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Debate: US support for UN peacekeeping operations

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Should the US support UN peacekeeping operations?

Background and context

The north African country of Sudan has been embroiled in overlapping conflicts for more than 20 years. The civil war between the Muslim north and Christian south lasted for almost this long, and was only recently settled with a peace agreement brokered by the US in January 2005. An outgrowth of those years of conflict has been the militarization of many of the communities in Sudan, including those in the Darfur region who have needed to protect themselves. As these communities came into conflict with each other, and the government of Sudan sided with some against others, the conflict became increasingly two sided and aligned along adopted political identities such as ‘Arab’ and ‘black’. As the military government has supported the ‘Arabs’ against the ‘blacks’ through the use of the Sudanese armed forces and the arming of nomadic militias called ‘Janjaweed’, the violence has come to engulf much of the Darfur region. Villages have been razed, women raped, children and livestock slaughtered, and boys and men have been killed or abducted to fight. The most widely agreed upon figure is that somewhere around 400,000 people have been killed there through starvation and violence, while over two million have become refugees in neighboring countries or are internally displaced peoples. What to do about the Darfur is an issue that is vexing the international community. The United States has labeled the conflict a ‘genocide’ but the UN has not. The African Union has had 7,000 peacekeepers in the Darfur for the past few months, but their term is set to expire at the end of September 2006 and the Sudanese government has refused to accept a UN Peacekeeping force.

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Argument #1

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Yes

What is happening in the Darfur is not a genocide. It is ethnic cleansing, but not the wholesale destruction of a group or way of life. US soldiers cannot be sent to every place where lots of people are dying, and the Darfur does not represent a moral obligation because it is not a genocide

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No

The violence in the Darfur is a genocide, and the US and the rest of the international community has a moral obligation to stop it by any means necessary. The nature of violence in the Darfur meets the Genocide Convention’s standards for genocide and, after international inaction to prevent genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda an extra effort must be made to avert the genocide in the Darfur.

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Argument #2

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Yes

It is bad precedent for the US to send troops to every conflict around the world. The USA cannot be the world’s policeman, and for the UN to rely on the US for every such instance would create a terrible precedent for inaction on the part of other countries and exert too much pressure on already overstretched military resources and personnel.

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No

President Bush declared “Not on my watch”, and in order to live up to that statement and maintain US credibility on human rights around the world, the US must take real concrete steps to end the violence in the Darfur. To fail to do so would be to send a green light to human rights violators around the world saying ‘do your worst, we won’t stop you.’

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Argument #3

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Yes

Only the UN has the international legitimacy and support to stop what is going on in the Darfur right now. The African Union sent 7,000 troops there but that contingent was too small to really make an impact. The UN can call upon the vast resources of its members, most notably the US.

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No

Regional efforts are better than major international ones. Only the countries in the region can know enough about what is going on and the local situation to adequately address it. Also, countries that are farther away from the Darfur are less likely to see the value of a sustained commitment to the region, especially when their soldiers are being killed.

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Argument #4

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Yes

The US is supporting UN Security Council resolution 1706, to send in 20,000 UN peacekeepers.

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No

Procedurally, the UN is a stalled force. China is vetoing any Darfur resolutions in the Security Council. Sudan, which has to invite the peacekeepers in, is refusing to do so while committing gross human rights abuses.

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Argument #5

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Yes

The US is seen as a country that respects and values human rights. To not take action on such a major human rights issue would be to destroy US credibility on this issue, and would be damaging to US interests, legitimacy, soft power, and influence around the world.

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No

The US has already forfeited its mantle as the world’s protector of human rights by acts done under the War on Terror such as detaining prisoners without due process, illegal wiretapping of its own citizens

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Argument #6

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Yes

US support for UN action in Darfur will be a welcome instance of the USA re-engaging in multilateral actions, after its ‘unilateralism’ of late, most notably in regard to the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003. This will increase US credibility in the world.

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No

President Bush’s current unilateral stance is vital to world stability. International institutions and international cooperation are incredibly slow. Only with quick and decisive action can countries solve issues like terrorism and nuclear proliferation. International organizations only tie nations hands with respect to our job as keepers of world stability.

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Argument #7

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Yes

Only a large multinational force will have the strength to stop the violence in the Darfur. No one country has enough strength or staying power to do it alone, so only a multinational force like the UN can.

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No

Sending in UN Peacekeepers will not reduce the violence in Darfur, but only send in more targets and another agitator, this time the UN. The violence in Darfur is between neighbors who hate each other and cannot be defused by international nonpartisans. Also, military intervention will only perpetuate the cycle of violence. An intervention in Darfur risks a protracted quagmire like Iraq or Vietnam.

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