Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Perpetually Smiling Insouciance of Jimmy Carter

I mentioned here the astounding news that he considers the use of the "term genocide to describe the situation in Darfur, where international estimates say 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million driven from their homes... unhelpful."

Apparently, the systematic killing of 200,000 (by a very cautious estimate) human beings, the institutionalized meticulous rape of women and girls, the expulsion of 2.5 million Africans do not meet the necessary onus that the term "genocide" requires. Sez President Carter.

Eric Reeves, on The New Republic, takes apart this insouciant position in an article entitled, with uncharacteristic vehemence "Jimmy Carter's Shamefully Ignorant Statement on Darfur":

Last week, Jimmy Carter toured Sudan as part of a group of international celebrities who are calling themselves "the Elders." Founded by Nelson Mandela, the Elders aim--in the modest words of one member, British billionaire Richard Branson--to address "problems in the world that need a group of people who are maybe...beyond politics, beyond ego, and who have got great wisdom."

Great wisdom? Let's just say the group is off to a rocky start....

In short, it seems doubtful that Carter has read the textbooks he claims to have read, or the vast body of human rights literature on Darfur--or even the Genocide Convention itself. If he had done any of these things, he would not speak so ignorantly.

But Carter isn't just wrong on the facts. His prescriptive point--that it is unhelpful to label Darfur a genocide--is foolish as well. No doubt Carter's statement was the quid in some ghastly quid pro quo he hopes to arrange with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. But Sudan's leaders are realists, and our only hope of changing their behavior is to credibly threaten them. The calculus is simple: If they believe the west--the United States, Europe, human-rights activists--now see the Darfur conflict as a chaotic civil war, not a genocide, they will feel less threatened. Which means they are more likely to dig in their heels on the diplomatic front--refusing to negotiate a political solution to the crisis--while waiting for the final cleansing of Darfur to run its course. The upshot is that Carter, a man who is so fond of lecturing others about the need for diplomacy, has managed to make a diplomatic solution to Darfur's bloodletting less likely. Great wisdom, indeed.

(Via: Normblog)

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