George Conard, who is working in Rwanda, replies to my post on the Rwandan genocide:
Whether the US has a moral obligation to intervene unilaterally...is a tricky question: you're right that it may not be a specifically US concern but if the US has the capacity to stop the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people I think that it's reasonable to ponder whether they should...
I understand that this is, perhaps, promiscuous and it's not a simple issue to muddle through. I wish I knew the right answer. In general I do agree that the UN is the right organization for interventions, but that requires strong support from member states like the US - and that didn't happen with Rwanda. At the very least, it would have been nice to see the US provide tangible support [to the UN effort] rather than urging delays and restraint and sending vehicles that were essentially useless.
On the issue of Belgium, [there is] a convincing case that the Belgians were exactly the wrong people to intervene. There was a lot of animosity toward the colonial power in Rwanda, and a Belgian intervention would likely have made things worse as they would have likely been seen as heavily biased toward one side in the conflict.
Discussions like these, of course, have been going on for years. The problem is that when something happens like the genocide in Rwanda in '94 or the current genocide in Darfur, the world continues to debate and discuss while people die in massive numbers.
As an aside, while normally a Seattle resident I'm currently working in Kigali (Rwanda) for 3-6 months. I have to say, driving past a church and having a colleague point out that 3000 people were massacred inside and knowing that it's one of hundreds of locations like this really drives home the reality of the situation. We should be careful about making emotional decisions, yes, but we also shouldn't remove our humanity from policy decisions.