Saturday, June 28, 2008

Regime Change Zimbabwe?

The New York Times reports that voters in Zimbabwe went to the polls yesterday, and they were accompanied by fears of Robert Mugabe's tryanny of violence.


The Times also features photo essays of everyday Zimbaweans, including one in which some voters agreed to be photographed on a first-name basis and with their faces partially obscured.

But check out as well
Graham Reilly's essay on the need for regime change in Zimbabwe:

HOW did it come to this? When Robert Mugabe first led his party to electoral victory in 1980, he did so as a national liberation hero promoting a broad and idealistic agenda for social and economic change that did, for a while at least, lead the country to economic prosperity and a literacy rate that was the envy of the region. Folklore has it that in the early days of his presidency, he even taught members of his household how to read and write English. Back then he was a freedom fighter who had won the hearts and minds of his countrymen and who put their interests first.

Twenty-eight years later the 84-year-old Mugabe is a fighter against freedom whose own concerns, and those of the army and security services that prop up his illegitimate, despotic regime, are paramount, even if it means beating, shooting, burning and torturing those who oppose him into bloody submission.

Zimbabwe is an economic, social and political mess, a basket case of hyperinflation, 80% unemployment, ravaged farmland, failed crops, widespread poverty and a population, teetering on the brink of starvation, that is sustained only by international food aid. Three million Zimbabweans have fled to neighbouring countries in search of work and refuge from state-sponsored thuggery. What a difference three decades and a perverse sense of divine right can make.

Had things been different ... the people of Zimbabwe could have cast their votes in a free and fair presidential run-off in which Morgan Tsvangirai would probably have been elected. As the popular leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Tsvangirai won the first round in March, but fell short of the required 50% majority (although even this result is tainted by suspected Government manipulation that would ensure its survival to the second stage).

Mugabe has brutally engineered a people cowed and displaced by an ongoing state program of murder and shuddering intimidation that has left 90 opposition supporters dead and more than 200,000 scattered to the winds. In doing so he has eliminated the possibility of a legitimate vote. In fear for his own life, and reluctant to put the lives of his supporters at further risk, front-runner Tsvangirai has retreated to the safety of the Dutch embassy in Harare and withdrawn from the poll. He did not, he said, want a country of dead bodies. To describe this election as a sham would be to pay it a compliment.

The international community has dragged its feet over recent events in Zimbabwe, no more so than South African President, and the designated mediator of the 14-member Southern African Development Community, Thabo Mbeki, whose quiet diplomacy has been barely audible. But Mbeki's reluctance to criticise his old ally in the fight against white colonialism, has been overtaken by the growing chorus of countries, within and outside southern Africa, demanding that the election be postponed to avert a catastrophe.

The latest among those voices is that of Nelson Mandela, political icon and former South African president. Few voices carry more weight than his and his condemnation of the political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe as a "tragic failure of leadership" marks the beginning of the end of whatever legitimacy Mugabe had left in Africa.

Mugabe has declared that he will go to war if he loses [the] election. He will not lose. But his victory will be recognised by few, perhaps only himself and those who have a vested interest in his survival. His re-election will ensure that the crisis in Zimbabwe will deepen. This cannot be allowed to happen. The international community, led by southern Africa — which must fully set aside its divisions and misplaced loyalties — should now be preparing the ground for political and economic reconstruction in Zimbabwe.

It is never easy to unseat a tyrant, but there is a range of options that should be considered that could help loosen Mugabe's grip on power without resorting to military force. Tougher financial sanctions aimed directly at Mugabe and the Zanu-PF leadership would increase the cost of remaining loyal to Mugabe and would exploit existing divisions within the party hierarchy.

Members of the African Union and the SADC should send a powerful message to Mugabe by refusing to recognise his regime or to do business with him or his representatives. Further, the UN Security Council can make a second, stronger resolution denouncing the regime.
Regime change in Zimbabwe through U.N. pressure or from actions of powerful regional actors may not be enough.

Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, for example,
will not denounce the Mugabe regime. Further, while he later backed off from the proposal, on Wednesday Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's opposition leader, called on the United Nations to send a peacekeeping force to monitor the election.

The entire episode has again raised questions of outside military intervention and
the reemergence of the Bush doctrine of democratic regime change:

A solution for Zimbabwe's crisis isn't hard to come by: Someone – ideally the British – must remove Mr. Mugabe by force, install Mr. Tsvangirai as president, arm his supporters, prevent any rampages, and leave. "Saving Darfur" is a somewhat different story, but it also involves applying Western military force to whatever degree is necessary to get Khartoum to come to terms with an independent or autonomous Darfur. Burma? Same deal.

International relations theorists, including prominent Obama adviser Susan Rice, justify these sorts of interventions under the rubric of a "Responsibility to Protect" – a concept that comes oddly close to Kipling's White Man's Burden. So close, in fact, that its inherent paternalism has hitherto inhibited many liberals from endorsing the kinds of interventions toward which they are now tip-toeing, thousands of deaths too late.

So let's by all means end the hand-wringing and embrace the responsibility to protect, wherever necessary and feasible. Let's spare the thousands of innocents, punish the wicked, oppose tyrants, and support democrats – both in places where it is now fashionable to do so (Burma) and in places where it is not (Iraq). If that turns out to be Mr. Obama's foreign policy, it will be a worthy one. It does come oddly close to the Bush Doctrine.
That sounds fine by me.

For some of the leftist hand-wringing, see "
Zimbabwe - No Case Yet For Armed Intervention."

See also, "
Harare Horror Continues."

Photo Credit: "Residents of Mbare lined up to cast their vote in the country's presidential election at a polling station in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Friday," New York Times.