Friday, April 22, 2005

JEANNE OVER AT BODY AND SOUL wrote a superb post on Monday which I did not see until now. Jeanne uses her daughter's field trip to a Catholic mission in Santa Cruz, California; and the 30th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge invasion of Cambodia, to observe that there is more than one way to enable genocide. The U.S. media can be critical of the President and Congress for "letting genocide happen" by doing nothing about it -- as in the instances of Darfur and, before that, Rwanda. But genocide can also occur, or increase vastly in scale, because of the actions the United States does take, in addition to the actions the United States does not take.

Jeanne quotes Nicholas Kristof on the Darfur atrocities as an example of this tendency to recognize only one way governments such as the U.S. encourage genocide.

Like Samantha Power, who he goes on to quote, Kristof believes that genocide takes place only when the United States is too spoiled, too lazy, or too preoccupied, to play its proper role as the world's policeman. Sometimes Power and Kristof are right. I frequently refer back to Power's writing on Rwanda, and I think she is probably right on the cost of our failure to intervene. I think Kristof is probably right today when he writes about Darfur. I don't know if intervention is necessary or wise, but it would be impossible to shine too much light in the direction of the atrocities taking place there, and Kristof's light has been one of the strongest.

But genocide doesn't take place only when we turn our backs. It is as likely to stem from our actions as from our inaction. Cambodia is a perfect example.

...Sometimes the killing takes place with active American involvement -- and rewards for those most involved.

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