Monday, February 22, 2010

Never Again?

In July of 1995 Bosnian Serbs under the command of General Ratko Mladić systematically murdered over 7,000 Muslim men and boys as a Dutch UN peacekeeping force stood by. They had found refuge at the UN "safe area" in Srebrenica, a town in Eastern Bosnia that Bosnian Serbs had intended to "cleanse." Mladić is still hiding somewhere in Serbia. His assault on the Muslims at Srebrenica was the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.

I don't blame Dutchbat, the Dutch battalion ordered to watch over the area, but the UN leadership acted shamefully, it seems to me. Moreover, the perpetrators were able to use UN buses to transport their victims to the killing fields. In this instance, the United States was the decisive factor in ending the conflict, not the EU giants—Britain, France, and Germany—nor the United Nations. Nearly four years later President Clinton, without consulting the UN, ordered the bombing of Serb positions and death squads in Serbia and its province of Kosovo. This act didn't endear us to the Serbs, but it saved the lives of ethnic Albanian Muslims.

An independent country since 2008, Kosovo has expressed its gratitude in a Bill Clinton Boulevard and, because of his support for independence, a George W. Bush Street in the capital of Pristina.

I'm a far-left-wing kook who sees the U.S. as a force for evil in world, but as we condemn the genocidal governments of the past—Nazi Germany, Ottoman Turkey, Imperial Japan, etc.—we should be mindful of our own nation's "infelicities." We should get the log out of our own eye before we condemn. Additionally, we need whatever tools at our disposal to understand the awful crimes of the Holocaust, and looking inward is a way of achieving understanding. I wouldn't compare the slavery of Africans or the destruction of Native Americans and their culture to the Holocaust. True, suffering is suffering on the individual level, but from a macro-perspective there are some significant differences between these horrid acts. If you've read about the gas chambers, the T-4 program, the Einsatzgruppen and the rest of it, you'd know what I mean.

But the United States is also a force for good in the world. We're still a beacon on a hill, in my opinion. Organizations like the United Nations, however, leave much to be desired when it comes to peacekeeping operations (with the exception of a few commanders and troops on the ground). Just ask the Tutsis of Rwanda, the women of Congo, or the Muslims of Bosnia. They'll tell you.