freeSpeech: Michael Gerson

America is often criticized because we don't work enough with other nations. But on the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, America has worked with just about every international group, from the United Nations to the African Union. And visiting Darfur, I've seen the result — the burned-out villages … the victims of systematic rape … the vast and hopeless camps.

Everyone knows what is needed to stop the bleeding: a U.N. peacekeeping force — with the firepower and authority to protect civilians from attack. What might be called a muscular multilateralism. The U.N. Security Council has agreed to a force. America has called for its deployment by Oct. 1. But that deadline seems to be slipping.

The brutal regime in Sudan has opposed a U.N. force — but the authors of genocide can't be given a veto on attempts to end it. China, Russia and Egypt must stop providing that regime support and cover. The United Nations peacekeeping bureaucracy needs to move quickly, because the violence is multiplying.

And while America has led the world in confronting this genocide, the U.S. must also show our commitment to a successful U.N. military force — not with more boots on the ground, but with air power that could make all the difference in keeping the peace.

Multilateralism is important — but only if it gets results. Keeping to the process, checking the right diplomatic boxes, and the world patting itself on the back while the innocent die is not enough. Sometimes, compassion requires action — and helicopter gunships.


Michael Gerson is the former head of speechwriting and policy advisor to President George W. Bush. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

  • Melissa McNamara

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