Posts Tagged ‘Bill Clinton’
Comes, not so surprisingly, from FDL. Jon Walker:
According to the Obama administration, imposing a no fly zone doesn’t count as war. Nor does launching long-range smart missiles against a sovereign country or using high altitude bombers. Apparently, even using low-flying, heavily armed, ground-attack aircraft to hit a foreign country’s ground forces or providing direct air support to a rebel army count as war, either.
I’m curious just how far this “as long as American troops are technically in the air it isn’t actually a war” logic can be stretched. Is there specific altitude threshold, or is it as long as our armed forces don’t physically touch the ground that it isn’t a war? Do helicopters count? Do ground-hugging flying armed drones count?
From here, it gets more silly. A few points from reality:
First, every nation-state is sovereign; it’s inherent in the definition. The question is when that sovereignty ends or becomes over-riden by another principle.
Second, the theory behind the United Nations Charter and article 42 in particular is that it is possible that humanitarian violations can inherently cause a loss of sovereignty. I notice there were no major complaints when Obama said that Gaddafi or other dictators had lost the right to rule. That was not respective of sovereignty either. When it does not suit him, Walker ignores issues of sovereignty and instead claims the US keeps dictators in power. And you’ll be happy to know he’s never written on Bahrain or Yemen. Are those leaders sovereign? What about in Syria? It’s easy to say a country is sovereign if you have no idea what that means or when it ends. This is because nowadays we understand sovereignty comes, generally, from the populace, even if not directly through the democratic process. So yes, Gaddafi sending his army to the edge of the city and credibly threatening a massacre would certainly have to have some effect on sovereignty. If you disagree with that, you’re basically disagreeing with all progress in international law the past 150 years.
Third, it’s not the air attack that makes this not a war – that simply makes casualties far less likely which buttresses public opinion (see Mogadishu). A war can be by any one or a combination of at land, war, or sea. Whether action is a war is determined pro forma by the process leading to it, not by the fact that weapons are used. When Bill Clinton fired cruise missiles on (allegedly) terrorist locations or into Iraq, was he declaring war? What about when Clinton intervened in Haiti or Kosovo? And maybe all of these were terrible tactical decisions (or maybe all brilliant) – that’s not the point. But did they amount to war? No, even if the people participating in the actions could not tell the difference. A lot of smart people have thought about when the war powers clause ought be invoked; none have been this glib about it.
Samantha Power, now a key advisor to Barack Obama,was a strong advocate for the military action in Libya. In September 2001, she wrote a long article for the Atlantic regarding the inaction of the Clinton Administration in Rwanda. Certain parts are revealing in regards to potential Obama thinking now.
She identifies three key problems with the Clinton administration approach. The first is a threaten to disengage peacekeepers – which in the end only helped the Tutsi who wanted them gone. This isn’t worth spending too much time on – everyone knows now disengaging in Libya would would help Gaddafi. A key difference between Libya and Rwanda is that everyone knows who the aggressor is in Libya (even if the ultimate composition of the rebels is not as well known).
The second concern has a tangential connection, but not more. Power:
Second, before and during the massacres U.S. diplomacy revealed its natural bias toward states and toward negotiations. Because most official contact occurs between representatives of states, U.S. officials were predisposed to trust the assurances of Rwandan officials, several of whom were plotting genocide behind the scenes. Those in the U.S. government who knew Rwanda best viewed the escalating violence with a diplomatic prejudice that left them both institutionally oriented toward the Rwandan government and reluctant to do anything to disrupt the peace process.
If anything, there’s an institutional bias towards not trusting Gaddafi here – he’s earned that reputation through decades of his actions. The international community never really pushed for negotiations blindly. And if anything, the extent of social media has made such institutional bias harder to have. We now know almost immediately when cities or citizens are under attack. This doesn’t really explain or justify the actions of the U.S. here, but it is an interesting footnote, I think.
The third criticism by Power is more directly relevant:
The third problematic feature of U.S. diplomacy before and during the genocide was a tendency toward blindness bred by familiarity: the few people in Washington who were paying attention to Rwanda before Habyarimana’s plane was shot down were those who had been tracking Rwanda for some time and had thus come to expect a certain level of ethnic violence from the region. And because the U.S. government had done little when some 40,000 people had been killed in Hutu-Tutsi violence in Burundi in October of 1993, these officials also knew that Washington was prepared to tolerate substantial bloodshed. When the massacres began in April, some U.S. regional specialists initially suspected that Rwanda was undergoing “another flare-up” that would involve another “acceptable” (if tragic) round of ethnic murder.
Isn’t this exactly what is going on in the Middle East? That we’ve seen from Afghanistan to Algeria people revolting and facing violence or death for doing so.
Now, maybe there’s still no way this can end well or the military mission is muddled, but that doesn’t mean a dictator threatening to go all Sodom and Gomorrah on the opposition should be ignored.
More accurately, isn’t a lot of the opposition to action specifically driven by fear of Libya becoming another Afghanistan or Iraq? That’s as much as a form of entrenched tunnel vision as ignorance to the possibility of genocide was then. There’s a reason the slippery slope is such a prominent argument now: protecting citizens is by definition endless, so the assumption is it has to escalate. The way to guard against that is simple: do not escalate. There’s powerful incentives for everyone in the administration to resist at this level of involvement (indeed, the only way I see American boots on the ground is if Obama loses in 2012 or if peacekeepers are needed).
Power also tells a story of how American interests were calculated at the time. Sound familiar?
Warren Christopher appeared on the NBC news program Meet the Press the morning the evacuation was completed. “In the great tradition, the ambassador was in the last car,” Christopher said proudly. “So that evacuation has gone very well.” Christopher stressed that although U.S. Marines had been dispatched to Burundi, there were no plans to send them into Rwanda to restore order: they were in the region as a safety net, in case they were needed to assist in the evacuation. “It’s always a sad moment when the Americans have to leave,” he said, “but it was the prudent thing to do.” The Republican Senate minority leader, Bob Dole, a spirited defender of Bosnia’s besieged Muslims at the time, agreed. “I don’t think we have any national interest there,” Dole said on April 10. “The Americans are out, and as far as I’m concerned, in Rwanda, that ought to be the end of it.”
Worse, is there were readily available forces to stop the killing:
If the soldiers ferried in for the evacuation had teamed up with UNAMIR, Dallaire would have had a sizable deterrent force. At that point he commanded 440 Belgians, 942 Bangladeshis, 843 Ghanaians, 60 Tunisians, and 255 others from twenty countries. He could also call on a reserve of 800 Belgians in Nairobi. If the major powers had reconfigured the thousand-man European evacuation force and the U.S. Marines on standby in Burundi—who numbered 300—and contributed them to his mission, he would finally have had the numbers on his side. “Mass slaughter was happening, and suddenly there in Kigali we had the forces we needed to contain it, and maybe even to stop it,” he recalls. “Yet they picked up their people and turned and walked away.”
There was also an institutional reluctance to avoid legal findings that would commit the US to do something (as well as an odd anecdote about Susan Rice:
Even after the reality of genocide in Rwanda had become irrefutable, when bodies were shown choking the Kagera River on the nightly news, the brute fact of the slaughter failed to influence U.S. policy except in a negative way. American officials, for a variety of reasons, shunned the use of what became known as “the g-word.” They felt that using it would have obliged the United States to act, under the terms of the 1948 Genocide Convention. They also believed, understandably, that it would harm U.S. credibility to name the crime and then do nothing to stop it. A discussion paper on Rwanda, prepared by an official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and dated May 1, testifies to the nature of official thinking. Regarding issues that might be brought up at the next interagency working group, it stated,
1. Genocide Investigation: Language that calls for an international investigation of human rights abuses and possible violations of the genocide convention. Be Careful. Legal at State was worried about this yesterday—Genocide finding could commit [the U.S. government] to actually “do something.” [Emphasis added.] At an interagency teleconference in late April, Susan Rice, a rising star on the NSC who worked under Richard Clarke, stunned a few of the officials present when she asked, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?” Lieutenant Colonel Tony Marley remembers the incredulity of his colleagues at the State Department. “We could believe that people would wonder that,” he says, “but not that they would actually voice it.” Rice does not recall the incident but concedes, “If I said it, it was completely inappropriate, as well as irrelevant.”
We’re seeing the same reluctance to act today, only it’s outside of the administration and occasionally for valid reasons.
What’s truly odd is that such reluctance is coming from someone like Andrew Sullivan, who 1) obsessively chronicles everything in the region and 2) is rightfully upset the Obama refuses an investigation into torture practices under George W. Bush. Illegality under international and humanitarian law is serious, and Obama should investigate it and be prepared to take action whenever possible. He should have done a lot more on torture. But he should also be prepared to do as much on international humanitarian situations as well.
Also worth noting: Power cites Donald Steinberg as the primary advocate for intervention in Rwanda. Steinberg is now the Deputy Director of USAID.
There was apparently more concern about the gorillas than the people within the government:
During the entire three months of the genocide Clinton never assembled his top policy advisers to discuss the killings. Anthony Lake likewise never gathered the “principals”—the Cabinet-level members of the foreign-policy team. Rwanda was never thought to warrant its own top-level meeting. When the subject came up, it did so along with, and subordinate to, discussions of Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia. Whereas these crises involved U.S. personnel and stirred some public interest, Rwanda generated no sense of urgency and could safely be avoided by Clinton at no political cost. The editorial boards of the major American newspapers discouraged U.S. intervention during the genocide. They, like the Administration, lamented the killings but believed, in the words of an April 17 Washington Post editorial, “The United States has no recognizable national interest in taking a role, certainly not a leading role.” Capitol Hill was quiet. Some in Congress were glad to be free of the expense of another flawed UN mission. Others, including a few members of the Africa subcommittees and the Congressional Black Caucus, eventually appealed tamely for the United States to play a role in ending the violence—but again, they did not dare urge U.S. involvement on the ground, and they did not kick up a public fuss. Members of Congress weren’t hearing from their constituents. Pat Schroeder, of Colorado, said on April 30, “There are some groups terribly concerned about the gorillas … But—it sounds terrible—people just don’t know what can be done about the people.” Randall Robinson, of the nongovernmental organization TransAfrica, was preoccupied, staging a hunger strike to protest the U.S. repatriation of Haitian refugees. Human Rights Watch supplied exemplary intelligence and established important one-on-one contacts in the Administration, but the organization lacks a grassroots base from which to mobilize a broader segment of American society.
Powers is most amazed that no one ever considered any intervention because of Somalia:
One senior U.S. official remembers, “When the reports of the deaths of the ten Belgians came in, it was clear that it was Somalia redux, and the sense was that there would be an expectation everywhere that the U.S. would get involved. We thought leaving the peacekeepers in Rwanda and having them confront the violence would take us where we’d been before. It was a foregone conclusion that the United States wouldn’t intervene and that the concept of UN peacekeeping could not be sacrificed again.”
A foregone conclusion. What is most remarkable about the American response to the Rwandan genocide is not so much the absence of U.S. military action as that during the entire genocide the possibility of U.S. military intervention was never even debated. Indeed, the United States resisted intervention of any kind.
Power continues, making the argument that even a limited UN presence can have a significant deterrent effect:
But Clarke underestimated the deterrent effect that Dallaire’s very few peacekeepers were having. Although some soldiers hunkered down, terrified, others scoured Kigali, rescuing Tutsi, and later established defensive positions in the city, opening their doors to the fortunate Tutsi who made it through roadblocks to reach them. One Senegalese captain saved a hundred or so lives single-handedly. Some 25,000 Rwandans eventually assembled at positions manned by UNAMIR personnel. The Hutu were generally reluctant to massacre large groups of Tutsi if foreigners (armed or unarmed) were present. It did not take many UN soldiers to dissuade the Hutu from attacking. At the Hotel des Mille Collines ten peacekeepers and four UN military observers helped to protect the several hundred civilians sheltered there for the duration of the crisis. About 10,000 Rwandans gathered at the Amohoro Stadium under light UN cover. Brent Beardsley, Dallaire’s executive assistant, remembers, “If there was any determined resistance at close quarters, the government guys tended to back off.” Kevin Aiston, the Rwanda desk officer at the State Department, was keeping track of Rwandan civilians under UN protection. When Prudence Bushnell told him of the U.S. decision to demand a UNAMIR withdrawal, he turned pale. “We can’t,” he said. Bushnell replied, “The train has already left the station.”
Power was also outraged by attempts of the US and UN to look like it cared while it really left people to die:
After the UN vote Clarke sent a memorandum to Lake reporting that language about “the safety and security of Rwandans under UN protection had been inserted by US/UN at the end of the day to prevent an otherwise unanimous UNSC from walking away from the at-risk Rwandans under UN protection as the peacekeepers drew down to 270.” In other words, the memorandum suggested that the United States was leading efforts to ensure that the Rwandans under UN protection were not abandoned. The opposite was true.
Power highlights how little America even said regarding Rwanda:
Throughout this period the Clinton Administration was largely silent. The closest it came to a public denunciation of the Rwandan government occurred after personal lobbying by Human Rights Watch, when Anthony Lake issued a statement calling on Rwandan military leaders by name to “do everything in their power to end the violence immediately.” When I spoke with Lake six years later, and informed him that human-rights groups and U.S. officials point to this statement as the sum total of official public attempts to shame the Rwandan government in this period, he seemed stunned. “You’re kidding,” he said. “That’s truly pathetic.”
The Department of Defense was strongly against any type of intervention, finding any reason to even stop radio broadcasts imploring genocide. Read the page here.
But Power doesn’t blame the Pentagon for that, she blames the White House:
However significant and obstructionist the role of the Pentagon in April and May, Defense Department officials were stepping into a vacuum. As one U.S. official put it, “Look, nobody senior was paying any attention to this mess. And in the absence of any political leadership from the top, when you have one group that feels pretty strongly about what shouldn’t be done, it is extremely likely they are going to end up shaping U.S. policy.” Lieutenant General Wesley Clark looked to the White House for leadership. “The Pentagon is always going to be the last to want to intervene,” he says. “It is up to the civilians to tell us they want to do something and we’ll figure out how to do it.”
But with no powerful personalities or high-ranking officials arguing forcefully for meaningful action, mid-level Pentagon officials held sway, vetoing or stalling on hesitant proposals put forward by mid-level State Department or NSC officials. If Pentagon objections were to be overcome, the President, Secretary Christopher, Secretary Perry, or Anthony Lake would have to step forward to “own” the problem, which did not happen.
That’s exactly what did happen regarding Libya – Clinton, Rice, and Power herself stepped forward and owned the problem. Obama backed them, and the Pentagon is finding a way to achieve the goals set forth in the UN Resolution.
Power mentions the peacekeeping strategy of Richard Clarke, who opposed meaningful intervention in Libya. Does this sound familiar?
America’s new peacekeeping doctrine, of which Clarke was the primary architect, was unveiled on May 3, and U.S. officials applied its criteria zealously. PDD-25 did not merely circumscribe U.S. participation in UN missions; it also limited U.S. support for other states that hoped to carry out UN missions. Before such missions could garner U.S. approval, policymakers had to answer certain questions: Were U.S. interests at stake? Was there a threat to world peace? A clear mission goal? Acceptable costs? Congressional, public, and allied support? A working cease-fire? A clear command-and-control arrangement? And, finally, what was the exit strategy?
Samantha Power on what could have been done:
A more serious challenge comes from the U.S. officials who argue that no amount of leadership from the White House would have overcome congressional opposition to sending U.S. troops to Africa. But even if that highly debatable point was true, the United States still had a variety of options. Instead of leaving it to mid-level officials to communicate with the Rwandan leadership behind the scenes, senior officials in the Administration could have taken control of the process. They could have publicly and frequently denounced the slaughter. They could have branded the crimes “genocide” at a far earlier stage. They could have called for the expulsion of the Rwandan delegation from the Security Council. On the telephone, at the UN, and on the Voice of America they could have threatened to prosecute those complicit in the genocide, naming names when possible. They could have deployed Pentagon assets to jam—even temporarily—the crucial, deadly radio broadcasts.
Instead of demanding a UN withdrawal, quibbling over costs, and coming forward (belatedly) with a plan better suited to caring for refugees than to stopping massacres, U.S. officials could have worked to make UNAMIR a force to contend with. They could have urged their Belgian allies to stay and protect Rwandan civilians. If the Belgians insisted on withdrawing, the White House could have done everything within its power to make sure that Dallaire was immediately reinforced. Senior officials could have spent U.S. political capital rallying troops from other nations and could have supplied strategic airlift and logistic support to a coalition that it had helped to create. In short, the United States could have led the world.
It’s worth noting that a lot of these things have been done in Libya already.
Power concludes with three direct criticisms of the Clinton Administration in the matter:
Strikingly, most officials involved in shaping U.S. policy were able to define the decision not to stop genocide as ethical and moral. The Administration employed several devices to keep down enthusiasm for action and to preserve the public’s sense—and, more important, its own—that U.S. policy choices were not merely politically astute but also morally acceptable. First, Administration officials exaggerated the extremity of the possible responses. Time and again U.S. leaders posed the choice as between staying out of Rwanda and “getting involved everywhere.” In addition, they often presented the choice as one between doing nothing and sending in the Marines. On May 25, at the Naval Academy graduation ceremony, Clinton described America’s relationship to ethnic trouble spots: “We cannot turn away from them, but our interests are not sufficiently at stake in so many of them to justify a commitment of our folks.”
We’re seeing this same response from critics, who either fear or, worse, want boots on the ground.
Second, the future of the UN is at stake. Maybe this might not work, but it’s better to try than allow the UN to become irrelevant:
Second, Administration policymakers appealed to notions of the greater good. They did not simply frame U.S. policy as one contrived in order to advance the national interest or avoid U.S. casualties. Rather, they often argued against intervention from the standpoint of people committed to protecting human life. Owing to recent failures in UN peacekeeping, many humanitarian interventionists in the U.S. government were concerned about the future of America’s relationship with the United Nations generally and peacekeeping specifically. They believed that the UN and humanitarianism could not afford another Somalia. Many internalized the belief that the UN had more to lose by sending reinforcements and failing than by allowing the killings to proceed. Their chief priority, after the evacuation of the Americans, was looking after UN peacekeepers, and they justified the withdrawal of the peacekeepers on the grounds that it would ensure a future for humanitarian intervention. In other words, Dallaire’s peacekeeping mission in Rwanda had to be destroyed so that peacekeeping might be saved for use elsewhere.
Lastly, Power argues that engagement was considered a substitute for meaningful action
A third feature of the response that helped to console U.S. officials at the time was the sheer flurry of Rwanda-related activity. U.S. officials with a special concern for Rwanda took their solace from mini-victories—working on behalf of specific individuals or groups (Monique Mujawamariya; the Rwandans gathered at the hotel). Government officials involved in policy met constantly and remained “seized of the matter”; they neither appeared nor felt indifferent. Although little in the way of effective intervention emerged from mid-level meetings in Washington or New York, an abundance of memoranda and other documents did.
Lastly, Power gives a quote from Susan Rice that is certainly revealing:
Susan Rice, Clarke’s co-worker on peacekeeping at the NSC, also feels that she has a debt to repay. “There was such a huge disconnect between the logic of each of the decisions we took along the way during the genocide and the moral consequences of the decisions taken collectively,” Rice says. “I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.” Rice was subsequently appointed NSC Africa director and, later, assistant secretary of state for African affairs; she visited Rwanda several times and helped to launch a small program geared to train selected African armies so that they might be available to respond to the continent’s next genocide. The American appetite for troop deployments in Africa had not improved.
BTW, in context that means Rice would go down in flames arguing for force, not that she would want any mission to go down in flames.
Given that Samantha Power was a key supporter and advisor to Obama during his campaign, I’d say Sullivan should have taken the time to read this article and her other work before supporting him. He might not be shocked at UN action now.
Granted, this was in the middle of campaign season, but it’s prescient:
Clinton has often said that not acting in Rwanda was one of his biggest regrets. It’s a decision, he said, for which he continues to try to make amends. Had he listened to his wife, Clinton said, things might have been different.
“I believe if I had moved we might have saved at least a third of those lives,” he said. “I think she clearly would have done that.”
He went on to explain how America, which did intervene in the former Yugoslavia, could only take on so much at once. But not acting in Rwanda, he suggested, was a mistake his wife wouldn’t make.
She’s Secretary of State now, but that’s exactly what did happen.
This post doesn’t really require much analysis. Just take a look at the juxtaposition of three headlines on the Drudge Report this morning, and you tell me if Drudge is trying to make a funny…
Eugene Volokh thinks it is too early for a campaign to repeal the 22nd Amendment:
I have no informed opinion on the subject of term limits for Presidents, and can see good arguments in either direction. Perhaps the voters should be entitled to choose Obama for a third time in 2016 (if of course they choose him a second time in 2012). Or perhaps the political power of an incumbent President can be made so great, especially if the incumbent knows that he may legally be reelected indefinitely, that the people will in reality have more choice if term limits are imposed.
But I am pretty sure that it’s a bit early to get the public excited about “making Obama’s third term possible,” though maybe that’s the slogan that’s needed to get donations from the base. And more broadly, it seems to me that this is the sort of amendment that — like the Twenty-Second Amendment itself — should be drafted not to apply to the person who is in office when the amendment is proposed. Both as a matter of policy and politics, any such change should be focused on the principle, and not on allowing the reelection of any particular person.
I agree with all of that.
On a practical matter, amending the Constitution requires two thirds of both houses and legislative approval by 75% of states. Obama may be a political dynamo right now, but he doesn’t have near the type of support to make that happen. There’s a reason why, most of the time, amendments based upon the political power of one person fail in this country – most don’t have that power.
On an additional level, I don’t think nowadays – with the near constant scrutiny and short political lives, that anyone could physically pr politically be President for three full terms. Even before the financial crisis, Republicans were running away from Bush. Clinton was an anchor tied to Gore in 2000. Now, partisans on both sides might take issue, but that’s the point: only partisans feel that way.
The 22nd Amendment may not have been intended for these reasons – it may have been intended for the reasons Volokh mentions. But in practice, it reflects political norms and becomes a convenient excuse. And circumstances should drastically change and a time should happen where we need to eliminate it, we should weigh all these factors then – even if the change would apply the man in office. Hopefully we’ll have the foresight and vision to do so in a sober manner.
Michael Tomasky says that Bill Clinton is doing a “very weird thing”:
As you know, Hillary left the Senate. As you likely know, New York Gov. David Paterson replaced her with Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, a moderate upstate two-termer. Gillibrand wasn’t a terribly popular choice among the state’s liberals, and even less so among the state’s congressional delegation, many of whom had far more years of service on Capitol Hill than Gillibrand did.
And so one New Yorker who is both more liberal and considerably more senior to Gillibrand, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of the East Side, decided she’ll run against Gillibrand in 2010.
No one can stop her, but virtually all the state’s Democrats have rallied around Gillibrand, as has the White House. Hillary, since she’s now a diplomat, can’t take a public position, but there was every reason to think that privately H. Clinton had to have given some kind of nod.
But now comes word that who is headlining a July 20 fundraiser for Maloney? Yes. Bill Clinton!
This is just a deeply weird thing for him to be doing. Mind you I like Maloney. I think she’d be a better senator than Gillibrand. But for a state’s Democratic establishment to have settled on something and then have a former president of all people go against that is unheard of.
This sounds serious! Jonathan Martin used similarly shocking language. Bucking the party line, especially when Obama and Biden have both weighed in on Gillibrand’s behalf. There has to be some really good explanation! Well, there is:
Interestingly, Bill previously did a fundraiser for Gillibrand herself, as he has done for many politicians who supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Both Gillibrand and Maloney supported Hillary during the 2008 primaries.
When asked for comment, Gillibrand spokesman Matt Canter instead pointed us over to a statement by an unnamed aide to Bill, who told PolitickerNY that this was not a shot against the incumbent: “The former president believes that Senator Gillibrand is doing a good job as senator and this type of thank-you event, and any other he may do, should not be read as an endorsement or un-endorsement.”
In related news, Clinton is not doing a fundraiser for another upstart Senate primary challenger, Joe Sestak.
Bill Clinton is not going to run around causing messes without a good reason. Does anyone really believe he would stay in lockstep this long with Obama and Hillary and now defy them over Carolyn Maloney?