a bit? If trouble erupts elsewhere, like Korea or Taiwan, and you’re overextended because you took on Darfur, well, you can count on us to rely on you. But we’ll cheer … until something goes wrong. Then we’ll denounce you as an insensitive imperialist and start muttering about Halliburton. Maybe Jean-Daniel Lafond will make a film starring George Clooney.

I mean, would people as splendid and caring as ourselves do nothing in the face of another Holocaust?

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

ColumnsJohn Robson