Tsvangirai asks us to invade

Writing in The Guardian, Morgan Tsvangirai asks the U.N. to send peacekeepers into Zimbabwe:

We envision a more energetic and, indeed, activist strategy. Our proposal is one that aims to remove the often debilitating barriers of state sovereignty, which rests on a centuries-old foundation of the sanctity of governments, even those which have proven themselves illegitimate and decrepit. We ask for the UN to go further than its recent resolution, condemning the violence in Zimbabwe, to encompass an active isolation of the dictator Mugabe.

For this we need a force to protect the people. We do not want armed conflict, but the people of Zimbabwe need the words of indignation from global leaders to be backed by the moral rectitude of military force. Such a force would be in the role of peacekeepers, not trouble-makers. They would separate the people from their oppressors and cast the protective shield around the democratic process for which Zimbabwe yearns.

Full article here.

Tsvangirai is not specific, but he seems to be suggesting a Chapter VII peacekeeping mission–the only one that allows force, and one that can enter without the consent of belligerents.

Is this bluster, desperation, or dangerous naivete?

For peacekeepers to enter without the consent of a sitting Government and attempt to force a new election strikes me as an unprecedented move. There is disorder, but not war. There are great crimes being committed, but they are not war crimes.

Moreover, any intervention would almost certainly be met by force, and the country held under occupation for a time.

Tsvangirai did all but say that liberated Zimbabweans would throw flowers to the conquering troops. We have heard this before from darker quarters.

In our adulation for the heroes of the opposition — whether it is Odinga in Kenya, Besigye in Uganda, or Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe — we seldom wonder or worry whether our protagonist is as much a fool or a thug as the sitting President we despise. I still recall the Western press’s short-lived love affair with Laurent Kabila, who overthrew the titan Mobutu in Zaire (now Congo). Tsvangirai’s rash and provocative op-ed is cause for concern.

Update: The Guardian retracts! All a gross misunderstanding?

6 thoughts on “Tsvangirai asks us to invade

  1. Just curious, what is the economic track-record post-UN intervention? Or is there no data on this?

  2. Daniel Larison made a similar point to your last in a post recently at his blog Eunomia at The American Conservative. He said something to this effect: The only difference between a thug dictator and the opposition is that the former is in power. I’m paraphrasing him, but you both make an important point when it comes to international intervention in revolutions/civil wars. So often, your just changing the name of the thug.

  3. In terms of why he would write an op-ed like that, I think he’s actually being pretty clever. An editorial in the Guardian is not going to actually spur the United Nations to invade- Tsvangirai knows that. But the opposition leader asking for foreign miliary intervention makes a forceful statement and draws peoples’ attention. You can call it desperation or bluster, but what else is the guy supposed to do, other than make forceful statements and try to draw peoples’ attention? I would think of it less as a straightforward statement of what Tsvangirai thinks, and more as his response to someone giving him an opportunity to write an editorial in a major media outlet. In that sense, it’s a perfectly reasonable piece to write.

    Tsvangirai has been around for a long time… he’s not the second coming of Nelson Mandela, but it’s very clear he’s at least a second best solution in this case.

  4. It makes me sad that you can compare Tsvangirai’s claim that U.N. peacekeepers would be greeted with open arms to the Bush administration’s similar claim on Iraq. It shows just how damaging the Iraq invasion has been to the prospect of an international community with any teeth.

    In Iraq, you had an unprovoked, unilateral open-ended invasion that was unsanctioned by the U.N., with the invading president declaring that U.S. troops would be greeted with open arms. An invader who simultaneously called on Iraqis not to touch their oil wells. No talk of elections, or of ever leaving.

    In Zimbabwe, you have a politician who by all reports has already won an electoral majority, calling for international peacekeepers to oversee a new election.

    Risks of international intervention still apply, but the Bush administration’s disaster in Iraq should hardly be the baseline for how the U.N. can intervene in humanitarian crises like Zimbabwe.