I was participating in an event at Duke University last night and this morning, so I’m a bit late in offering my thoughts on last night’s presidential debate. But there is one substantive point I wanted to focus on.
Senator Obama was asked about genocide and what the Obama doctrine is for use of force when we don’t have national security issues at stake. He responded this way:
Well, we may not always have national security issues at stake, but we have moral issues at stake.
If we could have intervened effectively in the Holocaust, who among us would say that we had a moral obligation not to go in?
If we could’ve stopped Rwanda, surely, if we had the ability, that would be something that we would have to strongly consider and act.
So when genocide is happening, when ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world and we stand idly by, that diminishes us. And so I do believe that we have to consider it as part of our interests, our national interests, in intervening where possible.
But understand that there’s a lot of cruelty around the world. We’re not going to be able to be everywhere all the time. That’s why it’s so important for us to be able to work in concert with our allies.
Let’s take the example of Darfur just for a moment. Right now there’s a peacekeeping force that has been set up and we have African Union troops in Darfur to stop a genocide that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. We could be providing logistical support, setting up a no-fly zone at relatively little cost to us, but we can only do it if we can help mobilize the international community and lead. And that’s what I intend to do when I’m president.
In fact, Darfur is a perfect illustration of how placing our hopes on mobilizing the “international community” to lead on genocide ends up doing nothing to stop genocide.
In the context of genocide, it’s also worth pausing over Senator Obama’s record on Iraq.
Senator Obama cannot repeat often enough that he opposed the Iraq war, even though he never mentions the fact that (a) he believed Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction at the time and (b) he knew Saddam was the leader of a genocidal regime.
Former Ambassador Peter Galbraith has written that
along with Cambodia’s Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein’s regime was one of the two most cruel and inhumane regimes in the second half of the twentieth century. Using the definition of genocide specified in the 1948 Genocide Convention, Iraq’s Baath regime can be charged with planning and executing two genocides – one against the Kurdish population in the late 1980s and another against the Marsh Arabs in the 1990s.
Yet Senator Obama opposed the war to liberate Iraq, despite the fact that the United States had won unanimous approval for U.N. Resolution 1441 and amassed a coalition of more than two dozen nations that committed troops to the war.
It gets worse. Once we were in Iraq, Senator Obama did everything in his power, including voting against funding for American troops in Iraq, to block the efforts by General Petraeus to win the war. Senator Obama insisted the surge was failing long after it was obvious it was making progress. And Senator Obama promoted a plan that would have withdrawn all combat troops from Iraq by March 2008, which would have led to mass death and probably genocide.
If Barack Obama had his way, then, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, his sadistic sons would be waiting in the wings to take over, and Iraq, rather than liberated and on the mend, would still be suffering under one of the most brutal regimes we have ever witnessed.
So the next time Senator Obama speaks about his passionate concern for genocide in Darfur, I hope someone will ask him why he championed in Iraq a policy that would have brought about exactly what he is trying to prevent in Sudan.