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Shame Diplomacy

At Slate, Anne Applebaum argues for intervention in Burma. But on her way to making a serious case for action, she takes a frivolous and disingenuous detour through Iraq.

Unfortunately, the phrase “coalition of the willing” is tainted forever–once again proving that the damage done by the Iraq war goes far beyond the Iraqi borders–but a coalition of the willing is exactly what we need. The French–whose foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, was himself a co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières–are already talking about finding alternative ways of delivering aid. Others in Europe and Asia might join in, along with some aid organizations. The Chinese should be embarrassed into contributing, asked again and again to help. This is their satrapy, after all, not ours.

Who’s tainted the phrase coalition of the willing? The members of said coalition, who banded together to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and Iraq of Saddam Hussein? Or those who snickered at that effort and now demand that we leave the people of those two countries to the mercies of terrorists? It’s the fetishists of multilateralism who have made intervention in places like Burma so unlikely. After years of demanding that America shrink her geopolitical influence, retract from the world, and leave “sovereign” states to their own devices, their best plan for international crisis management is to embarrass China into being a kindly neighbor? China! The nation underwriting the massacre in Darfur!

“Think of it as the true test of the Western humanitarian impulse,” Applebaum writes. A much truer test would call upon one to overcome petty and satisfying postures in order to save lives.


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