Thursday, 17 April 2008

Less to be feared than pitied

"You think the US is under attack from 10 Cubans in rowboats?" Toby, WW, season 1.

The US is demanding that Zimbabwe be put on the security council agenda. I hear a wave of cheers. I don't deny Zim is in serious, serious trouble. And perhaps the US is trying to force SA's hand. But this is exactly the kind of move that undermines the credibility of the UN. And frankly makes the US, if you take their utterances at face value, look stupid.

The security council is set up to deal with threats to global peace and security. Their global policing role does not extend to breaking up domestic squabbles (or civil wars) and it certainly doesn't extend to enforcing the results of local elections (because of sovereignty and other silly little principles). To argue that Zim be put on the UNSC agenda therefore suggests that they are set to compromise global security. Visions of the citizens of Zimbabwe storming the shores of America - complete with their ... well they don't really have very much of anything, so complete with nothing really, with their hunger and their poverty. One wonders what exactly the USA is scared of...

On a more serious note, the move to make Zim a UNSC issue is worrying because it suggests that the UNSC is the only UN body with any clout (effectively dismissing groups responsible for Human Rights, etc. as irrelevant). This also, subtlely, suggests that the only way to resolve what is really a socio-economic crisis is to go in with guns blazing. Although this appears sometimes to be the prevailing US foreign policy approach, I'm sure even they must acknowledge that this doesn't necessarily solve anything and that the unintended consequences of devastating a country with a war must make it a last resort.

The US's concern about Zim is commendable. Their method of trying to highlight the problem is... a problem. If they want to get the whole world on board with the rule of law, it may be advisable for them to stick to the rules and split of responsibilities of the various bodies of the UN - rules they helped make - and find other ways to make their concerns known. After all, if they can't stick to the international rules why should Mugabe.

Unless they really are worried about an imminent Zimbabwean attack. In which case perhaps we should point out the odds and remind George W - with the help of a map - that Zimbabwe is really just a poor, landlocked country somewhere in the middle of Africa who honestly, at this point in time, are less to be feared than pitied.

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