"United" Nations Human Rights

Can Anyone But the Darfurians Save Darfur?

Update: Welcome, Instapundit readers.

One day, this belated Kofi Annan apology may become the U.N.’s de facto epitaph:

Looking back now, we see the signs which then were not recognized. Now we know that what we did was not nearly enough — not enough to save Rwanda from itself, not enough to honour the ideals for which the United Nations exists. We will not deny that, in their greatest hour of need, the world failed the people of Rwanda.

A world that spends billions each year on the United Nations has a right to expect better than posthumous salvation for those the U.N. was created to save. Measuring the sincerity of Annan’s apology is as easy as measuring the will with which he has addressed a strikingly similar situation in Darfur. There is always an excuse for the U.N.’s paralysis. Then, it was post-Somalia disengagement. Today, the U.N. is hobbled by the oil interests of two of the usual three suspects — France and China. The one diplomat who has made any progress in shaming that near-hopeless institution into acting is none other than John Bolton:

We are pleased that the Security Council has taken this important step in passing Resolution 1706. It is imperative that we move immediately to implement it fully to stop the tragic events unfolding in Darfur. Every day we delay only adds to the suffering of the Sudanese people and extends the genocide.

The United States calls on the Government of Sudan to comply fully with Resolution 1706 and cooperate with the UN as we begin the work of implementation. Paragraph 1 of the resolution invites the Government of Sudan to consent to deployment, though nothing in this language requires their consent. We expect their full and unconditional cooperation and support with the new UN peacekeeping force. Failure on the Government of Sudan’s part to do so will significantly undermine the Darfur Peace Agreement and prolong the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

This leads to several observations. First, as with the remarkable accomplishment of winning Chinese, Russian, and French votes on U.N.S.C.R. 1695, Bolton has again shown himself capable of doing what his predecessors could not: make the U.N. work — occasionally — as it was supposed to. Many on the left who are deeply concerned about Darfur despise Bolton so much that they won’t begrudge him this accomplishment, which is unfortunate and dishonest. By itself, of course, this resolution will save no one. As with so many recent U.N. missions (Somalia and Bosnia being the readiest examples), the entire concept is headed for certain disaster if the U.N. again proves itself incapable of carrying out aggressive rules of engagement. Odds, anyone?

North Korea may be an even more eggegious U.N. failure. Annan, his disgraced-and-resigned Special Envoy, his disgraced-and-fired U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and his America-loathing U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said absolutely nothing while North Korea starved two or more million of its people to death — probably intentionally — and China played the role of enforcer of this democide. The one U.N. official to have been the least bit helpful was Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn, and there is little indication that his words will make much of a difference in the killing fields of North Hamgyeong.

If the U.N. cannot stop a genocide — and we now know that it is not above forming corrupt relationships with those who commit genocide — one would at least hope that it would not stand in the way of people exercising what was once enshrined as a right under the U.N. Charter: self-defense.

Article 51: Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Sadly, a new U.N. report this week describes self-defense not as a right, but as a defense against prosecution for violating the “rights” of the oppressor. And while this certainly isn’t an abrogation of the Article 51 right, that right is only triggered when a member state is attacked. It’s much less clear that Article 51 protects the citizens of a state against attack by their own unelected rulers, but if one concludes that it does not, then it follows that millions in Darfur and North Korea are condemned to death and the postumous salvation of a Kofi Annan apology over their unmarked graves.

Victims of genocide, deprived of any peaceful means to save themselves, have just one real chance to avoid the fate of the Tutsis. That chance lies in defending themselves, and if the U.N. prevents effective action or responds as it did in Srebrenica, then responsible nations should help the victims arm themselves. Nations that supply arms to the victims should also train them in how and when to use them, and should make the supply of ammunition contingent on the victims limiting their attacks to legitimate military targets as necessary to protect innocent life. The goal of such a program should be to create a military balance on the battlefield — to transform a unilateral war into a stalemate — and create the conditions for a peace and disarmament agreement that protects the inalienable rights of the people. A citizen who is faced with the imminent and forceful deprivation of those rights ought to be able to use the least violent means necessary to defend them, even when the necessary means are violent, and even when they must be defended from the power of the state.

“To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

Far from diminishing the importance of self-defense as a right, far from blurring the moral distinctions between oppressor and oppressed, the U.N. should recognize that self-defense is a citizen’s ultimate right. It is the right that protects all other rights from the predations of tyrants.


  1. Good post.

    If you were suddenly the most powerful person in the world, what would you do to stop the genocide? Arm the black Africans? Or whose troops should we send?


  2. Heavens! Give guns to black people? What could I have been thinking. Yes, why I would give guns to people, to defend themselves without foreign help, but with certain limitations:

    – They would have to abide by the laws of armed conflict, such as the wearing of fixed and distinctive insignia, and obedience to a chain of command and the laws of war.

    – They would have to credibly advocate the establishment of a democratic form of government.

    – They would have to renounce warlike acts against neighboring nations, unless those nations became active belligents and the warlike acts were against military targets and in self-defense.

    I don’t believe this would stop the killing by any means, but the hope is to balance the forces on the battlefield sufficiently that both sides would be motivated to negotiate a lasting peace agreement.

    Right now, you couldn’t describe Darfur or North Korea as being at peace. Both are really in states of unilateral war. It’s an ethnic war in Darfur, and a class war in North Korea. Really, then, you’re not starting a war, you’re simply imposing a cost on the actions of the unilateral belligerents.


  3. The Dafuris should March to the Sea. Nothing less. It ended slavery for us, should work like a charm there, too. Problem is that the Sudanese Army is too well equipped.



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