As many of you know, I'm from Canada. We have a pretty different attitude to guns up here, and I must say that American gun culture has always kind of puzzled me. To me, one no more had a right to a gun than one did to a car.
Well, my mind has changed. Changed to the point where I see gun ownership as being a slightly qualified but universal global human right. A month ago in Yalta, Freedom & The Future, I wrote:
"Frankly, if "stopping... societies from becoming the homicidal hells Mr. Bush described in his Latvia speech" is our goal, I'm becoming more sympathetic to the Right to Bear Arms as a universal human right on par with freedom of speech and religion. U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice's personal experience as a child in Birmingham [Alabama] adds an interesting dimension; I hope she talks about this abroad."
This week, I took the last step. You can thank Robert Mugabe, too, because it was his campaign to starve his political/tribal opponents and Pol-Pot style "ruralization" effort (200,000 left homeless recently in a population of 12.6 million) that finally convinced me. Here's the crux, the argument before which all other arguments pale into insignificance:
The Right to Bear Arms is the only reliable way to prevent genocide in the modern world.
And Zimbabwe is the poster child for that proposition. So let's start with what's going on:
Not only is Mugabe in the middle of a "ruralization" program with clear echoes of the Cambodian genocide, the Washington Post reports that the country's granaries are nearly empty. That means starvation.
"Unless there's food aid," you say.
No. It means starvation. Period. I give you The Daily Telegraph:
"Millions of people are going hungry not, as Mr Mugabe's government claims, because of poor rains but as a direct result of its policy of denying food to opposition supporters and enriching its loyalists....
...An investigation by The Telegraph found that control of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), Zimbabwe's state-owned monopoly supplier of commercial maize, was passed this year to one of Mr Mugabe's most loyal henchmen, Air Marshal Perence Shiri, an alleged war criminal.... The organisation, which is meant to supply maize at subsidised prices to all Zimbabweans, has instead been selling maize only to supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party. Backers of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change went hungry.
Worse still was the country's Food For Work programme. Thousands of opposition supporters would provide 15 days' labour only to be told at the end there was no GMB food for them."
But surely we can set up parallel channels for aid groups? Not really. Back to The Telegraph:
"The GMB is so corrupt and politicised that aid groups shipping food into Zimbabwe are being forced to set up their own expensive parallel storage and distribution facilities, rather than using those of the GMB.... There is also evidence that the Zimbabwean government is deliberately blocking the work of these international aid groups....
A warehouse of supplies organised by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace was blockaded for three months by Zanu-PF militants and an attempt to increase the flow of humanitarian supplies by the World Food Programme (WFP) has also been blocked. The WFP relies on recognised agencies to do the final distribution on the ground and aid sources said the mere presence of a British charity, Save the Children (UK), on a list of possible distributors is hindering expansion.
Aid groups are routinely criticised in the state-owned media in Zimbabwe, accused of being tools of the "imperialist, colonialist West".
Zimbabwean Pundit has more along these lines, and Norm Geras (a leftyblogger who has been covering Zimbabwe for a long time) offers Snapshots from the Brink. There is every reason to expect that, just like Ethiopia in the 1980s (and see pictures and description here), aid will continue to be blocked and diverted to Shona tribal areas that support Zimbabwe's murderous regime. Or just confiscated once the aid workers go away.
And PubliusPundit notes that peaceful measures are fizsling, even as reports of "roundups and holding camps" are filtering out from the opposition.
Getting the picture? Even putting aside one's understandable suspicion of this next source's overall judgement, his description from the Telegraph rings true to common sense:
"What we are seeing is nothing but humanitarian torture," an aid worker said. "It takes three months to die of starvation and this is a torture every bit as bad as beating someone with barbed wire or hanging them from handcuffs."
Um, ever studied what dying of starvation actually involves, dude? It's just a little bit worse than hanging from handcuffs - and there's nothing humanitarian about it.
Anyway, the eternal cluelessness of NGO types isn't the issue here. The point is simply this...
Read those reports again - and tell me exactly how sending aid is going to do anything other than make the donors complicit in Mugabe's tribal-political genocide. Because all it's going to do is ensure that those carrying it out are well fed.
This is the collaboration that dares to wear compassion's mask in our culture today. It is NOT the answer. To anything.
Nor will there be salvation from afar. Perry deHavilland writes from London:
"And where are the marchers in the west? Where are the protesters calling for justice in Zimbabwe? Where is the outrage from those tireless tribunes of the Third World, the UN? Why can I not hear the snarls of fury from the alphabet soup of NGOs? What of the legions of Guardian readers finding out about all this? What are they going to call for? Amnesty International is getting a lot of (bad) publicity from having called Guantanamo Bay 'a gulag' whilst now admitting they do not actually know what is happening there, yet why are they not straining every fibre of their being in opposition to this African horror?"
Surely you jest, Perry. Comrade Mugabe is an anti-colonialist hero to many of them. He got his lifetime pass long ago - and he's been using it for a very long time. Or did you miss the massacres of thousands and reign of terror during the 1980s?
Besides, lighten up! Mass forced starvations aren't just a catastrophe, they're an important neo-Marxist tradition! The poor guy is just trying to be part of the club with his comrades in Russia, North Korea, North Vietnam, China, Ethiopia, and Cambodia. Really, it's all just a differently-relevant culture with its own distinct narratives to cherish as it joins the global rainbow struggle for social justice and equality against the global patriarchical capitalist henegmony. Anyway, don't you know the evil U.S. regime is killing Iraqi babies and serving them at White House banquets with hoisin sauce?
In fairness, some of the liberal commeners here over the last year or so appear to be happy to put a bullet or three in Mugabe. They just haven't thought through the implications of their European idols' inaction for the entire premise of their foreign policy approach. If not the USA, who will bell the cat? Overthrow and/or partition is actually an operation that could be executed with just a few thousand troops, as long air and naval support was there. Heck, Italy and Spain (who both have small carriers and harrier jets) could probably get together and do it all themselves.
Why don't they? Why haven't they even threatened to intervene in Zimbabwe, let alone tried? Why have President Bush's approaches to European allies to take a role on the ground in Sudan been left unanswered as Darfur's people are killed?
And if they won't act in these situations, or even make the attempt, why should we believe in [a] any role for Europe as moral arbiters of much of anything (experience at perpetrating genocide isn't a qualification, mes amis); or [b] their ability and/or willingness to be useful military allies in a serious situation.
Pass another shrimp Gerhard, and let's toast our peaceful selves as we hold a conference for the victims. Afterward. Meanwhile, we'll try not to think about the inconvenient fact that far more citizens died at the hands of their governments last century than ever died in its wars (about 169M to 36M). Or what we might do about that outside the walls of this nice hotel.
"One way or the other, what is nearly certain is that conditions will continue to worsen. The second probability is that Mugabe will not react gently to Stay Away. He has gotten away with so much, so often from the spineless "International Community" -- you know the one that provides unparalleled "legitimacy" -- that he will odds-on overdo his response. What then? I think Professor Stanford Mukasa, a Zimbabwean teaching journalism at a US college had it right when he said that Zimbabweans could not expect the cavalry to ride over the hill, massacre or no."
Still, he becomes more hopeful when he notes that unlike the Europeans, President Bush is looking for regional powers who might be willing to intervene with American air and logistical support, in order to prevent genocide. South Africa is a natural choice, in his mind. It has the geography, and the military capability too.
Unfortunately, Belmont Club is dead wrong.
First, because Comrade Mugabe is still a hero to many in South Africa's ANC. Second, because South Africa knows, as all African countries know, that deposing Mugabe probably means partition. Should Zimbabwe become the next Yugoslavia, the legitimacy of almost every African border and government would immediately be called into question. Better by far that Zimbabweans should suffer genocide, which would disturb the perks and bank accounts of Africa's leaders hardly at all. At least Perry was realistic about that part:
"But of course the South African ANC government, far from being a possible solution to the rapidly deteriorating situation across the border, is aiding and abetting in the Cambodia-ization of Zimbabwe. I look forward to Saint Nelson Mandela taking a loud, public and sustained stand against Mugabe's madness. Yeah, right.
If Tony Blair was serious about doing something about poverty in Africa, he would be sending guns to the MDC and to anyone else who is willing to resist and threatening to have some gentlemen from Hereford put a .338 hole between Mugabe's eyes unless things change radically. What a pity Zimbabwe does not have oil or maybe more people would give a damn what is happening there."
"Perry is quite right, in that South Africa, as well as Zimbabweï¿½s other neighbors, should be taking the lead here. He is a bit wrong on the oil issue though; Sudan has oil, and no-one seems to give a damn there either."
Good point. Perry isn't giving up, though - and here's where he hit me:
"Clearly the only chance for the people of Zimbabwe is for someone, anyone, to help them to rise up and meet violence with violence. They do not need aid, they need guns and ammunition so that supporters of the MDC can start shooting at anyone associated with ZANU-PF or the 'security' services. Time for Mugabe's swaggering police thugs to be met with a hail of gunfire rather than terrified sobbing."
I think Perry is right. More to the point, I think there's a reason that he's right in ways that go beyond just Zimbabwe.
Which brings us to Chester's Zimbabwe and the Kitty Genovese Incident. The title is derived from Phillip Bobbitt's book "The shield of Achilles," which has one chapter called "The Kitty Genovese Incident and the War in Bosnia." If you don't know who Kitty Genovese was, don't worry - his post explains. This is the key, from Bobbitt:
To summarize, we can say that there are five distinct stages through which the bystander must successively pass before effective action can be taken: (1) Notice: he must become aware that some unusual occurrence is taking place; (2) Recognition: he must be able to assess the event and define it as an emergency; (3) Decision: he must then decide that something must be done, that is, he must find a convincing reason for action to be taken; (4) Assignment: the bystander must then assign some person, himself or another, or some institution to be responsible for action; he must answer the question, "who should act in these circumstances?" (5) Implementation: having decided what action should be taken, he must then see that it is actually done. If at any stage in this sequence, a crucial ambiguity is introduced, then the whole process must begin again. The presence of ambiguity in urban life, not the callousness of urban dwellers, is precisely what makes emergency intervention in cities so problematic...
In international politics, the problems multiply. Worry about commitment traps. Situations that don't engage the bystander's interests, even to the level of the citizen bystander who understands that the duty of mutual protection is the first requirement of shared citizenship. Not to mention the danger of active opposition from others who perceive the situation to be very much in their interests. Or dysfunctional frameworks for action that nearly guarantee failure, as I explained in Congo: the Roots - And the Trap.
The effect is predictable, as is the nearly-unblemished failure of the so-called "international community" over the last 30 years. As Bobbitt notes:
So it was with the horrifying events of the three years 1991-1994 in the former state of Yugoslavia: fascinated, frightened, appalled, the civilized world was anything but apathetic. And yet, like Kitty Genovese's murderer, the killers in Bosnia returned again and again, once the threat of outside intervention dissipated, leaving the rest of us as anguished bystanders.
Cambodia, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda... the list goes on more or less ad infinitum. When the world wasn't standing by, the U.N. was busy helping the murderers. As A.L.'s post about U.N. doctor Andrew Thomson's experiences noted: "If You See Blue Helmets, Run!" Actually, the whole quote from Thomson is even more instructive:
"Thomson, who spent two years pulling bodies out of mass graves in Rwanda and the Bosnian town of Srebrenica - corpses of people who had sought safety with the U.N. - concludes: "If blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers show up in your town or village and offer to protect you, run. Or else get weapons. Your lives are worth so much less than theirs."
There's another quote in Chester's post from Bobbitt. I'm going to suggest that its real implications aren't the ones Chester is thinking of as he imagines a rescue that in reality, will never come:
"Time and again, numbers have been overcome by courage and resolution. Sudden changes in a situation, so startling as to appear miraculous, have frequently been brought about by the action of small parties. There is an excellent reason for this.
The trials of battle are severe; troops are strained to the breaking point. At the crisis, any small incident may prove enough to turn the tide one way or the other. The enemy invariably has difficulties of which we are ignorant; to us, his situation may appear favorable while to him it may seem desperate. Only a slight extra effort on our part may be decisive...
It is not the physical loss inflicted by the smaller force, although this may be appreciable, but the moral effect, which is decisive."
Notice. Recognition. Decision. Assignment. Implementation. Courage and resolution. The moral effect. And of course, countervailing force. That is what is required to stop genocide.
Are we more likely to find it among those marked for death and persecution, as they begin to realize their fate? In a global hyperpower that will inevitably have competing and compelling responsibilities besides our 21st century "problem from hell"? Or in a fraudulent "world community" that abets mass hatred (Durban), stands by or collaborates with murderers (Rwanda, Srebrenica), allows existing perpertrators of genocide to represent it on Human Rights (UNHRC), and sees world crises mostly as opportunities to fatten their budgets and rack up air miles (tsunami relief, the Toyota Taliban generally).
A look at the U.N.'s record, and indeed that of the world over the last 30 years, answers that question decisively.
I'll leave the last words to this radio speech by Tendai Biti, an MDC member of parliament. Via Belmont Club:
"I can't tell you - and the hundreds of Central Intelligence Organisation officers who I know are listening to me right now - about who is going to provide the leadership, who is going to do what, and so forth - but what I can guarantee you is that the anger is overflowing in the veins of the average Zimbabweans. They will defend themselves. The time for smiling at fascism is over."
Not in Africa, in the U.N., or among the West's liberal-left New Class and NGO set. But perhaps, just perhaps, in Zimbabwe. Facing an armed populace, the rag-tag gangs of thugs that have characterized genocide's recent history are outmatched - and even the armed forces of the state discover that orderly liquidation of their victims turns into a formidable proposition.
Arm Zimbabwe's opposition. Now. Heck, take a leaf from Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, and send HEAPs (Holocaust Education and Avoidance Pods). Then tell the world (and especially our hypocritical Euro "friends") why.
The Right to Bear Arms. It's not just for Americans any more.
- JUNE 30/05: Mugabe undertakes a major effort to remove the remaining guns from his populace, thus helping to prove my point.
- Lots of good essays etc. via the Trackbacks. For instance...
- Wallo World disagrees, but does so by making a coherent argument. I applaud that, but I do disagree and left a few comments to that effect. Feel free to join in - why should all the fun be confined to this place?
- Rand Simberg's piece covers a legal analysis and study examining the issue of past genocides, armed vs. unarmed populaces, and legal implications.
- Rev. Donald Sensing (formely Maj. Donald Sensing) writes a linked post in which he reminded me of his essay: "Civilization, Violence, Sovereignty and the Second Amendment," as well as Jacques Ellul's "Violence: Reflections from a Christian Perspective" (which is very contrary to the Jewish perspective, I might add).
- Eric Raymond of open source software fame has an essay wherein he argues that the bearing of arms also teaches moral responsibility and ideas like: "It all comes down to you." Never count on being able to undo your choices." The universe doesn't care about motives." Right choices are possible, and the ordinary judgement of ordinary (wo)men is sufficient to make them." Provocative and well-written.