Now that Obama, Biden and Clinton are in office, and another fierce anti-genocide advocate, Susan Rice, is in as ambassador to the United Nations, we felt there finally would be a consequence for the perpetrators of the genocide, the regime officials in Khartoum, Sudan.
But rather than the kind of tough actions the these top officials had all advocated in their previous jobs and on the campaign trail, President Obama’s Sudan envoy instead began to articulate a friendly, incentives-first message that even Sudan’s president, an indicted war criminal, publicly welcomed. Our chins hit the floor in disbelief, because our chins had nowhere else to go.
That op-ed, plus this piece by Randy Newcomb in Foreign Policy and this new campaign from Humanity United all point to a deep frustration and dissapointment felt by Darfur advocates. Their angst is understandable. Even though a number of the anti-genocide movement’s top luminaries hold positions of influence in the Obama administration, Sudan policy seems hopelessly stuck.
One country in the world owes its very existance, in part, to the humanitarian impulse of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Via Global Voices Online:
After the invasion of East Pakistan (also called East Bengal, now called Bangladesh) by West Pakistani forces in the spring of 1971, some 9,000,000 refugees streamed across the border into India. The world and the United States (Nixon/Kissinger mired in Vietnam, famously “tilting” toward West Pakistan) took little note. All except the 39 year old senior senator from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy.
In the brutal heat and monsoon muck of August, Senator Kennedy traveled to refugee camps throughout West Bengal (the neighboring Indian state) and reported back to the Senate in an extraordinarily passionate document about the plight of the refugees in India and what he called the “reign of terror which grips East Bengal.”
He concluded: “America’s heavy support of Islamabad (West Pakistan) is nothing short of complicity in the human and political tragedy of East Bengal.”
Kennedy not only bore witness, he jolted the world into taking notice and aiding the refugees if not the independence fighters in East Bengal.
Kennedy basically embarassed the Nixon administration into supporting Bangladashi statehood. An editorial from the Bangladesh The Daily Star explains:
Senator Kennedy took up our cause in his country and in the international arena. His support gave that certain boost to our struggle that was so necessary for us at the time. The Nixon administration, in its misplaced obsession with opening a road to ties with China through making use of Pakistan, conveniently looked the other way as the then Pakistan establishment went on eliminating Bengalis. Mr. Kennedy chose to uphold reality as it then was.
What is truly amazing to me is that this is only a small footnote in the man’s legacy.
Senator Edward Kennedy, who President Obama called “the greatest United States Senator of our time,” died today at age 77 after a protracted battle with brain cancer.
Though best known for his expansive body of work on U.S. domestic issues, he also lead Congressional efforts to right wrongs abroad by applying pressure to repressive regimes like the apartheid government in South Africa and the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, denouncing war (in Vietnam and Iraq), and promoting peace. He was granted an honorary Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process, which was “tremendous” according to Tony Blair on MSNBC this morning.
But, more importantly, he serves as the model for public service and diplomacy. Despite being a frequent target of partisan attacks, Kennedy’s legacy in the Senate is one of pragmatism, compromise, and, as countless colleagues and analysts have repeated today, unparalleled effectiveness. He stood above personal concerns despite suffering great personal tragedy, and, as an emotional Vice President Biden said today, “made his enemies bigger, made them more graceful, by the way he conducted himself.”
His eulogy for his brother Bobby echoes today: “[he] need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.” It is a simple, definitive, and profound paradigm for effective public service and statesmanship and is the most fundamental lens through which we should judge all world leaders and their representatives. Blair also said today that Kennedy is “a great icon not only in America but around the world.” I sure hope so.
Rest in peace Senator.
UPDATE: The S-G pays his genuinely heartfelt respects.
Via Laura Rozen (be sure to visit her new diggs at Politico after Labor Day) Human Rights Watch COO, “Smart Power” author….and UN Dispatch contributor Suzanne Nossel will become the deputy assistant secretary of state for international organizations. From Laura:
Among Nossel’s initial tasks will be helping shepherd U.S. goals at the United Nations General Assembly opening session next month, around which time several Obama administration foreign policy initiatives — including its Middle East peace plan vision or parameters — are expected to be announced.
We wish her the best in her new post!
In an interesting exchange between two smart foreign policy bloggers, Spencer Ackerman and Matt Armstrong discuss the potential for a whole scale re-shaping of the State Department. Both agree that State is due for a bureaucratic re-modeling (sort of along the lines of how the “Goldwater-Nichols act” changed how the Department of Defense organized itself) but Spencer is skepitcal that this sort happen anytime soon. Says Spencer:
Building institutional capability for rebalancing the civilian and military components to national security is a demand-side problem as much as it is a supply side one. Progressives have to build the constituency for that around the country, and members of Congress have to appropriate money for the State Department and support efforts at non-traditional and expeditionary diplomacy that people like Hillary Clinton and, yes, Condoleezza Rice want. Without that, all the structural overhauls of the State Department in the world won’t stop the militarization of foreign policy.
This is an important point, but I think the stars are actually favorably alligned for this sort of effort to occur in the near future. For one, there is wide-spread agreement among foreign policy elites that the State Department needs a serious capacity boost. (Incidentally, to that end, the Secretary of Defense is one of the loudest cheerleaders.) But to get directly to Spencer’s point, in Hillary Clinton we have a Secretary of State with a huge and independent base of political support. 18 million people voted for her last year. If the massive “Hillary” constituency can somehow be morphed into an activist constituency for diplomacy, a major overhaul of the State Department may yet be possible.
Susan Rice delivered a blockbuster speech titled A New Course in the World, a New Approach at the UN at New York University. Excerpts don’t do it justice, but these few graphs articulate an important and profoundly new way of viewing international relations. (NB a link to her full speech is not yet available. I’ll post the link as soon as it goes online.) Here’s the link.
In summary, Rice says that the at the United Nations and in other bilateral and multi-lateral efforts, the Obama administration will undertake a concerted effort to strengthen the will and capacity of states around the world to deal with common security threats. She says:
The reach, scale, and complexity of 21st-century security challenges put unprecedented demands on states and the entire infrastructure of international cooperation we helped build after 1945. If ever there were a time for effective multilateral cooperation in pursuit of U.S. interests and a shared future of greater peace and prosperity, it is now. We stand at a true crossroads. We must move urgently to reinvigorate the basis for common action. The bedrock of that cooperation must be a community of states committed to solving collective problems and capable of meeting the responsibilities of effective sovereignty.
A fundamental imperative of U.S. national security in the 21st century is thus clear: we need to maximize the number of states with both the capacity and the will to tackle this new generation of transnational challenges. We need a modern edifice of cooperation, built upon the foundation of responsible American leadership, with the bricks of state capacity and the beams of political will.
Building the capacity of fragile states is a major part of our work every day at the United Nations, since the UN is leading the charge in many of the toughest corners of the world. At its best, the UN helps rebuild shattered societies, lay the foundations for democracy and economic growth, and establish conditions in which people can live in dignity and mutual respect. I have seen first-hand how the UN delivers—in Haiti, where peacekeepers flushed deadly gangs out of the notorious Cité Soleil slum and are now training a reformed Haitian police force. I have seen it in Liberia, where the UN Development Program supports impressive efforts to teach literacy, computer, and trade skills to jobless ex-combatants. I have seen it in Congo, where the UN made it possible to hold the first democratic elections in the country’s history.
It is not enough simply to build up the corps of capable, democratic states. We need states with both the capacity and the will to tackle common challenges. As we have been reminded in recent years, we cannot take that will for granted, even among our allies. The simple reality is: if we want others to help combat the threats that concern us most, then we must help others combat the challenges that threaten them most. For many nations, those threats are first and foremost the things that afflict human beings in their daily lives: corruption, repression, conflict, hunger, poverty, disease, and a lack of education and opportunity.
When the United States joins others to confront these challenges, it is not charity. It is not even barter. In today’s world, more than ever, America’s interests and values converge. What is good for others is often good for us. When we manifest our commitment to tackling the threats that menace so many nations; when we invest in protecting the lives of others; and when we recognize that national security is no longer a zero-sum game, then we increase other countries’ will to cooperate on the issues most vital to us.
Rice billed this speech as building upon major addresses by Defense Secretary Gates, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitan, Secretary of State Clinton, Counter-Terrorism Chief John Brennen, and National Security Advisor Jim Jones. Each of those previous addresses were remarkable for the fact that each respective secretary and official laid out a clear vision of how their various departments can work more cooperatively with other government agencies to advance common security interests. The Pentagon calls this a “whole of government” approach. In New York today, Rice took the concept one step further and articulated what could be called a whole of governments approach to common security threats.
To a large degree, this approach recognizes a global phenomenon that as a public intellectual Rice was among the first to articulate. Non-proliferation, counter-terrorism, climate change endemic poverty, are problems that nearly every government in the world has a stake in redressing. What the world lacks, however, are coherent mechanisms that helps other governments help themselves, and in so doing help create a more secure world.
In New York today, Rice took a big step in laying the intellectual foundation for filling that gap. I eagerly await the implementation of her vision.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.