Since we’re on the theme of movies, I watched Hotel Rwanda a few week back and was very moved by it. I’m not so sure the movie itself was great, but it was definitely good. The story on the other hand merits a lot of introspection.
So what are we to do with the problems of the world, even problems as big as genocide? What is our obligation to the world both in a secular sense and in a religious sense? In the end, that’s what this movie challenges us about. The movie obviously comes down on the side of the need for intervention and it makes a good case for it. How can we turn our backs on a million people who are being killed because of their race (or for any reason for that matter)? To watch this genocide through the movie’s perspective takes a great toll on one’s conscience.
However, this type of injustice has happened for all of human history. It continues to happen with such frequency in the modern world that for a nation or set of nations to militarily try to prevent all of them would be a MASSIVE strain, if not unbearable one, on those countries.
So what are we to do? Turn our back? Only provide humanitarian aid? Selectively pick the ones we care enough about to take military action based on our sympathies and personal interests? (This seems to be the current strategy.) Set a threshold above which we will intervene in any conflict? Get involved in every conflict in which civilians are being slaughtered? Get involved in any conflict with significant loss of live (military or otherwise)?After watching this movie I didn’t have an answer (although there are options I’ve listed that are not acceptable to me). I don’t know if I ever will have an answer.
What I do know is that I took away from the movie is that there is a great need for a sense of honesty in what we’re willing to do. We often hear the UN issue strong condemnations and embargos and the such that aren’t actually backed up. The movie pointed very strongly to the disasters that can result from having the UN there under the impression that they’re going to keep the peace but unwilling to actually get involved when all hell breaks loose. Many people’s lives were put in jepordy because a false set of expectations surrounded the UN’s role and their willingness to get involved.
This is not to say that it’s an all or nothing proposition. What I am saying is that if the UN’s role is just to monitor the situation, then that better be all it does and it better make it clear that is what it is there for. Or said more generally, when it enters a situation it needs to make clear what it’s role is and be willing to actually follow through on that role.
I think the big reason the UN (and the US as well) doesn’t make clear it’s role is because it itself can not determine what it wants its role to be. Until we go through the process of deciding what we want our role to be (and make the decision decisively) we are guaranteed to put others in jeopordy, those who are counting on us to follow through on our commitments or our principles and are let down.
Hopefully movies like Hotel Rwanda will help us have the discussion necessary to make those decisions at least at the federal level if not at the UN level.