Responsibility to Prevent

Bridget Moix of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) (Quakers) writes:
“As an NGO that works on preventing deadly conflict, atrocities, and genocide, we believe there is a lot that both civil society and civilian institutions can do. But, the focus of R2P needs to be on much earlier prevention, rather than late reaction after the killing is underway.”

Bridget goes on to say that “Rather than focusing on late intervention through military force, Congress should work to strengthen civilian tools and structures that can prevent conflicts from becoming violent and address the conditions that may lead to genocide. Such an approach would save both lives and money. According to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, the international community could have saved $130 billion during the 1990s and averted direct military interventions by employing preventive approaches to conflicts in Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda, the Persian Gulf, Cambodia, and El Salvador.”

FCNL has an excellent report titled “Responsibility to Prevent” which you will see in the links on the right of this page. As our first Postmaster General said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventative diplomacy, preventative mil to mil engagements, and well-coordinated strategic communications can go a long way towards preventing violent conflicts and mass atrocities. All that not being enough, our financial and moral support of UN peacekeeping missions in places such as Haiti, Darfur and the Congo, can help keep the peace or at least slow the killing.

The genocide in Rwanda has often been chalked up a “another UN failure.” In all fairness, the UN commander was given less than half the troops he asked for and was given lightly armed paratroopers when he specifically requested armored mechanized forces to help deter renewed violence. He gave his headquarters in NYC over two months warning before the killing started in April, 1994. The United States had the ability to jam broadcasts by Hutu radio directing the slaughter, but chose not to. Many other developed countries had the ability to intervene as well and chose not to. The UN does not have its own standing military (and I don’t think I would want it to). We can’t expect UN peacekeeping missions to perform miracles if we won’t help man or equip them or provide them high-tech, often non-kinetic systems that only the wealthies countries possess.

The US Department of State is now helping to equip UN peacekeeping force through it Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). One of the first nations to step up to the plate to help prevent genocide was Rwanda. As Fox News noted
“Rwanda was the first to deploy peacekeepers to the violent Darfur region in a joint African Union-U.N. mission. The United States has trained nearly 7,000 Rwandan troops and spent more than $17 million to equip and airlift Rwandan troops into the region. (See link “Bush Calls on Nations” at right.)

The efforts of African peacekeepers that we have helped train and equip has helped slow the killing in such places as Darfur. Still, this may not be enough. Like the old Hallmark ad, “When you care enough to send the very best” nothing sends the message louder than putting American boots on the ground. It is better to put a few those boots on the ground and deter the killing spree than it is to wait and send signifantly more for mop up operations.

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