Action in Darfur is long overdue
Clinton did something very important that not many pundits have noticed by intervening in Bosnia: he legitimized the use of military force to stop mass murder. Prior to that, considerations of sovereignty generally prevailed in matters internal to a nation. This has major implications for Bush’s policies, because illiberal autocracies can only stay in power in the face of mass protests by subduing (often massacring) the protesters with their military or paramilitary forces. And from Tehran to Riyadh to Damascus, they now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the U.S. military can and will remove tyrannical regimes with unsettling ease when U.S. public opinion perceives the necessity, leaving democracies in their wake. And when the oppressed peoples of the greater Mideast start deciding that if they stand up for their freedom, we’re going to stand with them -- watch out. Darfur is a great chance to do the right thing, and at the same time pragmatically uphold the Clintonian humanitarian interventionist precedent as a means of advancing democratic reform.
What happened in Lebanon may be a harbinger of things to come. While many Lebanese might have dismissed Bush’s speeches on freedom and statements the United States will “stand with” democratic reformers, at least a few of them may have interpreted his remarks to mean that the world’s military superpower, with 165,000 troops a few hours from Beirut, was ready to defend them in the name of democracy. All they needed was a catalyst, which Syria obligingly provided with the clumsy and universally denounced assassination of Hariri. As Glenn Reynolds pointed out, once a few people believe there is hope, that belief can quickly cascade to an entire nation.