Ugh. Matt Yglesias is so consistently right about so many things and yet so consistently wrong on genocide and Darfur that it makes me want to gag. Responding to a proposal by Mike O’Hanlon for a dedicated genocide-fighting division in the Army (which is unnecessary given the success of air power in Kosovo, but which is a nice thought in any case), Matt quotes from his upcoming book:
Unfortunately, to many liberals and many members of the administration, Kosovo came to be viewed not as an unusual case — an outlier defining the limits of when liberals would endorse the use of aggressive force absent U.N. authorization — but as setting a baseline for an ill-defined new era of humanitarian militarism. Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution scholar thought to have been in line for a top post in a hypothetical Kerry administration, penned a 1999 article advocating military intervention “whenever the rate of killing in a country or region greatly exceeds the U.S. murder rate, whether the killing is genocidal in nature or not” utterly without reference to the United Nations or any other sort of multilateral authority. He listed ten countries — Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Angola, Bosnia, Chechnya, North Korea, and Kosovo — where interventions would have been warranted by this standard during the Clinton administration alone. Mercifully, he conceded that fighting the Russian Army in Chechnya was not a very pragmatic option (as he says, it “would have risked a major-power war between nuclear-weapons states with the potential to kill far more people than the intervention could have saved” ) but gave no consideration to the possibility that launching unprovoked unilateral military strikes at the rate of one every nine months or so would destabilize the entire international system. Indeed, despite O’Hanlon’s demurral on the Russia front, later that year The New Republic was lamenting that “Milosevic-like deeds by Milosevic’s allies will provoke only scolding followed by winking” rather than some unspecified more robust action.
Now, first off O’Hanlon is being ridiculous here. Somalia, Liberia, and Angola were civil war situations that, as we are learning in Iraq, are unsolvable through third-party military intervention. Chechnya, of course, is unfortunately off the table due to fact that the perpetrator was Russia. Same with North Korea, which has and had enough artillery pointed at Seoul that any intervention would kill far more people than it would save. But Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo all were great opportunities for intervention – and Clinton proved that in the latter two cases, cheap and easy air strikes could do the trick. And in Rwanda, bombing the radio stations ordering the attacks would have done a lot to cut back the genocide, if not end it entirely (giving more funds and support to the RPF – the group which ended the genocide eventually – would have also been a good policy also). Matt is being dishonest if he thinks that genocide interventions require more than simple air power, because the only two genocide interventions the US has ever conducted (Bosnia and Kosovo) were entirely air operations and were entirely successful. Why he would oppose applying such cheap, simple, and effective tactics to Sudan is beyond me.