Friday, 21 November 2008

Against a false choice

It has become quite fashionable to say there is no military solution: in Iraq “the solution in Iraq is political, it is not military,” in Afghanistan “there can be no military solution to this conflict only a political one,” and in the Democratic Republic of Congo “there is only a solution to this by discussion and not by military means.” So it was some small relief to read the words, “this is not about political settlement or humanitarian aid or military protection: it is about all three.” 

Whether action follows is another matter - three thousand more peacekeepers doesn’t quite sound like the whole world rolling into action.

The comparative explanations of the geographic scale of the problem have been varied. Congo is as big as Europe. But the eastern region currently in crisis is about the size of Sierra Leone, implying that 3,000 of the right troops might be more than enough, if only without blue helmets. Or it’s twice as big as Belgium, which given Belgium’s political problems makes it potentially the size of two times two, that is to say four little countries.

If you want a reason not to act, then the bigger the better, maybe. Or more sensibly one might think it’s better to act while the problem is contained within two Belgiums, rather than wait once more for the all-of-Europe-sized disaster.

And it doesn’t need to stop there. I’m reminded of this map.

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