On Friday, I analyzed the situation in the Congo, where a couple million people may well be dead from the ravages of ethnic warfare, unrelenting banditry, and the secondary effects of that situation. The U.N. has had peacekeepers there since 1998, of course, to predictably little effect. Could the USA help (nope, no capacity left)? What was the history of recent stabilization attempts in Africa, and what do they teach us (mixed, be serious or begone)? What would success require (20,000-50,000 internatrional troops, with serious fire support and a no-guff attitude)? Would the "international community" step up to serious responsibility (that's the big question).
Coincidentally, Michael Totten chimed in with a pretty good piece of his own: "The Globalization of Chaos". To really understand what's going on, however, you also need to delve into the history of the area. Flit doesn't think much of Andrew Sullivan's cited analysis. In its place, however, he does an outstanding job tracing the present situation from its roots 40 years ago, to its entanglement in the Rwandan genocide and the U.N.'s role in facilitating same, to the present and its shifting set of players, and finally the economic connections to Tantalum, a metal used in the production of electronics. If you're serious about the Congo, this set of blog posts are must-reads.
"Not Joining the Congo Line," also argues that active U.N. intervention in the Congo would undermine every one of the principles it claims to stand for, and Flit may have a good case here. Intervention would have seismic consequences, starting with the U.N. but not ending there by any means...
Old Situation, Older Options
Let's start with Flit's appraisal:
"The people directly responsible for all this are the same Hutu leaders, and their successors, who organized the genocide in Rwanda. Practically coddled by humanitarian agencies after they fled across the border to escape justice for genocide, they were able with that assistance to set up a Kurtz-style jungle quasistate in east Congo. From there, they've continued to kill Tutsis whereever they find them. (It's as if in 1945, all the pro-Nazi Germans had fled across the German border, and continued to terrorize a German state now largely populated by the remaining Jews.) The Rwandans first tried putting Kabila Sr. in power, who sold them out to the Hutus... then they just occupied the quasi-state themselves.That doesn't mean nothing should be done, of course, and Flit does offer some suggestions. Even if Canada is literally incapable of participating. The thing is, many of Flit's suggestions hearken back to the 18th and 19th centuries rather than the 20th.
Still, there are the innocents to worry about. The west wants aid to start flowing again, and for that someone has to step in now that the Rwandans have gone. The trouble is that a peacekeeping force in the Congo now isn't a normal UN peacekeeping force.... No, if the UN goes, it's going to keep the Hutus down, and Kabila in power. How is that consistent, in any way, with the founding principles of this organization?"
The Congo Ideology-Trap
Therein lies the essence of the ideological trap that is The Congo: the vast disconnect between what's required for success, and the belief systems of the intervenors. Here's what I see as the requirements for a successful intervention that really stops the violence and allows a functioning and decent polity to emerge. All contrast dramatically with [the 20th century transnationalist mindset]:
- Forceful, armed intervention that shoots first rather than last, at least until order is restored, TV cameras and public image abroad be damned.
[Extreme care in all use of force and refusal to fire first, even in the face of danger or extreme provocation - many U.N. blue berets come back with stories of having to watch rapes, kidnappings, murders, etc. and not intervene.]
- Heavy support via air, helicopters, armor, and artillery that gives intervenors massive fire superiority, and makes even neighbouring states hesitant to act against them.
[All neighbouring states and regional bodies/players must agree, and potentially 'provocative' equipment must be left at home.]
- Strenuous and organized efforts to kill those fomenting and organizing the violence, even if they have not directly threatened troops on the ground. Since "human shield" tactics are only to be expected in response, these either would have to be ignored or bypassed somehow.
[Threats must be proven to legal standards first, or action is immoral. No action can be taken against human shield tactics if it endangers large numbers of civilians, even if that policy has the effect of encouraging such tactics in future.]
- Non-neutrality. Actively making a judgment and taking sides against the primary perpetrators of the carnage, to the extent of crushing the Lendu and Hutus as an organized movement if necessary and reserving aid for other areas until the situation is in hand.
[Neutrality between the warring parties regardless of behaviour is an article of faith. Besides, evil doesn't really exist - there are only different and equally valid narratives.]
- Demonstrated willingness to use military assets on the ground, and more, if neighbouring states calculate that no punishment will be forthcoming for attacks on the intervention force.
[That would touch off a wider war, avoidance of which trumps all other missions.]
- Refusal to treat national borders as sacrosanct if doing so gets in the way of dealing with the problem, esp. a willingness to continue "hot pursuit" across borders and remove any sanctuaries for hostile elements.
[National sovereignty is sacrosanct.]
- Willingness to reorganized national borders if necessary in order to implement a long-term resolution.
[q.v. national sovereignty; borders are sacrosanct, especially in Africa.]
Absent these kinds of measures, we can expect continued survival and mischief by those behind the current problems, more death, no stability, endless rounds of "peace process" that cannot realistically lead to real resolution, and an open-ended military commitment in perpetuity. That won't be forthcoming, especially if the effort is failing visibly due to other deficiencies. Which means failure is almost inevitable for intervention under the banner of the U.N. and/or the transnationalist mindset of the 20th century.
I could be wrong, of course. There could be a viable plan that somehow deals with the Congo's key issues without stepping on any major political or ideological toes, in which case the lesson would be mine. Personally, I can't imagine such a plan given the situation there. Which is precisely why I see a classic tragedy in the making.
That tragedy may come immediately, in efforts that are obviously a farce and don't even slow the conflict down (the "World Indifference/U.N. Failure" scenario). It may come early, in tales of horror and failure that either rival the situation in Rwanda (the "Rwanda Redux" scenario); or as a result of large-scale bloodshed by the international force and a backlash against a 'dirty war' that results in pullout (the "Somalia-Algeria" scenario). Alternatively, the failure may come only after a long and quasi-successful intervention that must be terminated even though the bad actors, intentions and capabilities all remain (the "Square One Relapse" scenario). Indeed, this is the very scenario that created the present crisis in the wake of Rwanda's pullout from the area. As Kim du Toit puts it: "Africa wins again."
Now comes the real mind-bender: I'm still a cheerleader for international intervention.
First of all, intervention might actually succeed. I'd call it lottery odds myself, but who knows? The humanitarian situation is compelling, and success would be a great accomplishment. Besides, as I noted back on Friday, it's an opportunity to prove that terms like "the international community" and "U.N. multilateralism" actually mean something in practical and moral terms. Let's see if they do.
Here's the other thing, too: failure and even tragedy might catalyze something equally important.
The Wages of Failure
The "problems from hell" of the 21st century are genocide, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. All fundamentally engage and challenge the same set of views and assumptions about independence and state sovereignty. Many aspects of that worldview are no longer appropriate to new social and technological realities, or to the threats they produce. As a civilization, we can't afford that kind of "stability." The willingness of some left-liberals to engage these Problems from Hell in a serious way and use force if necessary is a critical component of long-term civilizational health, and even failure may well be part of that re-learning process.
Without the self-examination that follows failure, the broken aspects of the 20th century's transnationalist worldview will not be seriously challenged from the left. Failure's aftermath would create precisely that challenge.
Does this mean the anti-Western left would vanish? Of course not. The murder of 3 million Cambodians by the Marxist Khmer Rouge didn't make a dent in their views, and neither will a few million more dead Congolese. Reasons will be found to blame America, and in most cases that will be the end of their examination.
Most cases, but not all. For some on the left, this would be a "Kronstadt moment" that calls their core beliefs into question. Meanwhile, the ensuing debates would dramatically pit the hard left against the liberal hawks. The left would once again be arguing for doing essentially nothing, and the liberals would be left unable to accept either the left's arguments or the prospect of a similar debacle next time. The Right would also be involved in the wider debate, but it too would be fragmented along internal fissures between neocons and classic Hamiltonian republicanism.
Amidst these tensions and predicaments, the ripple effects would be profound. Dramatic new ideas would likely take shape - and take root - across the political spectrum. That would be good for everyone, even if it does end up intensifying the nascent colonialism/neo-sovereignty debate in a big way.
Besides, as noted earlier there's always the outside possibility that planning an intervention could stretch peoples' thinking in ways that lead to success instead. That, too, would be an interesting learning experience for all concerned.
UPDATE: Excellent follow-up post on the most recent developments and military options at Belmont Club, a blog whose sub-title is "History, and history in the making."
Meanwhile, in "No New Colonialism," Michael Totten agrees with what has to be done but doesn't like the word. Never fear, Michael, a new word will come. As for the reality, these expeditions abroad must be financed somehow - and so the issue is real unless we create a better framework. I give you Gandalf: "Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good." Also Galadriel: "That is how it would begin. But it would not stop with that, alas!" Moral interventions abroad for non-strategic reasons is one area where the Left's reflexive distrust and societal scrutiny might serve it well for a change.