Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the Congo...

Larison explains, rather well, why intervention in the Congo may sound a whole lot better than it would actually be in practice.
Congo stands out as a country that has numerous deep, intractable problems. Its government in the west exercises limited control over much of the country, its army is ineffective in suppressing militias and foreign forces in its territory, and it is ringed by neighbors that have no scruples against fishing in its troubled waters. Kagame winks and nods at Nkunda’s rebels, but claims to have no control over them, while the government in Kinshasha has not done much, partly because it cannot do much, to strike at the surviving genocidaires. What will outside intervention do that is going to change this dynamic in a fundamental way? Even if Western states were willing and able to establish some buffer force to keep Nkunda in line, what would prevent that force from being pulled into a multi-sided conflict as the Nigerians were in Liberia? At what point would such a mission be deemed too costly or futile to continue? What would keep such a mission from becoming a near-permanent deployment? Obviously, at no point in his column does Gerson answer any of these questions, nor does he explain why the problems of central Africa should not be primarily the responsibility of the states involved and of the African Union.
Typically it is these "deep, intractable problems" that make intervention such a messy business. Think of the sectarian divides in Iraq. If Iraq had been a less divided country, certainly our intervention there would have been much simpler. The fact is, however, it is a country and region despairingly divided. We did not take history into account when we invaded that country. Would we be exhibiting the same short-sightedness should we intervene in the Congo?

Should Europe (and by extension America) simply wash its hands of the post-colonial fall-out it largely helped create? Does meddling only make matters worse?

I don't know if either school of thought has the right answer--indeed, I believe that each situation as it arises needs to be taken into account. Darfur is not the same crisis as the Congo. Each must be judged on its own set of circumstances.

Or does the credo "mind your own damn business" deserve more merit on the international stage?


Eowyn said...

Erik, you've identified what will be a major challenge, if not THE major challenge, in global progression in the near- and long-term.

It is a bumpy ride, to say the least.

One reason: We still don't have a definitive answer on "what works best," socially speaking. We're still grappling with obstacles like religious dogma, etc., that prevent doing things efficiently.

Another reason: Cultures in Africa (and elsewhere) are basically being dragged into the 21st century from the 1st century. There is still a tribal mentality that resists a national voice.

Yet another reason: Within many cultures around the world, including the Congo, there is a small price put on an individual life. Murder is seen as a commonplace fact of life.

Taken together, it adds up to monumental social change that cannot happen overnight.

The good news -- to me, anyway -- is that we ARE starting to "get" proper social cooperation, at long last. Baby steps, incrementally, to be sure -- but it's happening.

The bad news -- it's going to take a long, long time for the rest of the world to catch up. But, well ... time, to God, is a blink of the eye. We can only help, and hope.

E.D. Kain said...

You're right, Eowyn. We don't know what works best, at all. Democracy certainly isn't the only answer, or even necessarily the best one. The rule of law seems to be the safest bet, but when crooks and killers head many Governments, what then?

It's so complicated. Probably the best bet for now is that all bets are off. We stick to getting the thorn out of our own damn eye for a while.