An interesting War Nerd piece argues that once again, the U.N. and the array of NGOs in Africa have stopped a "Tutsi Empire" from developing and that this is, in fact, a bad thing:
The real bad guys in the Congo are what most people call the good guys, the meddling fools like Bono and the UN and all those NGOs and “International Peacekeeping Missions.” Those guys stopped a decisive war of conquest dead in its tracks. And yeah, that is a bad thing. A very bad thing. If they hadn’t stopped the natural course of the war, Central Africa would be a single state, maybe not as dead calm as an American suburb but as peaceful as, say, any region of the Roman or Mongol Empires—and remember, under the Mongols, travelers could ride from Tbilisi to Baikal without fear of robbery.
To show you what I mean, imagine that there’d been a United Nations, a lot of NGOs, and a noisy meddlesome “international community” to barge in when we were starting our Civil War in 1861. How would the Civil War have ended? Simple: it wouldn’t have. The “peacekeepers” would have intervened exactly when one side was starting to win—say, the summer of 1863—to freeze the two sides in position, “halt the killing,” and encourage a stalemate that left everything up in the air.
I can almost see the headlines and the photos that would hit the media if Sherman had started out on his march through Georgia in our time: “Refugees Flee Blue Advance,” “Thousands Starving,” and plenty of pictures of skinny towhead Dixie kids looking scared, with pillars of smoke from burning barns in the background.
As usual with his columns, it makes for interesting, pitch-black reading and has some pretty devastating analysis. I think a Tutsi Empire is a bit far-fetched, but his basic point is right. In fact, there's an even more clear-cut example to the north, in Rwanda.
There, Paul Kagame leads a regime founded by the army that actually ended the '90s genocide through the innovative solution of shooting the people committing it until they stopped. In the ensuing years, Rwanda's gone from a post-apocalyptic wasteland to one of the most stable countries on the continent.
Kagame's also engaged in relatively good government, encouraging a wrenching but necessary reconciliation, offering amnesty and rebuilding the society in a way that is slowly breaking the ethnic divisions that plagued it before.
He gets a lot of credit for that, rightly, even from the "do-gooders" the War Nerd column blasts.
At the same time, Kagame's relentlessly gone after the remnants of the genocidaires that slaughtered over a million people. These have included wiping them out even if they're hiding in refugee camps that the UN stupidly set up to give them cover (after neglecting to do a damn thing to stop the original genocide).
For this last part, he's gotten tut-tutting from lots of international institutions and worries that he's being authoritarian.
In fact, it makes perfect sense. Kagame's executing a classic "hand and fist" strategy. His country has a nasty ethnic division, and going after every Hutu that participated in the genocide isn't possible. All-out revenge, appealing as it may be, would just cause a repeat of the same scenario.
At the same time, he has to make damn sure that genocide doesn't happen again because the same leaders who committed it the first time build up their own army and undo all that hard-won stability. That requires crushing them. If that means intervening in the politics of the Congo, so be it. National sovereignty's always been more honored in the breach, anyway.
Instead of some regrettable deviation, this is the exact sort of politics war-torn regions need more of: neither bloodthirsty or endemically weak.
To keep the Civil War analogy going, it's a lot like Lincoln signing off on both "let 'em up easy" and Sherman's march. "Take this amnesty" gets way more appealing when followed up with "or we'll keep shooting you." To use a negotiated truce as an example, it's doubtful we'd have peace in Northern Ireland if the IRA hadn't shown they could bring London's financial center to a screaming halt.
Sometimes NGOs and even the UN do good work in an area. If peacekeepers are putting an exclamation point on an existing, stable deal, for example, they can actually be effective (the fact they're not usually used this way partly accounts for their horrific record). But in this situation, the colonial mentality is alive and well: what Kagame's done is nothing out of the ordinary for any sane government, and would be quickly recognized as such if he wasn't leading an African nation.