Downer Sunday

Brad Plumer's post on Sudan reminded me of a point I've wanted to make. Despite the Bush administration's criminal negligence of the issue, they've actually been among the most attentive to genocide in memory. Save Clinton's eventual intervention in Kosovo -- and that was different because it was in Europe -- the level of indifference and cynicism American politicians exhibit towards African atrocities is stomach-turning. Bush, to his credit, has been willing to call it a genocide (a surprisingly large step), support various measures to stop it, and actually work to keep some degree of attention on the situation. Should we be doing more? Yes, much. But Bush's failures are nastily endemic to the American government, they're not specific to him.

The one Western leader who does care about Africa in a serious, sustained manner is Tony Blair. Indeed, he's actually sent troops to stop a genocide (Sierra Leone), and many observers think that he'd do the same in Sudan if his position in Britain wasn't so weak. With England set to chair a number of international coalitions in the coming years, Blair's single-minded focus on Africa is a primary reason I heavily, heavily support him.

But the point of this post isn't to defend Bush or rehabilitate Blair, it's to note that these two represent the best we've seen in attentiveness to African crises in years. This despite their oft-shown inattentiveness to African crises. Somewhere along the way, much of the world grew used to hearing about genocide and slaughter and murder and war on the African continent -- such reports became background noise, an expected feature of the area. Therefore they stopped shocking us, the political will to interfere in them evaporated (how often can you interfere?), and now the continent hosts shocking slaughters on a basically biyearly basis.