While world attention is focused on Aleppo, outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns in an op-ed published by Newsweek that there’s a real threat of a genocide in South Sudan. He writes:
Tens of thousands have been killed. The social fabric of South Sudan has been shattered. The economy is in ruins. Millions have been displaced from their homes. Hunger and poverty are rampant. Today, more than 6 million people in South Sudan require life-saving aid…The people of South Sudan held out hope after independence following decades of war. Yet their leaders bear the primary responsibility of betraying the people’s trust and bringing the country to ruins and more misery.
South Sudan’s leaders are pretty bad, but responsibility for this tragedy lays primarily with the U.S. government and a cadre of dimwitted amateur diplomats led by George Clooney and Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, not to mention Newsweek itself.
South Sudan’s meltdown was apparent from the earliest days of its 2011 independence, as I wrote about in Gawker, given that the new country’s leaders were a gang of murderous thieves and severely factionalized along tribal and inter-tribal lines. Yet Kristof advocated for creation of the new nation — whose biggest official promoter was Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor — and traveled there for the Independence celebration. “A warm welcome to the world’s newest country, South Sudan, after a tumultuous independence struggle of more than 50 years that cost more than 3 million lives,” he wrote in his On the Ground report. “South Sudanese deserve the celebration they’re enjoying in Juba and around the country.”
Clooney was another of South Sudan’s champions, traveling there at least seven times, for which he was lionized by various reporters. Newsweek published a particularly noxious piece of hagiography in 2014, when the country was already in an advanced state of implosion. Here’s a taste:
If we had to have celebrities, it seemed to me that Clooney was absolutely the best kind…His activism had cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. I could only imagine the angry conversations he must have endured with worried studio heads and agents in Hollywood when he announced he was off to war in Africa. Now one of the biggest stars of his generation was about to fly to a spot about as far from a hospital as it was possible to be on Earth, and then drive away up a lethal dirt road.
The story also found Clooney having a brainstorm while “lying out in the desert and looking up at the stars: South Sudan should have its own spy satellite. If you really want to know how a spy satellite was going to save South Sudan you can read the Newsweek story, but I’d advise you spend your time elsewhere.
Suffice it to say for now that the spy satellite brainstorm didn’t help matters at all and South Sudan is veering towards complete and utter disaster. It’s what generally happens when liberal humanitarian nation-builders have a go at foreign policy, as seen multiple times during the Obama years and as perhaps is best captured in the awful United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, another big fan of South Sudanese nationhood.
ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson presents a host of problems as Trump’s potential secretary of state given his company’s modus operandi of pillaging Third World energy resources. On the other hand, like with Trump himself, there’s not a lot of pretense or phony hopes raised by a foreign policy based on straightforward corporate profiteering. In the end, that approach may be far less dangerous than one rooted in the bogus idea that the United States (and Hollywood) have a special role in the world untainted by self-interest and based purely on its own special humanitarianism.
Note: If you missed it, Power was decimated by, of all people, Vitaly Churkin, her Russian counterpart, in debate late last week about Aleppo after Syrian forces routed U.S.-backed “moderate” rebels. “Are you truly incapable of shame?” Power asked. “Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin?”
It turns out that a big part of the reason that the Syrian government was able to win back Aleppo was that, as brutal and ruthless and corrupt as it is, most of the “moderate” rebels are fundamentalist jihadis and the local population hated them.
Meanwhile, Churkin knocked Power’s softball out of the park, saying it was “as if she is Mother Teresa herself,” and asking her pointedly, “Please, remember the track record of your country.” He was presumably referring to Iraq, Afghanistan and other examples of splendid little American nation-building. Churkin and Putin have plenty to answer for, but — just as the 2016 election has made it laughable for the U.S. to lecture other countries about democracy — Samantha Power has no standing to lecture Russia, or anyone else, about shame.