Adbusters

A Responsibility to Protect

The "responsibility to protect" doctrine and other means of peacekeeping fail to aid war-torn nations.

Humanitarian intervention, either in the form of peacekeeping or the "responsibility to protect" doctrine, is widely supported by the international community as a means of conflict resolution. When a country is unable or unwilling to provide security for its citizens, those countries that have the means to help have a moral obligation to step in. In 1998, for instance, the deaths of 2,000 Albanians in Kosovo prompted a three month NATO bombing campaign. The ongoing crisis in Darfur, which has killed roughly 300,000 people, has led to international condemnation, constant media attention and charges against President Omar al-Bashir in the International Criminal Court. But the West remains silent as the deadliest conflict since World War Two rages in Central Africa, due in no small part to old colonial borders and new resource demands.

It is ironically named the Democratic Republic of Congo and often, more appropriately, called Congo-Kinshasa. Formerly the personal fiefdom of Belgium’s King Leopold and then the cash cow of the brutal Mobutu Sese Seko, the Congo is now entering its second decade of sustained civil war and ethnic conflict.

The numbers are absolutely staggering: 5.4 million people killed since 1998, nearly 50,000 more dead every month and as many as two million internally displaced peoples. Hundreds of thousands of women have been raped. Torture, forced labor and child soldiering are common. Borders have collapsed and forces from neighboring countries like Rwanda, Burundi, Chad, Uganda and Angola have joined Congolese warlords in bloody campaigns across the heart of Africa. Lacking the means and will to protect its citizens, Congo-Kinshasa is a prototypical failed state.

In spite of all this – in spite of the fact that even a medium-sized force with a NATO-like mandate could substantially alleviate horrific conditions and provide security for millions of people – developed countries have been loath to respond. The International Security Assistance Force has deployed over 50,000 troops across Afghanistan but MONUC, the United Nations mission in the Congo, is expected to police Africa’s third largest country with a force of less than 20,000. The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have all contributed significant personnel in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but have only been willing to send a dozen military observers to the Congo. In fact, there is not a single solider from a Western country in MONUC: a force comprised mainly of troops from India, Pakistan, Uruguay, Nepal and other developing nations.

The message is clear: the "responsibility to protect" only goes so far. When white people die, such as in Kosovo, the West is quick to respond. When Muslims are the villains, such as in Darfur, the Western media is given carte blanche. When an area has geopolitical significance, like Afghanistan, NATO is only too willing to devote dollars and power to a conflict that, realistically, it has little hope of winning in the long-term. Yet the turmoil of sub-Saharan Africa, the deaths of Africans at the hands of other Africans doesn’t elicit a peep. Our souls might be stirred just enough by infomercials to donate a few dollars to starving children but when it comes to making concrete and sustained efforts towards ending misery, we just can’t muster the resolve. They’re just Africans after all. As long as Africans are the only ones dying and as long as the conflict doesn’t disrupt our access to precious resources – like tin for circuit boards and coltan for iPods and cell phones – then the Congo is not worth paying attention to.

Seán O'Flynn-Magee

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18 comments on the article “A Responsibility to Protect”

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justin123

"The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have all contributed significant personnel in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but have only been willing to send a dozen military observers to the Congo. In fact, there is not a single solider from a Western country in MONUC: a force comprised mainly of troops from India, Pakistan, Uruguay, Nepal and other developing nations." How many wars do you want us to fight in? If Congolese rebels attacked the US, then we would be there pretty quickly. Unilateral action like we have taken in the middle east was rendered politically impossible to undertake by Bush. There is a way to stop this type of killing, and that is by strengthening the UN Mandate of peacekeepers to more aggressively protect civilians. That won't happen as long as China and Russia sit on the Security Council. Adbusters should give up the charade that the US or the west is primarily responsible for these tragedies. If you're looking to blame someone other than the warlords who order these holocausts, then blame China, the UN's most successful defender of genocide (and the one who's getting rich off all those Ipods you hate)

justin123

"The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have all contributed significant personnel in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but have only been willing to send a dozen military observers to the Congo. In fact, there is not a single solider from a Western country in MONUC: a force comprised mainly of troops from India, Pakistan, Uruguay, Nepal and other developing nations." How many wars do you want us to fight in? If Congolese rebels attacked the US, then we would be there pretty quickly. Unilateral action like we have taken in the middle east was rendered politically impossible to undertake by Bush. There is a way to stop this type of killing, and that is by strengthening the UN Mandate of peacekeepers to more aggressively protect civilians. That won't happen as long as China and Russia sit on the Security Council. Adbusters should give up the charade that the US or the west is primarily responsible for these tragedies. If you're looking to blame someone other than the warlords who order these holocausts, then blame China, the UN's most successful defender of genocide (and the one who's getting rich off all those Ipods you hate)

Anonymous

I AM PREPARING FOR A HUNGER STRIKE "On April 27th I will begin a fast of water only in solidarity with the people of Darfur and as a personal expression of outrage at a world that is somehow able to stand by and watch innocent men, women and children needlessly die of starvation, thirst and disease." [ . . . ] "I hope human rights advocates and citizens of conscience around the world will join me in some form of fasting, even if for one day. And when I can no longer continue, I pray another will take my place, and another-- until finally there is justice and peace for Darfur's people." Mia Farrow April 18, 2009 http://www.miafarrow.org/

Anonymous

I AM PREPARING FOR A HUNGER STRIKE "On April 27th I will begin a fast of water only in solidarity with the people of Darfur and as a personal expression of outrage at a world that is somehow able to stand by and watch innocent men, women and children needlessly die of starvation, thirst and disease." [ . . . ] "I hope human rights advocates and citizens of conscience around the world will join me in some form of fasting, even if for one day. And when I can no longer continue, I pray another will take my place, and another-- until finally there is justice and peace for Darfur's people." Mia Farrow April 18, 2009 http://www.miafarrow.org/

Matt who is not...

Well if wankers like Noam Chomsky and Michael Parenti didn't trot out their tired, ill-informed whines about imperialism everytime the United States took action in these situations, maybe Americans would be more inclined to save the day.

Matt who is not...

Well if wankers like Noam Chomsky and Michael Parenti didn't trot out their tired, ill-informed whines about imperialism everytime the United States took action in these situations, maybe Americans would be more inclined to save the day.

rob los ricos

So, to the previous post - wouldn't it be more inline with our aspirations as a nation that (once) inspired hope in the world that our military might aid people in a desperate situation, rather than destroying a country and occupying it? I've been writing about the DRC since the 90's, and noone seems to take much notice. Estimates of the death toll there aren't reliable, because of the turmoil and because the central government has never been very strong or stable. There could be as many as 8 - 10 million dead. So far. It's difficult to take the UN very seriously as a posible solution, not after they and the Bush I and Clinton regimes waged a campaign of genocide against the people of Iraq. Gold, coffee and minerals...the DRC is cursed by the wealth of it's natural resources!

rob los ricos

So, to the previous post - wouldn't it be more inline with our aspirations as a nation that (once) inspired hope in the world that our military might aid people in a desperate situation, rather than destroying a country and occupying it? I've been writing about the DRC since the 90's, and noone seems to take much notice. Estimates of the death toll there aren't reliable, because of the turmoil and because the central government has never been very strong or stable. There could be as many as 8 - 10 million dead. So far. It's difficult to take the UN very seriously as a posible solution, not after they and the Bush I and Clinton regimes waged a campaign of genocide against the people of Iraq. Gold, coffee and minerals...the DRC is cursed by the wealth of it's natural resources!

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