It’s ugly in Zimbabwe. It was ugly in Iraq, too, in 2003. The world is full of ugly places. But let’s hope the coolest of cool heads prevail before any sort of outside intervention is planned in that unfortunate nation.
If anyone has any good ideas about how to help Zimbabwe, I’d like to hear them. Military interention is obviously a nonstarter. Tougher economic sanctions probably won’t do much, except worsen the plight of the Zimbabwe people and tribes not favored by President Robert Mugabe. Yes, he’s murdering and torturing members of the opposition. So what’s your plan? Mine is pretty much: do nothing.
The editor of the Economic Times of India points out one aspect of the hypocritical handwringing about Mugabe, in a Post column:
The vast majority of 20th century world rulers were bloody autocrats, and the shift to democracy in the 21st century has so far been partial and unconvincing. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are autocracies. Does anybody suggest UN action to topple them? All the Central Asian republics are autocracies. Does anybody suggest toppling them? No, because they are generally pro-Western autocracies, and that apparently expiates their sins. Of Mugabe’s many crimes, the one that is apparently unforgivable is that he has confiscated the land of white farmers, killed some and driven out others. In earlier times, when he accommodated whites, the West hailed him as a great freedom fighter. Britain even knighted him. These encomiums were poured on him despite his killing 10,000 to 20,000 members of the rival Matabele tribe during an uprising. Nobody called him a bloody criminal at the time. Only when he turned viciously against whites did the western media and political class suddenly find in him despicable qualities that had somehow escaped them earlier.
This white bias is well understood in Africa–and Asia–and explains why other African rulers have been slow to join Western condemnation of him. Some have finally condemned him now, but none of them wants military action to topple Mugabe.
Condemning Mugabe is one thing, as everyone from George W. Bush to Nelson Mandela has done. But doing something about it is another thing. Lots of people want to blame Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa, for not cutting off Zimbabwe’s electric supply, shutting down the border, and otherwise taking aggressive actions to isolate Mugabe. To my mind, Mbeki argues convincingly that (a) those measures won’t work and (b) they would boomerang to hurt South Africa and the region.
Maybe Mbeki did his best, as the regional African mediator for Zimbabwe, to broker fair elections, and maybe he didn’t. The elections were, in fact, held, and the opposition won control of Zimbabwe’s parliament. Could Mbeki have done any more, given Mugabe’s determination to stay in power? I don’t know. But clearly Mbeki isn’t lining up behind forcible “regime change.”
Even Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader who took refuge in the Dutch embassy and dropped out of the election held today, isn’t calling for armed intervention, though members of this party are.
Of course, the Queen of England did strip Mugabe of the honorary knighthood he received back when he was in favor.