a famous maxim of Theodore Roosevelt that Sudan analyst John Prendergast frequently uses to characterize the Bush administration’s Darfur policy. By limiting its action to sharp rhetoric, Prendergast contends, the U.S. has effectively pursued a policy of “speaking loudly and carrying a toothpick.” Vocal condemnation of countries’ human rights policies, as deplorable as they may be, is not the only way to induce a change in behavior, and Arbour is simply articulating the necessity of working within the UN system. When faced with the alternatives of unilateralism or inaction, this remains a laudable goal, even if some aspects of the UN, such as the Human Rights Council — over which, incidentally, Arbour’s office exercises no control — fall short of the ideal level of reform. Instead of merely pointing its fingers at the transparent violations of notorious human rights abusers, the U.S. should work with the UN to effectively address these issues — and should focus on cleaning up its own act as well.

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