David Kopel (of The Volokh Conspiracy), Paul Gallant, and Joanne D. Eisen have posted a law review article, Is Resisting Genocide a Human Right?, as a working paper draft. It discusses the history and effectiveness of various methods used to stop genocide.
Kofi Annan observes “the developing international norm in favor of intervention to protect innocent civilians from wholesale slaughter.” Unfortunately, the norm of intervention to stop wholesale slaughter is extremely underdeveloped in practice. Neither the Security Council, nor any other multilateral body, nor any nation(s) acting unilaterally have stopped the genocide in Sudan. Nor are they stopping the genocide by government-caused starvation in Zimbabwe. Nor did they stop the genocides in the Soviet Union, Communist China, Guatemala, or Rwanda. Even when a genocidal government (such as Hitler’s Germany, Amin’s Uganda, or Pol Pot’s Cambodia) made the error of provoking a stronger nation and prompting an invasion, that invasion eventually stopped the genocide, but did not prevent the genocide from being initiated.
A policy that relies on the Security Council to prevent genocides has historically been proven to be ineffective. A policy that relies on unilateral invasions to prevent genocide may save lives, but such a policy has, historically, resulted in action that, at best, came far too late to save millions of genocide victims. Moreover, humanitarian, non-defensive unilateral intervention is, by the dominant interpretation of international law, illegal.
In other words, multilateral bodies have a terrible record on stopping genocides. Unilateral action to stop genocide is illegal. What’s left?
For one answer, plus a good background on the Darfur genocide, read the whole paper.
The authors also invite your comments by e-mail.
The United Nations estimates that 180,000 people have lost their lives in Darfur from killings, disease, malnutrition, and lack of shelter.
Understanding such a large number can be difficult. Maybe these few illustrations will help.
- Gather 180,000 dead bodies. Start in New York City and, heading southwest, set them down, head to toe, one after another. You’d go about 185 miles, all the way to Baltimore, Maryland, before you ran out of bodies. Except, many of the dead in Darfur are children and infants. This would make the distance shorter, though that’s hardly any comfort.
- Imagine watching a human being die from starvation, disease, or even violence. Now, imagine watching a fellow human being die every minute, minute after minute. You’d have to watch for 125 days. That’s how much death has already happened occurred in Darfur. But it’s been happening for about 1.5 years, so the actual average is about one death every four to five minutes. And we’re not watching it; we’re ignoring it.
- As a result of the 9/11 attacks, 2,986 people died. To equal the tragedy of Darfur, the attacks would have to continue until November 10, sixty days later. But Darfur’s population is 6,000,000, about 1/50th that of the United States. To have a proportional impact on the U.S. population would require 3,000 consecutive days of 9/11 casualties, or more than 8 years.
I ask again: how many is 180,000 dead?
Mike Cohen raises a valid point in response to my last post on the Darfur conflict.
So.. the deaths of 50,000-300,000 Africans are less important than the death of one brain-dead American woman. I don’t see any of the “culture of life” people getting their knickers in a twist about this.
Mike compares the lack of attention to the Darfur conflict with the media circus surrounding the Terri Schiavo case. Terri’s feeding tube had been removed more than once, but it was only the last time that received much attention, primarily because of the blogosphere. I am hoping we can do the same to raise the public’s awareness of Darfur (and this time, not have the subject die in the process).
So why is so little said about Darfur? At first glance, it would seem the current administration would be falling all over itself to publicize it.
- First, it is a humanitarian crisis of incredible proportions. Tens of thousands dead. Many more having all they owned destroyed and forced to flee for their lives. Do we really want to sit on our hands and watch another Rwanda?
- Second, it can be positioned as Muslims slaughtering Christians. Certainly, that could play well with the President’s constituency.
- Third, the Sudan has oil. Why not attempt to lower prices by stabilizing the Sudan?
On second glance, maybe those same factors are reasons why the U.S. is not pressing the issue.
- If it’s a humanitarian crisis (and it is), why doesn’t the U.N. prove its value (if it has any) and take a leading role in actually getting something done in Darfur. The U.S. is vilified for acting like the world’s policeman. Now when it doesn’t — Damned if we do and damned if we don’t. More seriously, what is the exit strategy? Can we afford the troops when some (many?) say we need more in Iraq and Afghanistan?
- If the President positioned entering the Darfur conflict as defending Christians against Muslims, it could provide a basis for the Islamic world to believe the U.S. is anti-Muslim. Probably not a good idea when trying to work with Muslims in building democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is purely a political consideration, but when you’re a politician, politics are reality.
- Finally, what about “no blood for oil”? Would the MSM media argue that Bush was interested in Darfur only because it had oil? Is it even enough oil to make a difference?
Damn the politics; it’s time to end this conflict because it’s the right thing to do. We have a name for those who target noncombatant civilians. Let’s not give the terrorists in Darfur a pass because of political “difficulties.”
While I type and while you read, people are starving. It’s a painful, ugly death, with no dignity involved. We can help by donating dollars to aid organizations. I bet your favorite international charity is working to alleviate suffering in Darfur. If you need help finding a charity, use the resources available here.
Oh, and Mike…I’m one “culture of life” person trying to make a difference in Darfur. I hope you join me.
A human tragedy is taking place in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Odds are, you haven’t heard much about it. It’s time to change that. Here are some valuable resources to get up to speed:
I’ll update these with more information later…