I found Chris Hennemeyer‘s informative opinion piece “Rwandan genocide” (Op-Ed, Nov. 7) well worth reading, but I was rather nonplussed at the conclusion. Mr. Hennemeyer writes, “In 1994 America failed to act when faced with the genocide in Rwanda. In 2008 we have a fresh opportunity to demonstrate to a skeptical world that our country still cares about suffering and injustice.”
The United States was not “faced” with the genocide in Rwanda. The attempt at genocide was being laid on a foreign field in which America’s interests, in a perhaps too-sanguine calculation, did not lie. U.N. troops were present in the field but did nothing to prevent wholesale slaughter. Why, then, does the United States have the obligation to demonstrate to a world whose representatives did nothing that we still care? American aid and outreach (tsunami relief comes prominently to mind) seem to have become expected on the part of the “skeptical world” that then reviles America in international forums. I, as a skeptical American, see a fresh opportunity for other nations of the world to step into the breach and show that the United States is not the only country that is willing to put its citizens and national treasure on the line for the benefit of others.
Finally, Mr. Hennemeyer uses the phrase “active engagement of the international community.” Surely he doesn’t mean a pre-emptive military action. That would be positively Bush Doctrinesque. Or, given U.S.-led NATO’s abandonment of its traditional role as a defensive alliance in the Balkans, Clintonian.