Magazine article Insight on the News

Q: Should U.S. Troops Be Sent to Africa to Provide Humanitarian Relief?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Q: Should U.S. Troops Be Sent to Africa to Provide Humanitarian Relief?

Article excerpt

Yes: Sending troops to avert human tragedy is a moral imperative and sound foriegn policy,

The question "Should the United States contribute military forces to Rwanda and Zaire?" really is two in one. First, should the United States care enough to help prevent mass starvation, epidemic disease and a catastrophic human-rights situation that threatens hundreds of thousands of African civilian lives? Second, are U.S. military forces essential to and appropriate for the success of such a mission? The answer to both of these questions is yes.

The reader might ask, "Why would a person who had opposed the United States war in Southeast Asia, military intervention in Central America and the U.S. invasion of Grenada support sending troops to East-Central Africa?" It is a fair question that deserves a thorough answer.

It is fair to say that we are approaching the end of the first decade of the post-Cold War era. This new era probably will be rated as among the most extraordinary moments in American history and it provides, for the first time in our lifetime an effective opportunity to challenge the notion of war and the use of aggressive force as an instrument of policy.

In addition, it provides an opportunity to implement more effectively the truly remarkable body of international human-rights law that has emerged during the period since the end of World War II. I refer to those principles of law both that make aggressive warfare criminal and that seek to protect the personhood and dignity of all human beings.

In the wake of Iraqi aggression against Kuwait the international community, authorized by a U.N. vote, mobilized against "aggressive war." In addition, in establishing a framework to protect Kurds and Shi'ite populations within Iraq, it expanded the "rules of the game" to include the protection of individuals against the repressive actions of their own government.

In this context, we must consider the role the United States is willing to play in helping to advance this body of important international law. As a nation, we must consider our willingness to participate in peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations. These operations not only express our deepest humanitarian and moral instincts but also help to prevent and end wars, keep the peace and preserve lives. Such actions are squarely in our national-security interests, are indeed consistent with our national values and are an inherent part of our role as partner and leader.

As I contemplate our national-security requirements in this new era, it strikes me that the "enemy" in the post-Cold War era is war itself. Our challenge is the challenge of securing peace and the human rights, social justice and equality that make peace possible. I have challenged my colleagues -- within and beyond the Congress -- to develop and implement new strategic concepts.

What has happened that makes this moment special? If the Cold War was just one example of a "history-long" geostrategic political struggle among nations (one based on a crude bipolarity), what conditions suggest there exists an opportunity to avoid a new entanglement of conflict and alignment?

First, the breakdown of the Cold War alignments provides greater opportunity to secure international consensus within existing international institutions on important aspects of this emergent paradigm of international law. Examples loom large, such as the U.N. support for pre- and postwar actions against Iraq; international support for the implementation of the Dayton accords that ended the slaughter in Bosnia-Herzegovina; the stabilization of Cambodia; and the successfully managed effort to restore the democratically elected government of Haiti. It almost is unimaginable that in an earlier time most, if any, of these undertakings could have received the necessary international consensus to secure their undertaking, much less to have achieved their sometimes significant and sometimes limited successes. …

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