Skip to content

The Return of the 90s

I watched the West Wing again recently. I associate this show with the upbeat 90s, the unipolar moment, and the pre 9/11 area, but it aired in the United States from 1999-2006, i.e. primarily during the Bush rather than the Clinton administration. I think for many Democrats the Clinton era continued on TV for two years, until 9/11 happened, the mood changed, 24 with Jack Bauer became popular and the West Wing ratings dropped.

Today I read on the State Department blog about an Ambassador Lyman traveling to Darfur. What? Did not Josh usually send Donna Moss to the dangerous places?

Secretary Clinton's statement on "our limitless faith in human potential" could very well have been from Bartlett as well. Secretary Clinton said after a meeting with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton on "advancing democratic values and universal rights, efforts to protect civilians and implement the United Nations Security Council resolution in Libya" and other issues:

The United States and the European Union are partners working together on, I think, every global issue and regional challenge that you can imagine. We're doing the urgent, the important, and the long-term all at once, and we are united in a transatlantic community that is based on shared democratic values and limitless faith in human potential.

Obama has not just killed Bin Laden. He also killed cynicism and brought humanitarian interventions back. The return of 90s. I can't wait for new West Wing episodes.

John McCain's League of Democracies

Senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain has repeated his calls for a 'league of democracies' in a Financial Times op-ed directed at Europe.
We need to renew and revitalise our democratic solidarity. We need to strengthen our transatlantic alliance as the core of a new global compact – a League of Democracies – that can harness the great power of the more than 100 democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests.

At the heart of this new compact must be mutual respect and trust. We Americans recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we must pay “decent respect to the opinions of mankind”. Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed.

The words about respect and trust are welcome. However, the idea of a leage of democracies is also likely to run into some opposition among America's European allies. The reasons McCain gives for his league of democracies, both in the FT and in a May 2007 speech reported on in the Washington Post, have much to do with America's perceived national interest. On issues like confronting the 'turn towards autocracy' in Russia, 'acting where the UN fails to act' on a problem like Darfur and providing 'unimpeded market access' to open market democracies, continental Europe has completely different perceived interests.

Continue reading "John McCain's League of Democracies"

Germany Will Not Participate in New Darfur Peacekeeping Mission

Finally, four years, 200.000 dead and 2.5 Mio refugees after the atrocities begun, the UN has decided on a resolution for sending peacekeepers to Darfur. So far, France, Denmark and Indonesia have promised to contribute to the mission. “Britain said it would consider a request to contribute but would not send ground forces,” according to the International Herald Tribune  – notwithstanding the fact that its new prime minister, Gordon Brown, has called the conflict “the greatest humanitarian disaster the world faces today.”
Several countries — including Italy, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, Thailand, and South Africa — said they had not made a decision yet. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the country would send a small number of doctors and nurses, but no troops or security personnel, given its existing commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands.
China made no immediate response, though its special envoy on Darfur said in June that his country would seriously consider sending peacekeepers.
Meanwhile, Spiegel International reports:
Germany, while welcoming the plan, has decided not to contribute troops to the mission, saying that its military is already overstretched by other foreign peacekeeping operations, primarily in Afghanistan and Kosovo. German newspapers also hailed the peacekeeping plan, but some wondered if in its current form it could really bring an end to the carnage.
Read some skeptical excerpts from all sides of the political spectrum in English at Spiegel International

A few Bundeswehr troops are active in Sudan, according to another Spiegel article:
German soldiers are participating in two missions in Sudan at present. As many as 200 soldiers from the German military, the Bundeswehr, are providing logistical support under the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) mandate. They are mainly responsible for transportation flights. An additional 38 German military observers are currently in Sudan under the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) mandate.

Olympics 2008: Only Americans Remind China of its Responsibility for Darfur

Hosting the Olympics is a big honor for China and recognition of its rising power. Beijing would lose face, if a number of countries would boycott the games, which are supposed symbolize peace, international friendship and humanism. The Greek Fulbright Alumni even organized an international interdisciplinary conference on Humanism in Action: Olympism and the Fulbright Spirit right after the 2004 Olympics.

Does anybody really care about the humanism aspect of the Olympics? Does China deserve this honor despite its internal and external human rights violations? Who is reminding Beijing of the political responsibilities as host of the Olympic Games? German representatives do not bring up Darfur, because they are concerned about upsetting the rising superpower. Germany is more interested in trade and friendly relations with China and does not dare to play hard ball with China. Darfur activism is much stronger in the US than in Germany; not just in civil society, but also in politics:

• On June 7th, the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs held a hearing on "Darfur and the Olympics: A Call for International Action." You can read all the Testimonies.  The committee invited Jill Savitt, Director of the Olympic Dream for Darfur Campaign, to talk about her campaign and her call for China to bring the Olympic dream to Darfur. See the video below:



• The US House of Representatives passed a resolution on China, Darfur and the Olympics on May 16th:
Continue reading "Olympics 2008: Only Americans Remind China of its Responsibility for Darfur"

Human Rights Day: Various Opinions on Helping Darfur

"On December 10 – Human Rights Day – people around the world will be joining together to denounce the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war in Darfur and to show solidarity with the women and girls of Darfur." writes GLOBE FOR DARFUR:
On September 17 2006 tens of thousands of people took part in the Global Day for Darfur to show world-wide support for the Darfuri people and to put pressure on our Governments to protect civilians. Nearly 60 events took place in 41 countries. The response was magnificent. But the atrocities and suffering in Darfur continue, including a growing number of rapes and sexual assaults on women and girls.
Alex de Waal, program director at the Social Science Research Council and the author of Darfur: A Short History of a Long War, is skeptical of a military intervention in the London Review of Books (HT: Mark's del.icio.us feed
Military intervention won't stop the killing. Those who are clamouring for troops to fight their way into Darfur are suffering from a salvation delusion. It's a simple reality that UN troops can’t stop an ongoing war, and their record at protecting civilians is far from perfect. Moreover, the idea of Bush and Blair acting as global moral arbiters doesn’t travel well. The crisis in Darfur is political. It’s a civil war, and like all wars it needs a political settlement.
Continue reading "Human Rights Day: Various Opinions on Helping Darfur"

Naumann: Bush "does not give a damn" about "the dying of millions of children in Africa"

Michael Naumann, one of the editors of the respected weekly Die Zeit, writes about American achievements in the past, what Germany owes the US, that Germans have been "Americanized" (in a good sense) and would be valuable partners to solve global issues. Naumann is optimistic that now -- after the midterm elections -- Europeans and Americans will continue a dialogue on those issues "George W. Bush did not give a damn: global environmental problems, disarmament, fighting hunger and the dying of millions of children in Africa.":
Der atlantische Alltag der frueheren Jahre koennte wiederkehren – ein hochmutfreier Dialog über all jene Themen, die George W. Bush von Herzen egal waren: globale Umweltprobleme, Abruestung, Kampf gegen Hunger und millionenfaches Kindersterben in Afrika. Nicht seine Wirtschafts- und Militaermacht, sondern sein angestammter Freiheitsbegriff könnte sich einmal mehr als das beste, waffenlose Exportgut Amerikas erweisen.
Davids Medienkritik has written a detailed critique and links to many interesting sources to debunk all of Naumann's anti-Bush claims and concludes:
Whether we like it or not, George W. Bush will be gone in two years, but the damage done by "journalists" like Naumann to transatlantic relations will endure for years to come, whether Democrats or Republicans are in power. Only when the German-American conversation begins to move beyond these extreme voices and the falsehoods they spew (still all too common in the German media) will we begin to see real improvement.
Naumann tries to avoid charges of Anti-Americanism by using the headline Amerikaner sind wir alle ("We are all Americans") and by expressing his appreciation of America's past policies, but his article could be considered Anti-American, because he misinforms his readers about present US policies by claiming that President Bush "could not give a damn" about "the dying of millions of children in Africa."
While Naumann underestimates US contributions, many Americans overestimate them and believe that the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries, although
it is less than 1 percent. Could the US government do more to fight hunger, climate change, and disarmament? Sure. Europe could do more as well. Nauman, however, does not write about the lack of European policies re Darfur etc.
Foreign Policy Magazine measures how rich-country governments are helping or hurting poor countries; not just in terms of the amount of aid, but more broadly. The Netherlands won this year's competition, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Germany ranks at the 9th place and the United States at the 13th. Japan lost again.

Doubts about Death Numbers in Iraq, but not in Darfur

Between 392,979 and 942,636 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred, is the conclusion of a survey by Iraqi physicians and overseen by epidemiologists at the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The findings were published by the British medical journal The Lancet. Of course, the survey is one of the hottest topics in the blogosphere. For the left it is easy to use the survey as proof of the alleged disaster of the Iraq war. And for the right it is easy to criticize the alleged bias of the researchers and the uncertainty of the estimate. The Washington Post writes about the "mixed reviews." Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet, writes a long defense of the survey in The Guardian, including this comparison with Darfur:
This method is now tried and tested. It has been the basis for mortality estimates in war zones such as Darfur and the Congo. Interestingly, when we report figures from these countries politicians do not challenge them. They frown, nod their heads and agree that the situation is grave and intolerable. The international community must act, they say. When it comes to Iraq the story is different.
In the end, the exact number of victims is not so important to analyse the very different situations in Darfur and in Iraq. See Marc Cooper's comment.

UPDATE:
While the exact number of Iraqi casualties might not be crucial for analysing the situation, the high number (whatever estimate you use) should be of concern. The US Congress has created an Iraqi War Victims Fund, because thanks to Marla Ruzicka's lobby work the lawmakers have realized that a compassionate response to civilians accidentally injured or killed due to U.S. military action is important for gaining trust, winning hearts and minds and stabilizing Iraq. The Atlantic Review recommended the new book about Marla Ruzicka.

The Congressional Research Service has published the report "Iraqi Civilian, Police, and Security Forces Casualties Estimate" (pdf), which was updated on September 14, 2006. (HT: Shaun) The State Department links to that report.

NATO Response Force to Darfur? A Global NATO for more Burden Sharing?

Recently the Atlantic Review wrote about NATO's difficulties to get more troops for Afghanistan. Would globalizing NATO help?
Ivo Daalder, a senior fellow at Brookings, and James Goldgeier , professor at George Washington University, write in the September/October 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs is freely available at Brookings (pdf-file):
With U.S. forces stretched thin in Iraq and European states failing to invest enough to participate significantly in operations far away from home, NATO is struggling to fulfill even its current commitments. And while the alliance has increasingly recognized the necessity of operating far from Europe—or "out of area," in NATO parlance—it has been limited by the requirement that its member states be North American or European. NATO leaders are expected to address this problem at a summit in Riga, Latvia, in November. They will consider a proposal to redefine the alliance's role by deepening relations with countries beyond the transatlantic community, starting with partners such as Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. (...)
If the point of the alliance is no longer territorial defense but bringing together countries with similar values and interests to combat global problems, then NATO no longer needs to have an exclusively transatlantic character. Other democratic countries share NATO's values and many common interests -- including Australia, Brazil, Japan, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and South Korea -- and all of them can greatly contribute to NATO's efforts by providing additional military forces or logistical support to respond to global threats and needs.

Howard LaFranchi, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, writes about "NATO's 21st-century task: going from 'Europe' to 'global'":
The fact that the transatlantic alliance has gone in less than a decade from doubts about its purpose to requests for its participation in even the most intractable international disputes - from the Darfur region of Sudan to the recent Mideast war - suggests the pact's transition is considered a success. "It's no longer 'What's its purpose?' when the topic turns to NATO, but rather 'How can we best use it?'" says NATO spokesman James Apathurai. "That's a big transition."
But officials say the transition from "Europe" to "global" is still incomplete, with major challenges remaining in areas ranging from capacity for intervention to efficiency and member financial commitments. Some observers worry that demands on NATO are surpassing its abilities and jeopardizing its transition process. The Afghanistan assignment, which involves 16,000 NATO-led soldiers now and a projected 25,000 by the end of the year, has the leadership of some member countries holding their breath, as NATO forces face increasing attacks and an entrenched enemy.
Peter Beinart, author of The Good Fight: Why Liberals---and Only Liberals---Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), writes in TIME Magazine (HT: Bill) that genocides (Rwanda and Darfur) "come at inconvenient times." "Genocidal dictators are generally not impressed by tough talk", helping Darfur is complicated and would be a long-term committment. Yet, in his conclusion he advocates a NATO invasion:
The U.S. military is buckling under the strain of Iraq. NATO has all it can handle in Afghanistan. Barely anyone wants the U.S. and its allies to attack another Muslim country--except for the black Muslims of Darfur, thousands of whom were seen this summer chanting "Welcome, welcome, U.S.A." Yet a ground operation in Darfur is well within NATO's capacity. The newly created 25,000-member NATO Response Force, which reaches operational capacity this October, is made for situations like this. It can deploy in five days, fight its way into a hostile area, and stay for a month before needing to be resupplied. That would be long enough to decimate Darfur's militias and secure its refugee camps before handing the job over to U.N. peacekeepers.
So far, only the boldest politicians will even whisper about such things. It's easy to see why. NATO intervention would be aimed at saving Muslim lives, but that wouldn't stop al-Qaeda from screaming about the West's recolonization of the Islamic world. Bringing stability to a region as complicated and brutalized as Darfur could take years, if not decades. U.N. peacekeepers still patrol Kosovo today, and that's an easier case.
You could fill volumes detailing the geopolitical reasons America should abandon Darfur to its fate. The argument for military action, by contrast, rests on just two tarnished words. Last week a small crowd gathered in Kigali, Rwanda. "If you don't protect the people of Darfur today," said a man named Freddy Umutanguha, "never again will we believe you when you visit Rwanda's mass graves, look us in the eye and say 'Never again.'" Try offering a geopolitical answer to that.
So, Beinart says on the one hand "NATO has all it can handle in Afghanistan", but on the other hand he thinks NATO's new Response Force should and could go for a month long combat mission to "decimate Darfur's militias." He is quite optimistic in assuming that UN peacekeepers would be able to deploy within a month and could continue the job NATO started. Mark Fiore has a sad and funny animation about "Never Again." I think Beinart's entire article in TIME Magazine is worth reading (like all articles recommended in the Atlantic Review) because he captures the predicament the United States and Europe are in: We have to help, but we don't have enough military ressources and we don't want to make matters worse for the long-term by sending too few troops without much of plan into a combat mission and we are scared of a quagmire and are haunted by the failures and the defeat in Somalia and the daily images from Iraq. However, the relief effort to stop the famine in Somalia could be considered a success since many many lives were saved. The failures came afterwards. Likewise NATO could provide some much needed security for the refugee camps in the short term and impose a no-fly zone over Darfur etc. It is key to put more pressure on the Sudanese government and on China and Russia (who support the Sudanese government). Peace negotiations  have to continue. More African Union forces with a tougher mandate and better rules of engagement are needed. It is doubtful, however, whether they are willing to actively pursue the militias and government forces and risk being torn into a messy conflict.

Contrary to Beinart's claim: Not UN peacekeepers, but NATO troops still patrol in Kosovo, primarily Europeans. (Perhaps he meant that they operate under a UN mandate.) Lieutenant General Roland Kather, German Army, took over command of KFOR on September 1st. On that day also Ambassador Joachim Ruecker from Germany took over as Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The German Bundeswehr has 2,901 soldiers in Kosovo (KFOR) and 850 in Bosnia (EUFOR). I could not find out how many American troops are still serving on the Balkans. Anybody know anything?