In the response to most foreign policy crises, the use of military force is properly viewed as a last resort. In the response to genocide, the use of military force is properly viewed as a first resort. ~The New Republic
It might be possible to take this view seriously if it were not uttered by people who mention Kosovo in the same breath with Rwanda as if they were conflicts even remotely similar in nature or scale. Let’s just keep in mind that this view, even if taken seriously, entails sending other Americans to risk their lives to assuage the feelings of moral obligation among some of the folks back home. No one seems to be as confident about intervening militarily overseas to do good as the man who stands no chance of ever having to be part of the military intervention. For my part, I find it offensive that there are Americans who think it acceptable to fabricate or exaggerate conflicts into “genocide,” as was done in the cases of Bosnia, Kosovo and now Darfur, and further find it acceptable to send Americans to halt the alleged “genocide.” The premise of TNR’s indignation is that there are plenty of Americans prattling on about Darfurian “genocide,” but too few willing to put Americans on the line for their convictions. TNR calls that hypocrisy. Maybe it is, but I’d rather have a lot of hysterical hypocrites complaining about something they have no intention of fixing than calm, dedicated partisans of interventionist action in Sudan.
Besides all the obvious practical and political reasons not to intervene in Darfur, there are two basic truths, one moral and one legal, that compel non-intervention: it is none of our business (as the internal affairs of all other nations are properly none of our business), and Sudan remains a sovereign country whose territorial integrity is guaranteed by international law (for whatever very little that’s worth). Frequently, the consequences of intervention are worse than if the conflict is allowed to conclude (Kosovo is a perfect example of the “cure” being far, far worse than the “disease”).
At the same time, non-intervention avoids entanglement in complex foreign conflicts most of which most Americans, no matter how educated and informed, understand only superficially and are in no position to resolve. That it is the common opinion of pundits and politicians in this country that there is a strictly racial war going on in the Sudan underscores how poorly they understand a situation they profess to be deeply concerned about–how much less will Americans and other Westerners less well informed of the conflict in Sudan fail to understand or support any expedition into the Sahara?
If a real case of a new Rwanda were to appear in the future (and I must insist that Darfur simply is not it), and it did demand some swift response, public fatigue with the various do-gooding interventions over conflicts falsely labeled as genocide would likely make it politically impossible. It does not help that most “humanitarian” appeals for intervention are thinly disguised pretexts for acting against a government Washington would actually be only too pleased to overthrow–as usual. (That it cannot succeed in overthrowing the Khartoum regime without significant negative fallout for actual American interests is the main, very rational idea that blunts hostility to Khartoum.)
Interventionists have exhausted the patience of reasonable people with their constant alarms, playing the part of the boy who cried, “Never again!” (In other alarmist news, Charles Krauthammer has been using the fear of a new Holocaust as the stick with which to beat people into taking action against Iran.) In the event that a real genocide were to be perpetrated by a state at some point in this century, the public’s willingness to trust advocates of intervention will have already vanished thanks to the incessant call to “do something” in countries where there is no genocide and where we have no proper role or responsibility.