Pacifism Fails in the Face of Sovereign Evil: If the U.N. won’t act on its own mandate, then we should use force to combat immutable evil. (Nat Hentoff, June 3rd, 2008, Village Voice)
While the generals ruling Myanmar were drastically limiting international aid for the many thousands of victims of the recent cyclone, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington dismissed the urgent cries for forceful outside intervention.
“Myanmar is a sovereign country,” said Wand Baodong on May 20. “In the end, rescue and relief work will have to rely on the Myanmar government.” […]
After nearly 20 years of reporting on the likes of Sudan’s General al-Bashir and, more recently, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, I’m convinced there are times when the only way to rescue the surviving victims of such monsters is to bypass the U.N. with a league of democratic nations, enough of whose citizens are driven by a visceral need to protect the human rights of people being terrorized by their own sovereign governments.
For many years, I considered myself a nonviolent, direct-action pacifist, one who was greatly influenced by the lessons of the late A.J. Muste, who, Martin Luther King Jr. told me, first turned him onto nonviolent action. A.J. was also a key strategist of the anti–Vietnam War movement. I wrote a book, Peace Agitator, about Muste in time for him to see it before he died.
However, I am forced to conclude, after many decades spent reporting on and witnessing the evidence, that there is such a thing as immutable evil in this world—as personified by, among others, Robert Mugabe and Omar al-Bashir. By advocating the use of force to save their victims, I feel I have betrayed A.J., and probably that part of myself that made me a pacifist. But with General al-Bashir breaking the 2005 peace treaty that put a stop to his 20-year war against black Christians and animists in the south of Sudan—in which over two million people have already died—only force will prevent the opening of (to quote one Western observer there) “the gates of hell.”
The Anglospheric innovation to sovereignty is the requirement that the sovereign govern by the consent of the government and in accordance with our standards of human rights.