The war ravaged landscapes are etched in our minds. The gaunt faces of innocent children waiting to die as a result of governmental forces bombing the fields their families have tended since biblical times haunt the news broadcasts, and some of our dreams.
There are many voices who quite vociferously dispute whether America has any stake, any national interest, in helping. Some oppose any aid altogether. They don't want to spend a dime on anyone outside the United States. Others want to do just enough to assuage the guilt they feel, knowing freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction, or some saying to that effect once spoken by a beloved icon.
As for freedom, there is always a cost. Blood, treasure, sacrifice and imperfect leaders trying to make the best decisions possible. In today's economy, six trillion dollars would be a welcome addition to the Treasury. Let us engage in hindsight and find six trillion dollars.
In 1993 President Bill Clinton had the opportunity to take out Osama bin Laden, but more importantly he was tasked with finishing work begun by his predecessor. If after the Black Hawk Down incident Clinton chose to stay, fight, win and complete the tasks in Mogadishu, the world we live in would be greatly altered.
Taking out Osama bin Laden's infrastructure of weapons and drug trafficking, via his friends like Mohammed Farah Aidid or Sudan's President Omar al Bashir, life as we know it today would be altered. The little decisions, the choices of expedience and cowardice are often the ones that cost us the most in the end. Had he stayed, breaking the precedent set by Reagan's cowardly and duplicitous departure from Beirut some years earlier, Clinton could have defeated bin Laden, saved Darfur from a genocide that took two million lives and steadied the American economy even longer.
There would have been no World Trade Center bombing, no Embassy bombings, no Khobar Towers bombings, no USS Cole bombing, no September 11th attacks, no war in Afghanistan, no Department of Homeland Security, and likely no war in Iraq. That totals up to around six trillion in hard dollars. One expedient decision that left the door open for evil. Certainly other troubles would have come but not from Osama bin Laden and Bashir.
President George W. bush recognized preventative medicine, or 'compassionate conservatism' was a smart policy. It is, after all, much easier to win flies with honey than vinegar.
Since the 19th Century, Christians and animists have advocated for the freedom of South Sudan. During Bush's tenure, he was faced with a relentless and bipartisan advocacy campaign that brought Darfuris and other innocents being slaughtered for their ethnicity. Black Africans were subject to abductions, slavery, rape, torture and slaughter by the brutal Arab regime in Khartoum.
Bush, with considerable help from activists and think tanks brokered the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, giving South Sudan hope. The war crimes slowed, the International Criminal Court eventually indicted Sudan's president and his closest lieutenants for genocide and the world moved on.
Even George Clooney noted at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last month, Americans have "misery fatigue."
The work is not yet done. War crimes continue at the hands and direction of the same men in 2005. The same leader, Omar al Bashir, who once upon 1993, was little more than a blink in our national consciousness. Today, he partners with China, Iran, and other bad actors for profit.
While many will see this column as an argument supporting a full scale intervention, it is not that. I do support robust diplomatic action - something Bush was able to secure because he was directly engaged. I support a cross border aid delivery program as well. Every friend we make in Africa is someone we can rely on in the future.
Ending genocide is something Americans are familiar with, our 'Greatest Generation' fought this same kind of evil. Obama seems destined to repeat the mistakes of Cordell Hull and FDR. The economics of exporting our best values, our most bedrocks beliefs are always in our favor and in favor of new allies. Evil be damned.