In the latest issue of Time magazine, Samantha Power — the author of A Problem from Hell and a former adviser to Barack Obama — proposes a radical solution for the crisis in Zimbabwe. Her solution needs a thoughtful reply, because in my opinion it’s dangerously misguided.
Power rose to fame by proclaiming the importance of preventing genocide in failed and failing states, and her book (subtitled “America and the Age of Genocide”) is focused on that hellish problem. But she wouldn’t be so important were she not a formative adviser to Obama’s still-evolving worldview. Her book has lengthy chapters on Cambodia and Rwanda, among others, but its real focus has been the shattered remnants of Yugoslavia, where President Clinton and NATO intervened with force in the 1990s.
In her Time essay, “Saving Zimbabwe,” Power counterposes what she calls two extremes: “hand-wringing … multilateralists” who want to use diplomacy and “constructive engagement” to deal with Robert Mugabe and “consequence-blind militarism by zealous moralists who call for regime change by force.” Thus, she neatly sets herself up as the Goldilocks of the happy middle.
In a nutshell, Power’s plan is for the Zimbabwean opposition to “set up a government-in-exile and appoint ambassadors abroad — including to the UN.” That would force the United Nations to choose between Mugabe’s rep and that of the opposition of Morgan Tsvangirai. She wants to challenge the world to take sides between countries that support the March 29 vote that was won by the opposition and countries that accept the rigged, June 27 action by Mugabe to perpetuate his rule.
One by one, those African and Western leaders who claim to be disgusted with Mugabe should announce that they bilaterally recognize the validity of the March 29 first-round election results, which showed the opposition winning 48% to 43%, though the margin was almost surely larger. The countries which do would make up the new “March 29 bloc” within the U.N. and would declare Morgan Tsvangirai the new President of Zimbabwe. They would then announce that Mugabe and the 130 leading cronies who have already been sanctioned by the West will not be permitted entry to their airports. …
If “the U.N.” is disaggregated into its component parts, Mugabe’s friends will be exposed. “June 27” countries will be those who favor electoral theft, while “March 29” countries will be those who believe that the Zimbabweans aren’t the only ones who should stand up and be counted.