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Baker Institute Student Forum debate: Humanitarian intervention needed

By Eric Harrison     2/3/11 6:00pm

Foreign policy discussions always seem to be framed in the same way: On one side, the faction of greater American involvement in some region and, on the other, the faction of pulling back or ?avoiding entanglement.In fact, though, this is completely illusory. The choice of non-involvement in humanitarian matters is no longer before the United States and hasn't been for years. As hegemon, the U.S. is the world's policeman - that is the nature of its position. And who would wish it otherwise? The point of amassing such power is to use it for good.

That's why the goal of American policy must not be simply to promote American economic interests, but to roll back authoritarians and human rights violators. Africa is as critical a region as any to the realization of this goal, but one which is rarely more than ?an afterthought.

Many will say that it would be nice if the U.S. could resolve all of Africa's problems, but it doesn't have the resources to do so - and they are correct. But they underestimate the influence of perceived American intentions on the perpetrators of atrocities, who are often at their worst (Kosovo, Kuwait, Somalia, Rwanda) when they believe the U.S. will do nothing to stop them. And why ?wouldn't they?

Too often, America's response to atrocity and tyranny has been to find ways to do nothing on grounds of not being hasty or avoiding overcommitment. This must end.

Mind you, it isn't necessary to rush in and overthrow every existing dictator; the important point is to change expectations.Moving swiftly to quash atrocities and remove those who perpetrate them will do.

If you must have a "practical" rationale, here it is: America can bolster its soft power by distinguishing its own benevolence from the callous greed of China, which seems almost eager to display its indifference to African suffering.

Many wrongly attribute the same callousness to the U.S.; taking a much more active role in the betterment of Africa is a fine way to correct this perception and renew the belief that the U.S. is indeed a force for good in the world.

The partition of Sudan will likely provide a chance to implement this doctrinal shift. The U.S. must not fail - as it so consistently has - to use force to put down atrocities if they occur. The wholehearted embrace of humanitarian intervention is long overdue, and in no region is the need for this change more obvious ?than Africa.

Let's not allow laziness and indifference to pass for prudence any longer.

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