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    Success of ‘going negative’ changes campaign strategies
    [ # ] Former ambassadors discuss genocide, war
    September 7th, 2007 under Institute Programs, Darfur, Fall 2007


    Opinions differ on ethnic cleansing, not on finding solutions for world issues

    By Sarah Neff - The University Daily Kansan

    darfur.JPGTwo former U.S. ambassadors speaking at the Rober J. Dole Institute of Politics Thursday night had different definitions for genocide, but they agreed that one step in the solution to the problem was for students to form discussion groups to talk about the situation.

    Former Ambassadors Robert Beecroft and Edward Brynn answered questions from students and the Lawrence community last night during a moderated discussion in front of a nearly packed audience.

    Beecroft served as ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2001 to 2006. Brynn served as ambassador to Burkino Faso in western Africa from 1990 to 1993 and Ghana from 1995 to 1998.

    Beecroft suggested that what he called the “CNN Factor” had played a significant role to increase the sensitivity of the international community to genocide.

    “One of the things that can really have an impact is to shed the light of the anger of the people at the top to the instigators of genocide,” Beecroft said. 

    Beecroft said there were two kinds of war: wars of choice and wars of necessity. He said the only war of necessity during the past hundred years was World War II. He said people had to choose their wars carefully and think about the entry strategy as well as the exit strategy. He said there were other ways to end genocide that don’t involve war.

    “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” Beecroft said.

    Both Brynn and Beecroft said that they were impressed with the number of students in attendance, and that they were accustomed to speaking in front of older audiences.

    Brynn and Beecroft agreed that nongovernment organizations such as churches and citizen groups played an influential role in changing the conditions. Beecroft said that those groups were more flexible, adaptive and responsive than government groups. Brynn said the high level of attention to Darfur was due mostly to citizen groups that have forced outside governments to take action. But he said the genocide in the Congo was just as bad if not worse than the genocide in Darfur. He said people paid less attention to the Congo because America doesn’t have the same connections there that it does in Darfur.

    Brynn said the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots played a significant role in the continuing existence of genocide. He said that genocide would continue until there was a redistribution of the world’s resources.

    — Edited by Tara Smithdarfur2a.jpg

    Read the Comments

    [ # 15135 ] Comment from Uyanga Bazaa [September 13, 2007, 11:17 pm]

    It was my first time to attend American politicians’ lecture and to feel American audience reaction towards its government policy, as close as I could ever. It was surprising. How much this diverse country is united under the certain values: freedom and democracry and how much they support their government, even they do some evil things, Iraq. It has been 20 years in Sudan, a civil war claiming millions of people death. The main topic of the lecture was about Genocide, everyone was able to see the American foreign policy through different reaction of the US Government to genocides which occurred in different part of the world. “How sustainable is American commitment?” Ambassador Brynn answered openly to the question, saying “[We ask] what are role, objectives and goals going into the countries which suffer Genocide. Once, we have got the answer, US goes, if we won’t get the answer, not. Otherwise, there are states which can fill the gap and World Bank has also work economically or on other issues like health.” America doesn’t seem like involving in genocide, northern Sudan, Darfur issue, because the Government of the US hasn’t got the answer: …Darfur has neither Christians nor oil, in any significant quantities” (Julie, 2005, p.117).

    [ # 15219 ] Comment from DJ [September 14, 2007, 10:04 pm]

    While a former United States ambassador was calling for Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to be “taken out” as a result of the conflict in the Darfur region, across the Atlantic Ocean, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was adopting a more diplomatic approach.

    Edward Brynn, who once served as an ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ghana, made the startling announcement to a packed gathering at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics. Joining him on the podium was another former ambassador Robert M. Beecroft, whose Foreign Service postings included leading the Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from 2001 to 2004. The two were guests speakers in the first in the series of the “Friends of the Dole Institute,” a bipartisan support group intended to foster debate around issues of global conflict, democracy and domestic public policy.

    “It may be politically incorrect to say of course, but we’ve gotten ourselves in such a mess in the Iraq agenda because we acted under very dubious circumstances. We’re psychologically, as a nation in a very, very weak position and our ability to work with our traditional allies to take care of people like al-Bashir, at this point, is probably very weak, so I can be brave in saying that we should get in there and take al-Bashir out,” Brynn said.

    My understanding of Brynn’s use of the idiom is to remove or kill. Illinois Senator Barack Obama used the term title at the Wilson Center in Washington DC, to describe eliminating al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, with or without the consent of President Pervez Musharaff. In August 2005, Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson tried to defend himself by saying references to U.S. special forces “taking out” Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, shouldn’t be construed as an assassination
    assassination, despite the fact that many commentators believed it to be so. A month later, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin
    Ray Nagin feared being “taken out” by the CIA and not being seen again. This was as a result of comments he made that were critical of federal officials, in their handling of relief aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

    In the context of dealing with the genocide in Darfur, I hardly think an open declaration of war on Sudan, which is what Brynn’s revolutionary sentiments amount to, is the most proactive solution to a highly volatile situation, let alone showing disrespect for the sovereignty of a nation, whatever its record of human rights abuses. And that from a one-time ambassador who so often treaded the diplomatic path during his tenure in Africa.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for action against the al-Bashir regime, whether it takes the form of
    multilateral sanctions
    multilateral sanctions backed by a number of international organizations, travel restrictions against particular government individuals complicit in the genocide, or pressure on the government’s trading partners, chief among them being China, which aims to polish its image ahead of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. But I take a dim view of the gung-ho approach many Americans seem to favor in dealing with the likes of Saddam Hussein, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez or Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

    The same day Brynn was speaking, the U.N. Secretary-General was concluding a
    three-day visit to Sudan where he tried to secure guarantees of a ceasefire between rebel groups and the government, and get the warring parties to attend an upcoming peace summit in neighboring Libya next month. Whatever one’s thoughts about the effectiveness, or lack thereof of the U.N., it is the most suitably placed international organization to facilitate change. Former Ambassador Robert M. Beecroft believes it just needs more clout.

    “If we’re going to look at the United Nations as a real functioning, successful tool of international crisis management, a number of things have to happen that have never happened. If you go back and you look at the history of the original debates in the late 40’s, the idea was that there would be a standing United Nations army that would be under international command,” Beecroft said, adding that the United States was behind the initiative, which never came to fruition.

    “You have to have rules of engagement that allows the United Nations forces to act, but no country I know, wants to see its troops wearing blue helmets get killed. So we have real political problems using the United Nations as a tool to do peace keeping and prevent genocide,” Beecroft said, adding that without the U.N., the ad hoc nature of some country’s rallying together to address a crisis is not the most feasible way of tackling a problem.

    If the Sudanese and rebel leaders can’t agree on a peace deal at the talks, the credibility of the U.N. will be damaged yet again. And even the deployment of a 26,000-strong peacekeeping force, which is not expected to happen before next year, could be a long way away from ensuring stability, with many more lives being lost in the interim.

    The two former ambassadors addressed a number of issues around the causes of genocide and the inability of the world community to prevent such atrocities from occurring. A recurring question however, was what could ordinary Americans and the global community do to tackle the Darfur conflict and prevent massacres such as past events in Rwanda and Sierra Leone from occurring.

    It was the exact question a KU freshman asked more than two-and-a-half years ago. Amanda Applegate, a Pharmacy junior who has an interest in international politics, started working at the Dole Center two-and-a-half years ago – a time when her curiosity took on an added focus.

    “I used to asked what can we do about wars and people in peril. I’ve been fascinated about how the media relates to crises. And students have had a large part in activism against wars, and so we’ve been pushing for an international event. I never thought we’d get the ambassadors here, maybe the media, not ambassadors” Applegate said.

    Through her interest and efforts, the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics was able to host the discussion and Applegate’s initiative, partly provided the answer to the main thread of the debate – what more can be done to prevent acts of genocide.

    Beecroft replied: “The answer maybe is we can do nothing about it. After all, genocide has been going on for millennia. It’s nothing new. What has changed is what I’d call the CNN factor. We know about these things now. For a long time, it was just taken as, well one of those things that happen somewhere else. There are many kinds of genocide, the question is, which ones do we get involved in, why, and can we make a difference, and if we can make it stick?”

    How you choose your battles, he didn’t say. And just how do you tell innocent victims fleeing genocide, that you can’t come to their aid because you’re committed to resolving conflict elsewhere?

    Former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s pre-election promise was to tackle ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. But history shows that neither the U.S. under his stewardship nor the U.N. did much to stop the slaughter slaughter of some 200,000 Muslim civilians between 1992-1995. If anything, their half-hearted efforts, served only to compound the tragedy. No lessons, it seems, were learnt, when in a matter of a few years later, Hutu extremists killed 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda Rwanda from April 1994 to July 1994.

    Brynn said former President Bill Clinton admitted to him on a visit to Ghana, where the former served as an ambassador, that the president’s inability to understand the gravity of the genocidal situation in Rwanda, amounted to his worst foreign policy mistake.

    Members of the audience at the Dole Center wanted to make sure the world wouldn’t remain idle in the face of innocent civilians being killed en masse. They expressed a desire to becoming involved, whether it be through civic, student organizations or faith-based groups. Despite the gloomy atmosphere, there was a measure of optimism – of a willingness to commit to future action and pressure western governments to respond when needed.

    Kansas City business analyst Colin Weigel said he was impressed by the knowledge of the guests, adding that he emerged with a more positive outlook.

    “I understand that generally people will in the long run work things out. I think there will be a lot of change,” he added.

    Someone who was also buoyed by the exchange is Director of Women’s Studies and KU Philosophy Professor Ann Cudd, who appreciated the very candid exchange between the guests and the audience. She added however, that she felt too much emphasis was placed on state-level responses after a disaster and not on proactive decisions being made to prevent such incidents from occurring. She expressed an interest in the role of citizens’ groups working in conflict zones and their ability to come to the aid of civilians.

    These organizations are largely unheralded, but their tireless efforts, along with coverage by some international media, have cast the spotlight on flashpoint areas. Judging by the student turnout, the desire to broaden their understanding of the complexities of civil wars is matched with a keenness to becoming activists for peaceful change. And, as the motto of the Friends of the Dole Institute says, “Make a Difference,” they’re already taking the first steps as peace makers.

    [ # 25568 ] Comment from Ryan McGeeney [December 5, 2007, 10:09 pm]

    I was particularly impressed by former Ambassador Beecroft’s insight into the nature of this modern conflict, and the manner in which he brought lessons learned from his previous postings and involvements to the table in devising possible solutions to the situation in Darfur. I spoke with him afterwards about the specter of Blackwater (and other military contractors) becoming involved with “peace-keeping” there, and he provided a good deal of information there, as well. I applaud the Dole Institute for allowing us to hear from these two men.

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