The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Friday, September 03, 2004

Uh oh! Kerry Krusade alert...

I think it likely that a large majority of those who opposed the invasion of Iraq plan to vote for Kerry. A good deal of the animus against Bush that helps to fuel pro-Kerry activism comes - I'm supposing - from sentiment against the invasion.

My developing hypothesis, based on Kerry statements and the foreign affairs company he keeps, is that these folks are deluding themselves if they suppose Kerry will be significantly less inclined to military action than Bush. The targets may be different, the MO more consensual and diplomatic, the planning more thorough (not a toughie, that one...); but the yen to vindicate US moral superiority by military action seems every bit as keen [1].

A case in point is the Sudan: yesterday, according to a New York Times piece, Kerry
called on President Bush on Thursday to take the lead in stopping the killing of civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan by declaring it a genocide, pushing for tough United Nations sanctions on the government, backing the deployment of an international force and raising money for relief aid.

I can find no press release on the Kerry site for the ipsissima verba.

On the question of military action, all we have is the final graf of the piece:
On the question of military intervention, Mr. Kerry said the administration should push the United Nations to deploy an international force and to authorize it to use all means necessary to disarm militias, protect civilians and allow aid to get through.

Now, the UN doesn't have a force to deploy, of course: Kerry knows this (it's another foreign leaders reporting snafu, no doubt). He's presumably considering a UN Security Council authorisation - of which governments? - to make such a deployment. African Union troops are already in the Sudan, and an increase in their number seems to be what Kofi Annan and USG [2] have in mind: the Sudanese government rejects the idea [3], natch.

But the question of categorising the events in Darfur as genocide also affects the military situation. The 1948 Genocide Convention is the basic law on the subject. The defnition in Article II (discussed here) was devised with the Final Solution in mind, and is arguably both over- and under-inclusive when compared with widely held notions of the meaning of the term.

It is far from clear that the events in Darfur fall within the Article II definition; the difficulties of determining this relate both to the facts (there is not a clear racial divide between the so-called Arabs and Africans, for instance) and to the law.

But it seems that, if it is determined (by whom?) that those events did constitute genocide, the Convention does not - contrary to what seems like a general supposition - require third countries to intervene to put an end to it: the Convention merely authorises such intervention.

However, politically, the finding of genocide would generate pressure for Western powers to intervene. The African Union is unlikely to have troops with the necessary abilities; the momentum for Western troops to be used might well become unstoppable.

The usual suspects have been reluctant to call it as genocide: the EU, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International hadn't - by August 10, at least. The NGOs, I surmise, are wary of devaluing the currency of the term. There's bastardy more or less related to ethnicity going on all round the world - the PRC's action against the Uighurs of Sinkiang, for instance. The worst thing from the NGOs' viewpoint would be for events in a country to be agreed internationally as falling within the Convention definition of genocide, and for nothing to be done about it.

Far better only to use the definition to cover situations where intervention is practicable.

Kerry enters where angels fear to tread, however. The G-word has a cachet that a politician cultivating an image of strength might well prize: it has the sort of ring to it that opponents of the Iraq invasion might be expected to warm to. The liberal bomb-fest that was Kosovo - where the odious doctrine of humanitarian intervention was first given military form - shows that mayhem knows no color line - red or blue, in this case.

But surely, you say, Kerry doesn't contemplate circumstances in which US troops would be deployed to the Sudan? The problem, as I've suggested, with bandying genocide about is the word's power to generate momentum: something apparently feared by Clinton in holding off thus describing the 1994 Rwandan slaughter.


  1. There seems to be some notion abroad that the Kerry tag-line,
    America should never go to war because we want to, only when we have to,
    is some comfort on this point: that when we have to refers to some actual or imminent (in the Daniel Webster Caroline sense) attack on the US or those nations it is treaty-bound to defend.

    I mentioned on November 8 2002, in a piece on the death of General Massu, Charles de Gaulle's famous Je vous ai compris speech of June 4 1958. The pieds noirs listening to the old twister thought it was a token of support for their cause of keeping Algeria as part of French territory. Whereas, I think I'm right in saying, what he actually meant was that he understood that the pieds noirs were a complete shower who had hi-jacked the French political process, and he was going to bring the bloody farce to an end ASAP.

  2. I note that the State Department calls the militias the Jingaweit, rather than Janjaweed. All quite innocent, I'm sure.

  3. This piece has a link to the report by UN envoy Jan Pronk on the Darfur situation. US Ambassador John Danforth does not think much of some of it. But does approve the proposal for further African Union deployments.


URL dump on Darfur and genocide: here, here, here.

Whilst on the subject, evil tidings that
The Foreign Office and Downing Street are...trying to find a new set of post-Iraq criteria to justify UN intervention in sovereign states.

Tony Blair's enthusiasm for a new imperialism is undiminished by the Iraq cakewalk: his bag-carrier Jack Straw
said that the security council had expanded over the last few years the range of issues regarded as a threat to peace: overthrow of a democratically-elected government, terrorism, large-scale human rights violations, humanitarian catastrophe, refugee crises and states that flout their international obligations on weapons of mass destruction.

We now need to take that evolution further, with the council beginning to treat such issues more consistently, and as a matter of course, rather than in the relatively ad hoc way in which it has done so to date.

So who's next on the list? China for its oppression of the Tibetans and those Uighurs mentioned earlier? Or perhaps that's not sufficiently large-scale...

free website counter Weblog Commenting and Trackback by