Back during my second run at college I wrote for the Daily Texan. Here’s a piece worth revisiting:
While dodging flyers for the cause d’jour, I chuckle a bit at the student lobbyists who ask me if I’d like to “help free Tibet today,” “stop the genocide in Darfur” or “bring peace to the Congo” while walking through the West Mall. Sure, let me get right on that in between classes.
I wonder if pre-med students are similarly amused when presented with the opportunity to “end AIDS” or “win the war on cancer?” Without cancer, what reason would we have to wear those cool yellow wristbands?
One day, a particularly determined activist asked me, “Don’t you want to stop the killing in Darfur?” I couldn’t help but pause to talk to him. Maybe he was secretly a genie testing my character before giving me the opportunity to blink away the Tibetan occupation and infant HIV. Of course I wanted to stop the killing.
I eventually realized that he was not a magical wish-granting creature, and I asked him how he intended to stop the slaughter. His answer? “Raising awareness.”
OK. I pushed further – maybe he had a letter-writing campaign in mind, a petition, some sort of lobbying attempt to focus government attention? Perhaps a similar initiative directed at the U.N.? No, no, this particular fellow didn’t really believe in appealing to authorities. Evidently he was a self-described “anarchist, of sorts.”
This intrigued me. Perhaps I had just uncovered a reservoir of good ol’ American vigilantism, Ross Perot style. Was the Darfur group recruiting for a paramilitary force of college students, a posse if you will, ready to gear up and mosey on over to the Sudan to protect the peaceful farmers from the banditos?
Much to my chagrin, my remarkably passive activist stressed again that they were just trying to “raise awareness.”
Confident that my awareness was as raised as it could be, and that it wasn’t going to stop anybody from killing someone 12,000 miles away, I continued my trek to the Union to make my stomach aware of some carcinogenic BBQ.
My hat goes off to activists who do write letters about these problems and petition their representatives. These are serious issues that require serious attention.
There is no doubt that Tibet should be freed from the oppressive heel of China. The genocide in Darfur is abhorrent, and the religious complications of the situation have been inflated by non-interventionists –the Muslim militias are killing Christians, Animists and Muslims alike. We know we failed to act quickly enough in Rwanda, why are we letting the related slaughter continue in the Congo?
Stopping these humanitarian disasters will require more than diplomacy. They will require the application of force. No genocide has ever been stopped without good guys who cowboy up and face down the aggressors. The bad guys won’t drop their guns and stop slaughtering innocents, because they’re moved by Joan Baez.
Troops will have to be deployed, and as history tells us, that means U.S. troops. It means U.S. soldiers will die, and U.S. tax dollars will be spent.
In Tibet’s case, most foreign policy professionals recognize that pitting even the largest international coalition against China would have disastrous results – if not tactically, then for the world markets. Even defending Taiwan is a risky proposition.
The irony is that some of same people who rally for the western-backed liberation of a small Asian country from its communist oppressor are the very same people who protested the attempted liberation of a small Asian country from communist oppressors 40 years ago.
Darfur and the Congo don’t present the same complications as Tibet does. Certainly Islamic and nativist radicals will paint any intervention as evil and colonial in nature, and our troops will be subject to the sort of hostility the U.N. received in Rwanda and Somalia. Hopefully, we will have learned the lesson of Mogadishu, when we showed al-Qaeda just how little it took to make us run away.
Regarding Darfur, the Bush administration has pressed the U.N. to act more than any other international leadership. Regarding genocide, “not enough” is a far cry from “never again.” It is time the U.S. leverages its subsidy of Europe’s defense and demands that our NATO allies – as well as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Japan – act together in concert, under U.S. command, to end the African genocides. The citizens of these countries must show some intestinal fortitude and let their military forces do what they’re trained to do: engage the enemy.
Critics may claim the U.S. cannot afford to instigate another “unilateral” operation outside of U.N. sanction. My question is, how can we afford not to?