Is American Engagement a Neccesary, but not Sufficient Condition to Confront Mass Atrocities?

Rebecca Hamilton is developing a college level teaching guide for lecturers who address human rights advocacy, citizens’ movements and foreign policy. She’s done the 21st century thing and asked a few of us bloggers to post some of her questions in an effort to solicit feed back from our audiences. I am more than happy to help because her book, Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide was the first serious attempt to measure the effectiveness of the Save Darfur movement.

If you have not read the book you should. But that should not dissuade you from participating in this exercise. (You can watch Bec and I discuss her book on bloggingheads).

Here’s the discussion prompt:

In A Problem from Hell Samantha Power argued that it was in the realm of American domestic politics that the battle to stop genocide was lost. Fighting for Darfur suggests that in the case of Darfur, this was not true: Succeeding in capturing the attention of Washington was a necessary but not sufficient condition; global geopolitics were key and in this realm, China’s role was central. Is Power’s theory about the privileged U.S. role in stopping atrocity crimes out of date? Or was Darfur an anomalous case? What does the speed of the international response in Libya suggest? If the American-centric theory is out of date, what does this mean for U.S.-based activists intent on stopping mass atrocity crimes?

Have at it!  My sense is that U.S. engagement is necessary, but not sufficient. Libya is an extreme case of confronting mass atrocities because of the use of military action to stop the atrocities. The United States was somewhat reluctant at first, but quickly assumed a leadership position. The fact that China and Russia were somewhat indifferent to resolution 1970 (they abstained); that the Arab League was gung-ho; and that at least half of NATO signed up for the battle were the key criteria for facilitating a swift international response.

So: these criteria, I think, made the Libyan intervention possible:

1) American leadership

2) Chinese and Russian indifference at the Security Council.

3) The endorsement of relevant regional bodies (in this case, the Arab league)

4) At least a small number of other (mostly European) countries participating in a coalition of the willing.

What do you think?