It takes much more to fight oppression abroad

WATERLOO, Ont. (CUP) – Edmund Burke once famously declared, “All necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

We can see many instances where we in the West have failed, not by intervening too much but rather too little.

Many Canadians believe that peacekeeping is the answer in war-ravaged countries. But has it been successful?

The first peacekeeping operation was started by Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson in 1956, in response to the Suez Crisis.

However, it failed to maintain any lasting peace, as another war broke out in 1967.

In Asia, the West failed to act when the Indonesian army invaded East Timor in 1976, killing hundreds of thousands and annexing the territory.  The biggest failure by far was in Rwanda where an estimated one million civilians died in 100 days.

What made it even worse was that there was a peacekeeping force there; despite some heroic efforts, it accomplished virtually nothing.

By and large, peacekeeping is an illusion designed to lessen Western guilt about colonialism without actually doing anything.

We have consistently shown that we have neither the will nor the stomach to actually fight evil around the world.

While I do not support outrageous military invasions of random countries in the way George Bush and the neo-cons did, the idea of full-scaled military interventions is something we should consider.

Had the UN sent a fully armed and equipped coalition force into Rwanda with full authority to use force, well-trained soldiers could have made short work of the machete-waving mobs.

While many certainly would have died, one has to question if it would have saved nearly a million innocent Tutsi and Hutu political moderates.

Rwanda is by no means a unique example. Most of the instigators of genocides are either disorganized and poorly equipped armies or mobs of ordinary people who are no match for a well-equipped military force.

For instance, a small modern army with full air support could easily deflect the militia carrying out genocide in southern Sudan.

The West has not only failed to prevent genocide but has failed further to address its causes, namely removing brutal and barbaric regimes that oppress and terrorize their own people.

In the end, it took Vietnam of all countries to bring an end to Pol Pot’s four-year-long reign of terror in Cambodia, which killed more than two million people.

Today, people across the world are calling out for freedom from their oppressive governments. I believe that we in the West need to take up the moral torch and use our power responsibly to liberate and assist these countries – not in some neo-imperialist way like in Iraq, but in a way that focuses on upholding human rights and that is based on altruism instead of national self-interest. The country where this is most necessary is Burma.

The Burmese military government is committing a genocide that is so ill-reported that it took a “Rambo” movie to bring any public attention.

Currently there is declining public support for our presence in Afghanistan, which is the closest the West has come to a true humanitarian intervention.

While many say we should leave and let the Afghans decide their own future, I say we should stay there as long as it takes to ensure the Taliban are unable to resurrect their brutal repression of women.

Though we have made numerous mistakes in our handling of the war and its subsequent development efforts, the idea of leaving now and abandoning the women of Afghanistan is immoral. It would be the clearest symbol of Western apathy towards the suffering of people around the world.

Clearly we cannot intervene in every case or even in every case suggested above for logistical or political reasons, but we can certainly do a much better job attempting to stop such obvious violations of human rights throughout the world.

//Ben Sandiford

The Cord (Wilfrid Laurier University)

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