Political Hay

Left-Wing Unilateralism

On Darfur, the left discovers the pitfalls of diplomacy.

By 5.9.06

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On March 19, 2003, Rev. John L. McCullough, executive director of Church World Service, issued a statement opposing the invasion of Iraq.

On May 1, 2006, Rev. McCullough spoke at a "Save Darfur" rally in Washington, D.C. He said, "The people of Darfur no longer have time for diplomatic courtesies, and we have no patience for partisan politics. Already hundreds of thousands have died, and far too many others are at risk of the unrelenting tide of death that is sweeping across hot desert sands.

"The time for political posturing has expired. The time for decisive action is now. Hear us when we say, 'we are America and we are Darfur.' We have reached the moment of our moral imperative, the intertwining of our lives, and we see our common destiny."

Suddenly, the left has discovered the virtue of unilateralism.

For the past three years the left could not say enough about the need for the United States to bow to the will of the United Nations. Without the backing of the mythical "international community," no nation -- especially the United States -- should send its armed forces anywhere unless attacked first, and maybe not even then.

Under President Bush, the United States has pursued just this policy with regard to Sudan. It was Bill Clinton who sent cruise missiles into Khartoum. President Bush has used diplomacy. Hundreds of thousands were butchered while the United States did as the left asked and eschewed force for a diplomatic solution. Seeing the results of its handiwork, the left changed its tune and proclaimed that the time for "diplomatic courtesies" has run out.

That raises the question, how many have to die before liberals will give permission for the United States to act militarily without U.N. approval? One hundred thousand? Four hundred thousand? What's the cutoff point? When did the death toll in Darfur reach the point that the left said, "OK, let's send in the Marines"?

It is worth noting that the "Save Darfur" protesters did not march in front of the United Nations. They rallied in Washington. Despite all of their rhetoric about the U.N., they know where the real power lies. When you need an ethnic group saved from genocidal maniacs right away, Kofi is not the guy to ask. Better to go straight to the top.

And that's the great irony. Many on the left know that the United Nations is a crock, but they dare not admit it. The concept of the inherent goodness of the "international community" working to achieve peace and harmony through democratic means is too important to their world view and too useful to them politically.

"If we act, then the world will follow," Sen. Barack Obama said at the rally two Sundays ago.

Yeah, well, that was kind of the whole point behind invading Iraq. But the left didn't care about Saddam's victims. Maybe there weren't enough of them. That mysterious death threshold had not been met. Or maybe sending troops to Sudan without U.N. approval is OK just because it isn't George W. Bush's idea.

Last week the government of Sudan signed a peace treaty with the largest rebel group in Darfur. It was the second peace treaty U.S. diplomats from the Bush administration have brokered in Sudan. Funny, there has been no left-wing cheering for the President's successes.

If this peace deal holds, perhaps the left will flip-flop again and proclaim the success of diplomacy. But even if it does succeed, it won't bring back the hundreds of thousands who died while waiting for the world to act. It can be said that they were, indirectly, victims of the United Nations.

Under U.N. hegemony, the United States and Britain can no longer halt the slaughter of innocents simply by rattling their sabers. Murderous tyrants, protected by their allies and counterparts inside the U.N., know that the U.N. is brilliantly effective at grinding the tank treads of justice to a halt. The U.N. does not stop evil men from using the machinery of government to slaughter innocents. It only stops the good guys from intervening when that happens.

This is the world the activists of the left have created. And they love it in theory. But when it comes to preventing another genocide, they suddenly discover the value of massive armies deployed without regard for diplomatic courtesies.

One wonders if any of them stop to consider the world that would exist had the more radical types succeeded in transforming Washington so that the federal government concentrated on funding schools and social services and the Air Force had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomb. Whose guns would the left ask to borrow then?

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About the Author

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @Drewhampshire.