Darfur ≠ Iraq

Ezra’s right; this Hit & Run post by Tim Cavanaugh is just awful:

I think military intervention in Darfur is a non-starter, and I’m glad about that. But what’s the clear categorical distinction between intervening in Iraq (which I think it’s fair to say Clooney and many other Darfur hawks opposed) and this one? Why does it always seem like progressives support any intervention that clearly does not advance any American interests? (I don’t think invading Iraq advanced our national interests, but people made that case, which you definitely can’t in the case of Sudan.)

The difference between humanitarian intervention in Iraq and humanitarian intervention in Darfur is that intervention in Darfur is (a) more justified and (b) easier. Darfur is the only area where clear, unadulterated genocide is taking place. Hundreds of thousands have died. Iraq, on the other hand, was a mere dictatorship, which was killing people, but at nowhere near that magnitude. It wasn’t even the most brutal dictatorship at that time; North Korea or the government in Khartoum are better candidates. Intervention in Darfur in 2003 would have saved countless more lives than the intervention in Iraq has, especially considering the toll of the insurgency.
Which brings me to my second point: actions like those we took in Bosnia and Kosovo are a heck of a lot easier than nation-building is. The Balkans operations ended genocides, and thus saved many lives, in mere months. The Iraq war has taken over three years, and resulted in more death, and a failed state. Sure, some positive outcomes from Bosnia and Kosovo were the results of dumb luck – the move toward freedom in Serbia, for instance. Indeed, international involvement may have retarded Bosnia’s political development. But it’s hard to argue against the premise that the Bosnia and Kosovo operations were more moral, easier, and more effective than the operation in Iraq.

3 thoughts on “Darfur ≠ Iraq

  1. Actually, I agree with Cavanaugh’s axioms, just not with his specific calculations. The United States should not intervene militarily unless it is both humanitarian and advances American interests. The problem with the war in Iraq is that even though advocates argued that it would advance American interests, the reality is that it massively undermines American interests. Whether it will in the end serve humanitarian interests is unclear. Cavanaugh is arguing Iraq on the basis of lip service, not reality.
    Likewise for Darfur. As a matter of lip service, few people have emphasized American interests. But that doesn’t mean that intervention would not favor American interests; it might well.
    On the other hand, I think that Saddam Hussein’s brutality in certain episodes, in particular during the Iran-Iraq and the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings after the Persian Gulf War, are indeed comparable to what is going on in Darfur.
    In addition, if intervention in Darfur unquestionably would have been much easier than the invasion of Iraq, doing both may well be unacceptably complicated.

  2. The United States should not intervene militarily unless it is both humanitarian and advances American interests.

    So you’re a liberal realist? 🙂

    On the other hand, I think that Saddam Hussein’s brutality in certain episodes, in particular during the Iran-Iraq and the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings after the Persian Gulf War, are indeed comparable to what is going on in Darfur.

    I agree, and that’s why I, along with Samantha Power, think that the U.S. should have intervened to stop the massacre at Halabja, and should have helped the Shi’ite and Kurdish uprisings. Taking revenge for those actions twelve years after the fact while similar brutality is taking place is just beyond stupid.

    In addition, if intervention in Darfur unquestionably would have been much easier than the invasion of Iraq, doing both may well be unacceptably complicated.

    All the more reason to pull out of one and into the other :).

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