Alex Massie

Michael Gerson Cares More Than You Do

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Michael Gerson, formerly George W Bush's chief speechwriter, has been to the Congo. As you might imagine, it's pretty grim there. So, naturally, Gerson has this to say:

Security in eastern Congo is the prerequisite for political progress. Nkunda will continue to push until someone effectively pushes back. The Congolese army is incapable of defeating him. While the U.N. peacekeeping force is the reason that Goma was not taken, it does not have the political will and the capabilities to contain Nkunda. It lacks rapid-reaction forces and night-fighting capabilities.

This leaves one alternative -- a capable, hard-hitting European military force, supported by the United States, which would stabilize the situation, give the peacekeeping force some breathing room and put a limit on Nkunda's ambitions. But Britain and Germany, to their shame, have opposed this kind of "bridging force." (It is particularly obscene that Germany, of all nations, should lose its outrage at mass violence.)

OK! Now I suspect that Gerson also thinks that we should commit troops to the Sudan. And perhaps to Zimbabwe too. And of course he'd also want to see europe pour more soldiers into Afghanistan. But you can file this column in a drawer marked Pointless. I'm more sympathetic than some to humanitarian intervention, but where does Gerson actually think these troops will come from? Even if there was any great political or popular desire in Britain for intervening in the Congo - and there is, rather emphatically, none whatsoever - there simply aren't the troops to do it. The same might be said of the United States. We're over-stretched as it is. Gerson knows this, I assume, making his column more a matter of moral, concerned ostentation than any practical response to a ghastly situation.

Equally, as Gerson ought to know, it is precisely Germany's history that still makes the Germans reluctant to send their troops overseas. In any case, even assuming these mythical troops were available, what are they supposed to do?  Instead we have hand-wringing accompanied by a belief in military unicorns that can solve all the world's problems all the time. I'd also add that it's rather distasteful for Gerson to suggest that other countries' soldiers be sent off to die in the Congo simply so he can feel better about himself.

What's happening in Congo - or, to be more precise, what's been happening in Congo for more than a decade - is grim and desperate and horrid stuff. But there's a limit to what can realistically be done. Wishing for it to be otherwise when there is no prospect of it being otherwise strikes me as a rather pointless use of the Washington Post's op-ed page.

Over to you Mr Larison.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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