There's a searing review here by Nicholas Kristof of two books on Darfur: Julie Flint and Alex de Waal's Darfur: A Short History of a Long War; and Gérard Prunier's Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide. After summarizing international inaction in the face of earlier genocides, Kristof goes on:
[N]ow the same tragedy is unfolding in Darfur, but this time we don't even have any sort of excuse. In Darfur genocide is taking place in slow motion, and there is vast documentary proof of the atrocities... it's appalling that the publishing industry manages to respond more quickly to genocide than the UN and world leaders do.It's hard not to be led to the most disheartening of conclusions about the putative legitimacy of the international system. For those of us who look towards a strengthening of transnational institutions, and of the quality and the reach of international law, whether in working for peaceful outcomes, in bringing to justice the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, or in preventing major atrocities, especially genocide, how is it possible to speak for that emergent legitimacy, or the claim to one, when the international community repeatedly just stands by as the worst crime on its books unfolds? It can be said, of course, that the international community and its primary representative institution, the UN, will only be as good as the constituent nations. Perhaps. But, all the same, just as any claim to legitimacy by a national state runs up against certain moral limits (roughly, when that state fails to protect the basic life needs of huge numbers of its people), so it is at least questionable what legitimacy can be retained by a set of international institutions that, time and again, stand inert and ineffective while entire communities are violated, massacred, destroyed.
In my years as a journalist, I thought I had seen a full kaleidoscope of horrors, from babies dying of malaria to Chinese troops shooting students to Indonesian mobs beheading people. But nothing prepared me for Darfur, where systematic murder, rape, and mutilation are taking place on a vast scale, based simply on the tribe of the victim. What I saw reminded me why people say that genocide is the worst evil of which human beings are capable.
This is not a conclusion I find welcome. Nor do I have a neat answer as to where to go from it, theoretically speaking (though this post has some relevant thoughts). Sometimes, however, all one can do is to identify a moral void. It is a necessary first step.
(Via Mick Hartley.)