Monday, December 29, 2008

Kristof's Double Standards

So last week Nicholas Kristof of the NYT wrote an op-ed on military options for the new administration regarding Darfur. Numerous advocacy groups have emerged since Colin Powell first declared in 2004 that the Sudanese regime was committing genocide in Darfur. Most of these organizations have been as vague in their recommendations as they have urgent in their tone. But Kristof, cribbing off recommendations from a source in the State Department, is uncharacteristically clear about the options:
The United States could jam all communications in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. This would include all telephone calls, all cellular service, all Internet access...
The United States could apply progressive pressure to Port Sudan, from which Sudan exports oil and thus earns revenue. The first step would be to send naval vessels near the port. The next step would be to search or turn back some ships, and the final step would be to impose a quarantine and halt Sudan’s oil exports...
The United States could target Sudanese military aircraft that defy a United Nations ban on offensive military flights in Darfur. The first step would be to destroy a helicopter gunship on the ground at night.

What Kristof doesn't address is the concern that Sudan has become too complicated--both morally and politically--for a categorical, hardline approach to work. According to the Washington Post, while the government-sponsored Janjaweed caused most of the displacement and suffering during the first two years of the conflict in 2004-2005, the conflict is more fluid now, "with fighting among various Arab tribes and rebel factions displacing more people this year than government bombings."

More irritating to me is Kristof's double standards when it comes to Rwanda, about which he never fails to gush: "Increasingly [in Africa] there are new leaders like Paul Kagame here in Rwanda who are honest, intelligent and capable. President Kagame reads Harvard Business Review and is an African version of Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore. Both are authoritarian, repressive and quirky (Mr. Kagame banned plastic bags to curb litter). Both did wonders for their countries' living standards."

Forget that the Rwandan government uses security concerns to close down and punish civil and political opposition. Forget that the government’s true power base is shrinking even as its outer circle (such as its much-lauded women parliamentarians) is growing. Forget that it is seen within Rwanda as representative only of the repatries--the Tutsi refugees from Uganda who made up the rebel army that put Kagame in power, and that this is a government determined at all costs to stay in power. Forget its own widespread human rights violations--which, although not on the scale of a genocide, include massacres and political assassinations.

Consider only that it has launched a war in the Congo that has so far cost 5 million lives. Consider that there is by now more than enough evidence that Rwanda's putative security concerns are a fig-leaf: that it has been documented in report after report after report to have been interested in only one thing: Congo's minerals--even to the extent of cooperating with the genocidaires in extracting them. Why are we not only not condemning Rwanda, but actively supporting it? When will Kristof lend his voice to the call to stop subsidizing Rwanda's murderous behavior in the Congo--as the Economist and Independent have done?

That Rwanda is well-run is no excuse. Kagame is not the first leader to have made the trains run on time.

1 comment:

  1. Actually quite a humble request you putting to Nicholas. He probably won't even comment here, because he is a journalist of the NYT, pretending he has not read it. Most certainly someone will put this article to his attention and he will laugh condescendingly. And if you send him an email he probably won't answer, because he is "tooo busy". Or if he answers, he might ask "who are you?", "my time is very important, I only have five minutes"