The Lessons of Rwanda's Genocide


Fox News's Special Report had the following exchange a few days back where Bush demonstrated a curious understanding of history:

GOLER: The president says it's better that African nations deal with African problems. White soldiers in Darfur, he believes, would be targets for all sides.

BUSH: A clear lesson I learned in the museum was that outside forces tend to divide people up inside their country and are unbelievably counterproductive.

The museum, as Atrios notes, was the Rwandan genocide museum. The lesson Bush internalized, as should be apparent, is the opposite lesson one ought draw from Rwanda. It wasn't outside forces that caused the slaughter. It was the world's failure to act that allowed the slaughter to continue.

This is not a partisan issue. Bill Clinton has much -- perhaps the most -- to answer for in this regard as well. As David Halberstam's book War in a Time of Peace makes clear, Clinton knew full well that genocide was taking place and not only failed to act, he ordered staff not to use the "g" word until it was well too late.

This is to Clinton's great shame, and it's no surprise Bush doesn't know any better. Looking to the future, though, one candidate might be able to use the opportunity to gain ground on foreign policy issues as well as moral authority.

Barack Obama's advisor Samantha Power is an expert on this issue, having won the Pulitzer for her book on the topic.

It'll be interesting to see if Obama (or Power through the candidate) uses Bush's recent words to draw a distinction between his foreign policy views and those of the last two presidents. This could be a chance for him to proactively counteract those who would tar him as nothing more than an eloquent voice, bereft of ideas.

A lot is going on in the race, and much relates to foreign policy. Will Obama (or Power through him) take this opportunity to the bully pulpit? We'll see.

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