Thursday, December 11, 2008

Turning the Cynicism to 11

I've been catching up on some of my usual reads and I saw something from Baseball Crank which sent my inner cynic into a tizzy. Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said that military intervention may be needed in Zimbabwe if Robert Mugabe does not step down. For those not in-the-know on their oppressive governments, Mugabe has spent the better part of three decades turning the once self-sufficient nation of Zimbabwe into one totally reliant upon foreign aid, while reducing the life expectancy of Zimbabweans by over 20 years. Yes, since 1990 the life expectancy of an infant born in Zimbabwe has dropped from 60 years to 37.


My bad. That is for males.

Life expectancy for females in 34.

20% of 15-19 year olds have AIDS/HIV, so life expectancy won't be increasing anytime soon. In a glass-half-full way though, the AIDS should kill them before the starvation does. Most Zimbabweans are at risk of, something euphamistically called, "food insecurity". I learned that's fancy-talk for "They're probably going to starve". Of course, if the AIDS or starvation doesn't kill them, the cholera might.

And yet tourism is one of Zimbabwe's primary industries. I swear, if I ever had a travel agent book me a vacation to Zimbabwe I'd bring them back a bottle of Zimbabwean water as a gift. Although searching Travelocity, I cannot find a flight from Phoenix to Harare (the capital and largest city in Zimbabwe, learn something new every day), so maybe I don't need to worry about accidently showing up there.

I mention all this because, in 30 some-odd days, President-Elect Obama becomes President Obama. We will have, a Democratic president, taking over office from a Bush, during a time when there is international pressure for a military intervention into a deteriorating African nation, after the US was involved in a war with Iraq.

I have seen this before.

From where I sit there are two ways I see this playing out, both of which have happened very recently.

I think the most likely is that the international community will do two things: jack and squat. No one with the ability to make it happen will call for Mugabe to step down, honor his power-sharing agreement, or do anything to improve the lot of his people. They'll continue to die of preventable diseases or starve to death. Eventually, after a few hundred thousand die (it took 800,000 in Rwanda), peacekeepers will be sent in. They will have an ineffective mandate, not that it will matter since it will be too late to prevent the atrocity that prompted their entry anyway. However, they will likely commit their own atrocities in the form of witholding food aid in exchange for sex with minors, or trading weapons to militia. Heck, they may do both.

The other option will be some sort of military intervention, likely under some auspice of the UN. The British pretty much washed their hands of Zimbabwe when it declared independence. The last time France got involved in a conflict in Africa they managed to have each side in the conflict claim the French were supporting their opposition. The time before that they "won" a conflcit in Algeria by retreating from the colony which then declared itself independent. The time before that they bribed the Barbary pirates to leave them alone (I will never pass up a chance to make cheap jokes about France, no matter how non-topical). Neighboring African countries have the same problems, just to a lesser degree. So, this hypothetical UN action in Zimbabwe will likely rely upon, guess who? The US. This will, of course, send us careening into Bizarro World where Republicans will oppose the President sending troops into harm's way, and Democrats will say that it is a moral imperitive that such intervention occurs.

If pressed I'd guess a 75/25 chance of those two scenarios.

There is a wild card though. It is this wild card which sent my cynic dial to 11.

Mugabe managed to keep himself off the Axis of Evil list through a brilliant plan of not giving Bush a reason to put him there by not having oil in his country, not trading in WMDs, or openly supporting terrorism. With a Democrat coming into office, those won't protect him anymore. If there is one thing the 90's taught us, it's that a Democratic president won't prevent a humanitarian disaster if the country where the disaster is occuring has oil, WMDs, or terrorists. If Mugabe has any sense of self-preservation he'd be wise to go ahead and claim that his government has started a program to make a biological weapon out of cholera. This will accomplish several things for him. It will prevent Democratic presidents from invading. It will also set-up UN sanctions which will enrich him and his supporters. Granted, this will only work until Jeb Bush is elected in 2016.

The only thing that depresses me more than the fact I'm cynical enough to think like this, is the knowledge that I wouldn't be shocked one bit if it happened.


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