Arriving in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, on Thursday morning, Samantha Power offered “a blunt and simple” message, according to the New York Times: “the United States is watching.” Her presence there might not mean much to the citizens of a country reeling from violent revolution, counter-revolution, and brutal attacks by machete-wielding militias; CAR leaders have been calling for increased international attention to the conflict for weeks now, with little effect. Power’s trip, the Times reports, raises the question: “What, exactly, is the United States willing to do to stop Christians and Muslims here from killing one another, and how much is it willing to spend?”The answer, it seems, is “not much.” Power can’t get Washington to do much for now, despite her passionate speeches at the UN, Twitter entreaties, and the concern she has voiced repeatedly to the Obama administration. US interest in CAR, Power has reluctantly admitted, is nonexistent except for a vague desire to prevent “another Rwanda.” The US has contributed $100 million to a peacekeeping effort, but American officials have balked at organizing a UN mission, saying French special forces aided by African troops are a better option. Nevertheless, Power is pushing doggedly onward, making phone calls to the CAR president to express concern about his cabinet choices, meeting peacekeepers and government leaders, and telling reporters that “people in the Central African Republic are in profound danger.”The conflict in CAR, and Power’s inability to get the US or the UN to be more active there, illustrates the problem in dealing with far-flung conflicts in countries that don’t directly affect US interests. Conflicts like those in Congo, CAR, and South Sudan can be horribly brutal (there have been reports of militias in CAR tying up civilians and throwing them to crocodile-infested rivers), and Americans ought to care more on purely humanitarian grounds. “The people who live” through these conflicts, as we wrote elsewhere on this site recently, “are made in God’s image as much as anybody else and they are infinitely dear to him, and to remain indifferent to the suffering of people there is to fail in our clear duty to our Creator and to some degree to betray our own humanity.”But often this isn’t enough. American policymakers have other concerns, and there are other conflicts (Syria, Afghanistan) where American interests are more directly affected. But conflicts in places many Americans couldn’t find on a map matter more in the long term than most of us realize. For one thing, they have a habit of spreading, drawing in countries that are important to the US. Rwanda has been dragged into the conflict in Congo, for example, and Rwanda, which receives over $100 million in aid from the US government, is vital to American foreign policy in east Africa.The conflict in CAR may be contained inside the country for now, but it may not be if Washington ignores it. The world we live in is an explosive one, and religious conflicts like the one consuming CAR are more dangerous than many of us understand.
Massacre in Central AfricaSamantha Power Visits CAR, US Remains Noncommittal
Newer Post Health Insurance Doesn't Always Make You Healthier Older Post NSA Reformers Score a Big Victory