The ongoing crisis in Sudan has put
many critics of U.S. foreign policy --particularly those who lament
the Bush administration's "cowboy diplomacy" -- in an
untenable position. Recall that two years ago the United Nations
concluded that "massive human rights violations" were being
committed by the Sudanese government and its proxy militia against
civilians in Darfur. What have two years of U.N. diplomacy and
multilateralism accomplished for the people of Sudan?
The U.N. Security Council, unable to agree on sanctions, has
passed several toothless resolutions. The Human Rights Commission,
unwilling to criticize the Sudanese government, opted instead to
renew Sudan's seat for another three-year term. African Union
"peacekeepers" were deployed, but with no authority and too few
troops to stop the killing. Just as the United States declared that
genocide was under way, a U.N. reform panel met to discuss topics
such as "Strengthening United Nations Capacity for Crisis
Management." Even now, the government in Khartoum refuses to allow
U.N. peacekeepers to enter the country: Earlier this month at a
meeting of African leaders in Gambia, Sudan again rejected appeals
to bring in a U.N. peacekeeping force of 15,000 troops, backed by
NATO air support.
The end result of this standoff: At least 200,000 civilians have
been killed and another 2.5 million displaced in the conflict.
Government-backed militias continue to rape women and burn down
entire villages. As Jan Egeland, U.N. undersecretary general, told
the New York Times: "I think we're headed toward total
chaos."Is this what the world is like when America fails to throw
its weight around?
That's how many human-rights advocates, pundits, and public
intellectuals seem to be arguing these days. At the recent "Save
Darfur" rally in Washington, D.C., representatives from
organizations such as Amnesty International, the International
Crisis Group, and the National Council of Churches mostly ignored
the U.N. Security Council. They know the blue helmets will not come
to the rescue. Rather, the focus of their rage is the U.S. and the
Bush administration-for not pushing the U.N. hard enough to resolve
Editors at the liberal New Republic apparently have had
an epiphany: "It defies belief that people of goodwill would turn
to the United Nations for effective action," they wrote in a recent
issue devoted to Sudan. "All these proposals for ending the
genocide in Darfur are really proposals to prevent the United
States from ending it." New York Times columnist Nicholas
Kristof, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Darfur,
says it's time to "drop any fantasy that the U.N. is going to save
the day as a genocide unfolds."
Yet the same establishment voices, angered by America's war on
terrorism, have doggedly defended the U.N. as a check on American
power. They've denounced the Bush White House for its
"neocolonialism," "imperial hubris," and its "cowboy" approach to
confronting threats to international security. Now they want the
cowboy to ride into Darfur on a helicopter gunship (with U.N.
approval, of course).
This is the corrosive logic of a political dogma: an almost
religious devotion to a U.N. solution to human-rights abuses,
despite the institution's repeated and spectacular failures. Under
this doctrine, the Security Council alone retains credibility to
confront genocidal regimes. The 15-nation body-a gaggle of
dictatorships, theocracies, and democracies-is somehow expected to
disown powerful economic and political interests to defend
society's weakest members.
Behind this political creed lies a powerful illusion about human
nature and human societies. It's the notion that skilled diplomats,
armed with sweet reason, can tame the most barbaric of
The Judeo-Christian moral tradition, by contrast, holds no such
illusion about the ambiguities of political life. The wise
statesman, operating with a belief in the doctrine of original sin,
realizes that even democratic governments will struggle to put
moral principle above narrow self interest. "Even if every Athenian
citizen had been a Socrates," quipped James Madison, "every
Athenian assembly would have been a mob." This is moral realism, a
way to avoid both cynicism and utopianism in international
Under this view, the authority to intervene militarily to stop
mass murder belongs not to U.N. elites, but to governments that
share a set of democratic ideals. We need a serious debate about
the formation of an alliance of democracies, working through NATO,
which can act to prevent genocide when the United Nations refuses
to act. Except for self defense, the U.N. Charter disallows
military action without Security Council approval. Yet the
architects of that document, the generation that survived the fires
of the holocaust, could hardly have intended to create an
international legalism to enable another one.
The many victims in Sudan - the women and children sleeping
tonight in refugee camps, wondering if they'll be alive in the
morning-have nothing to lose from such a venture, and everything to
Gardiner is a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a
former aide to Margaret Thatcher. Joseph Loconte is a fellow at the
Ethics and Public Policy Center and editor of ''The End of
Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler's Gathering
First appeared in the National Review
The ongoing crisis in Sudan has put many critics of U.S. foreign policy — particularly those who lament the Bush administration’s “cowboy diplomacy” — in an untenable position. Recall that two years ago the United Nations concluded that “massive human rights violations” were being committed by the Sudanese government and its proxy militia against civilians in Darfur. What have two years of U.N. diplomacy and multilateralism accomplished for the people of Sudan?
William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society
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Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
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