CONTRA MATT. My friend over the cubicle wall does a disservice to the debate over Darfur by calling into question some basic facts about the genocide. First, he falls into a trap that paralyzed international responses to genocide following the holocaust. Namely, that �genocide� primarily means the German slaughter of the Jews of Europe.
The legal definition is a bit broad, and it's best to leave it up to the lawyers at the State Department and the United Nations to argue over whether it fits the case at hand. What comes to mind when non-lawyers hear the word "genocide," however, is something akin to the events of the Holocaust, where a regime pursues the destruction of an ethnic group as an end in and of itself. Without denying that monstrous things are being done in Darfur, I don't think that genocide -- in this sense -- is what's happening.
Undoubtedly, he is correct. Darfur is not Europe in 1939. Jews are not getting carted off to death camps in Poland. But genocide is not the exclusive providence of this historical event. Indeed, as Matt notes, it is a legal term with a definition. And that definition, which Matt calls broad, encompasses much more than the Holocaust. Namely, it is the intent to destroy in part or whole an ethnic or religious group. �Intent,� here, is the operative word. And there is a mountain of empirical evidence, to demonstrate that �genocide� is the most accurate way to describe the slaughter in Darfur. Instead of taking on this evidence (which is best summarized by Adam Lowenstein, a member of a team commissioned by the State Department that interviewed a statistical threshold of 1,136 Darfur refugees in Chad in the summer of 2004, and subsequently found that the slaughter amounted to genocide), Matt rejects this genocide finding because it doesn�t resemble what he thinks a genocide looks like.
Matt also suggests that Darfur more resembles the classic counterinsurgency tactics employed by unsavory regimes, like the Khmer Rouge and the Ba�athist, than an archetypical genocide. But these two are not mutually exclusive concepts. To the extent that a counterinsurgency tactic includes destroying the population base of the insurgents, then genocide is occurring. In Darfur, Khartoum is fighting an insurgency by raping, killing, and starving Darfuris to death. The reason individuals are being targeted for slaughter, rape, and starvation is because of their ethnicity, and their ethnicity alone. Of course, absent the insurgency, the genocide probably would not be taking place. Nonetheless, genocide is taking place in the context of a counterinsurgency.
Finally, I should add that Matt is absolutely correct to take The New Republic to task for their offensive unsigned editorial that is long on high-octane rhetoric, but completely devoid of policy proposals to curb the genocide. TNR has wielded genocide as a rhetorical weapon to score points against progressives (like me) who are skeptical about the wisdom of deploying American troops to Darfur. Instead of offering specific proposals that answer the legitimate questions that Matt raises at the end of his column, the TNR editorial appropriates the Darfur genocide to attack liberals. This is shameful. But I do not accept that the appropriate response to TNR is to stoop to their level and wield �genocide� to snap back.
--Mark Leon Goldberg