Confronting Genocide

On July 22, the United States Congress passed a resolution that used the term “genocide” to describe the situation in Sudan during the last several months.

In the realm of international law, the term “genocide” carries significant weight. If the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that used the term to describe the situation in Sudan then the international community, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, would be legally obligated to take all appropriate measures to stop the genocide.

In Samantha Power’s A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, the author shows how the Clinton Administration in 1994 took deliberate and repeated measures to refrain from using the term genocide to describe what was then taking place in Rwanda. The administration did so precisely because it did not want to involve itself in Rwanda, given its disastrous results in Somalia one year earlier.

However, the international community’s response to the current genocide in Sudan is different from its response to the genocide in Rwanda 10 years ago because the main opposition to outside intervention in Sudan comes not from the United States but from the other great powers at the United Nations.

Russia, China and France have each stated that outside intervention is not their preferred course of action for addressing Sudan. That’s why when the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1556 on July 30 the term “genocide” was not used once.

Now I don’t believe for one moment that the primary force behind American foreign policy is an ethical concern for international law. Mention “September 11” to the people of Chile and they might think of the year 1973 before they think of the year 2001. The United States has done some terrible things.

However, any honest observer will also agree that the foreign policies of Russia, China and France are not primarily guided by ethical principles either. Perhaps the most likely explanation for why Russia, China and France oppose intervention in Sudan is that they all import oil from the country and do not want to do anything that might upset their profitable status quo. I suspect that’s partly why they opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

If the world is to confront the genocide in Sudan, what is needed first is for Russia, China and France to put aside their differences with the United States and join it in calling a spade a spade.

Right now, there is genocide taking place in Sudan and the United States is the only major power honest enough to admit it and prepared to take action to prevent it. However, it will almost certainly not act alone. Not too long ago, the United States acted unilaterally to destroy a murderous regime and received very little gratitude from the world for its sacrifice.

If Russia, China and France will not swallow their national pride and join with the United States to form a united front against the genocide in Sudan then world history will once again record how the entire world watched genocide happen and did nothing to confront the horror.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.