Genocide. Global warming. Nuclear proliferation. Sex trafficking in Cambodia. Famine in sub-Saharan Africa.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that problems like these tend to sort themselves out if we just ignore them for long enough. So I get annoyed when guys like Nicholas Kristof keep reminding people about them, thereby diverting attention from real issues like steroid abuse in the NFL.
In his latest piece of “offbeat” journalism, Kristof pulls out the stops, explicitly comparing humankind’s current failure to prevent the Darfur genocide with its failure to prevent earlier genocides:
During the Holocaust, the world looked the other way. Allied leaders turned down repeated pleas to bomb the Nazi extermination camps or the rail lines leading to them, and the slaughter attracted little attention. My newspaper, The New York Times, provided meticulous coverage of World War II, but of 24,000 front-page stories published in that period only six referred on page one directly to the Nazi assault on the Jewish population of Europe. Only afterward did many people mourn the death of Anne Frank, construct Holocaust museums, and vow: Never Again.
The same paralysis occurred as Rwandans were being slaughtered in 1994. Officials from Europe to the US to the UN headquarters all responded by temporizing and then, at most, by holding meetings. The only thing President Clinton did for Rwandan genocide victims was issue a magnificent apology after they were dead.
Much the same has been true of the Western response to the Armenian genocide of 1915, the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s, and the Bosnian massacres of the 1990s. In each case, we have wrung our hands afterward and offered the lame excuse that it all happened too fast, or that we didn’t fully comprehend the carnage when it was still under way.
And now — let me guess — the same is happening in Darfur. Arab Janjaweed militias, supported by the Sudanese government, are systemically massacring, raping, and mutilating non-Arab civilians, while the world watches on in horror but does nothing. Dude, what a shocker. I never could have predicted that one.
Think about it. Sixty years after Auschwitz, obviously the world must have solved this genocide thing. The US, or EU, or UN, or someone must have set up some sort of special army that, you know, goes in and stops it before it happens. I mean, anything else would be criminally insane! It would be like 911 putting people on hold for an hour, or a hospital telling a guy spewing arterial blood to sit in the waiting room and read a magazine. Right?
Even if not, I’ve just spent over 20 minutes of valuable procrastination time writing this post and sending some money. So regardless of what happens in Darfur, you can’t accuse me of having sat in my chair and done nothing. No, I sat in my chair and did something.