How should the world community deal with the problems in Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe has declared a state of disaster as worsening food shortages threaten widespread famine. Although drought is one cause of the food shortages, the bigger problem is the dreadful, corrupt government of Robert Mugabe. In particular, the World Food Programme says that agricultural disruption caused by the confiscation of white-owned farms has also contributed to the problem.

We all want to help the people of Zimbabwe, but OTOH we do not want to prop up the Mugabe government. This conflict makes it difficult to see what the right action should be.

Here are some alternatives:
[li]Donate large amounts of food[/li][li]Use sanctions against government leaders[/li][li]Overthrow the current leadership. Let the uN create a new government, as is being done in Afghanistan.[/li][li]Make Zimbabwe a member of the UN Human Rights Comission[/li][/list=1]


#1 and #2 are obviously reasonable, and are being done. However, it seems to me that #1 tends to undo the impact of #2.

#3 is unthinkable, but it would perhaps be the best for the people of Zimbabwe in the long run.

#4 sounds like a joke, but is unfortunately it just happened yesterday. :confused:

If Zimbabwe ITSELF has declared a disaster, then it is permissible (imo) for an outside body to come in and start their own food distribution effort.

“Self determination” for a process/system that is moribund is meaningless.

You know, I’ve been wondering why any of this hasn’t been getting much coverage in much of the US press. I’ve seen some basic articles on, but I haven’t even seen any snippets at all on TV News.

Or maybe I’ve just been watching the wrong sources…

Mugabe is turning that place into an African N Korea. He’s quite happy to shut down the farms, factories, distribution systems to keep himself in power.

As in N Korea, the rest of the world has to deliver food and other aid, to keep people from starving, even though it helps keep a tyrant in power. IIRC, some sanctions on the leadership have been imposed, which means Mugabe’s buddies can’t go shopping in London. Otherwise, there’s not much that the outside world will do unless the place suffers instability that affects the West - which it won’t. No oil or anything there.

Personally, I think places that get into such a mess as a result of bad governance should be “re-colonized” by the UN or some other body. But that’s not PC is it? We’re supposed to pretend they’re as capable of running themselves as countries with the institutional infrastructure we take for granted in the West.

The UN just made Zimbabwe a member of their Human Rights Commission, so they are not about to take this sort of action.

A differently-structured UN in combination with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund could theoretically have a lot of power. One would hope that there might be some way for them to force improvements in the government of Zimbabwe.

It’s pretty depressing to think that this dreadful situation will continue indefinitely, while the rest of the world stands by.

I remember reading a thread a long time ago, before the big crash, about Afghanistan (Pre 9/11/01). This was about the time when the Taliban were destroying the Buddha statues. Anyway, the thread was about “When will enough be enough.” It listed all the horrible things that the Taliban were doing re human rights, women etc… and asked the question; What can, or should, the “world” do?
Zimbabwe will be a humanitarian tragedy of one sort or another, but what can the West do about it? Should the West depose criminal, or merely incompetent regimes and put things “right”? Is there a moral justification for governing well places that can’t seem to govern themselves? More to the point, who will pay for it?

  • Sending money might result in Mugabe just keeping the money for himself
  • any food sent to Zimbabwe will either not be distributed to the people if given directly to Mugabe’s government or will be “confiscated” by his military force

What would happen if Mugabe was overthrown? Who would fill this “power vacuum”?

december: You said twice that the UN made Zimbabwe a member of the Commission on Human Rights.
I could not find this information and the UN site does not list Zimbabwe as a member.
( )

You know, Robert Mugabe is perhaps the only person I know of who could make JanL and Esprix agree on a subject (i.e., what a poor excuse for hedgehog manure he is).

I don’t favor unilateral intervention, but I’d love to see the U.S., Canada, and a few European nations with a historical stance in favor of human rights work together with some of the neighboring nations (e.g., Malawi) to either force internal reform by intense economic and moral pressure or, if that doesn’t work, intervene militarily.

BBC News April 29, 2002

Nope, you’re not watching the wrong sources–I haven’t seen anything either. For whatever reason, the networks are giving this story the big “ho hum”. You can search,, for “Zimbabwe food” and “Zimbabwe grain” and come up with zilch. “Zimbabwe” means (1) the election, which is over and (2) the journalist crisis, which is over.

Regardless of PC or not, 'recolonization is not an intelligent response.

Mugabe and his ilk are the very products of colonialism. A people do not become capable of running a country through colonial rule which in the end excludes them from the management of their own lands and usually ends up in terrible ‘agency issues’ as economists so delicately say. If nothing else that is the clear lesson of colonial history.

Mugabe’s twisted paranioa, his hatreds, even his general approach to the population are very much the products of old Rhodesia’s hatreds, twisted approach to the population etc.

Rather than simple minded ahistorical calls for recolonizing, for new mandates, one should support moves towards good government and realize that no democratic rule has ever sprung fully formed out of absolutism, be it colonial (racialist) absolutism or any other form. Not in Europe, not anywhere.

There is a democratic opposition in Zim. It needs to be supported.

december: You’re right, zimbabwe was indeed elected into the commission.
Yesterday I was looking at this year’s member list, which shows Zambia instead of Zimbabwe.
The UN site has been updated since:

Funnily enough, other sources mixed up these countries as well:

Collounsbury - I would agree entirely, except in places like Zimbabwe, N Korea, Iraq, etc the opposition is toast. You either wack the people who hold power and take the place over, or you sit back and wring your hands.

Zim does actually have an opposition of sorts (it’s less far down the scale of despotism than N Korea, say), but they hardly stand a chance.

To say Mugabe is a “product of colonialism” is facile. He was born in a colony. So were his opponents. George Washington was a product of colonialism, I guess (he sure tried hard enough to get a commission in the British army around the 7 Years War).

Mugabe is a tyrant with a very thin veneer of legalism. He’s a product of a tradition that puts tribalism and self above any kind of national or community ethos. We’re being PC pretending this atavism is acceptable. If institutions like the UN wanted to do some good in the world, they would take places like Zimbabwe back to the colonial times and start again. The hungry and oppressed people of these places would support that 100%.

I disagree. One has to get at the support from Mugabe in the Army. Zim is nowhere near North Korea, nowhere. It still has courts which function and try to be indepedent, for one. This won’t last but at the moment, Zim has a civil society which almost took the old man down.

Lumping Zim in with N Korea is simply ignorant.

Facile, no your comparision is facile and ahistorical.

They are two different colonial systems, one in the 18th century really allowed the colonies a fair degree of self rule – in fact for white Rhodesian settlers, that was true.

The other in the 19-20th century allowed no degree of self rule for blacks and brutually subjugated them to a humiliated Apartheid regime in fact stricter than S. Africa’s at the same time.

George Washington would be equivalent to the Afrikaaner elite in S Africa or the Anglos in Rhodesia, he was from the elite, had access to the power etc.

Mugabe was, obviously, never pale enough for such a system.

Ian Smith’s bloody, bloody war against the African rights movement and independence movement very much shaped Mugabe, as did the years under the Apartheid system.

There is no comparision between American colonial experience in 1750 and that of any non-White living under Rhodesian rule, and it is bloody to suggest there is.

The word colonial is a not the same across centures, whatever ill-informed superficial ahistoricism might think otherwise.

barton, I believe that your analysis of the third world vs. the US situation post September 11 2001 is accurate, but I differ in many other respects. mainly your analogy to Japan as well as your suggested solution. Re the OP quote; to equate individual instances of hate and intolerance with the actual conflict in a region of turmoil is a little nearsighted. To equate this with Japan in 1941 is simply wrong.

Item first; the origin of conflict. I think the quote from the lady given in the OP rather tells of how people feel after the shit hits the fan, although it hints at the source. There is no doubt that the ethnic, religious and national conflicts that we see, and have seen in many places is due to deeply rooted differences, intolerance and hate. These sentiments rarely come aflame without the spark provided by a leadership bent on conflict though.

Item second; Japan as an analogy. Japan did not enter the war in 1941 due to a hell bent focus on destroying America. The financial and political situation in the Pacific was a powder keg waiting to explode and Japan was sitting smack on it. Japan’s war was a war of resources and territorial expansion, not blind hatred. Japan’s aggression of America was felt to be a terrible necessity, the last resort for a cornered empire. Shortly before the war Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack says in a speech at his old middle school in Nagaoka;

Hardly the words of a hatemonger. Yamamoto was one of the biggest opponents against a war with the US, but even he saw no other way out. Many more of the Japanese military leaders were reluctant actors in this conflict. After the war in 1946 Admiral Nomura says;

That the war against Japan had to end with the utter destruction of Japan is not certain. It was felt that this was what was needed at the time, much evidence after the fact shows that by the time the bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki a Japanese surrender was only days or weeks away in any case.

The allied war effort during the last year of WWII has nothing honorable or absolutely necessary about it. In retrospect it looks a lot like retribution that cost millions of civilians their lives. In Germany it is easier to understand through Hitler who actively brought the utter destruction on his country, but in Japan it seems more like the sad mechanics of large scale conflicts that take on a life of their own.

Item third; what to do. Cut off the head of the dragon and the dragon will die. Then you might say, yes but it’s not a dragon it’s a hydra; cut the head off and two new ones will sprout. There is much historical evidence to the contrary, for instance Stalin, Franco, Milosevic and Napoleon only to mention a few. In other words; Mugabe and his regime has to be ousted and that with force, its replacement will need be kept in place with force while a basis for security and democracy is laid out (option 3). The path from there will be hard, but headless the dragon will have less teeth; the claws we can blunt and the tail we can bind.

Is it our (US and EU through the UN) responsibility? You bet your life it is! Like my mama always said ‘You made the mess, now you clean it up”. Collounsbury makes the point of our responsability remarkably well.


I am Sparc, used to be Sparculees - thank you TubaDiva.

“Re-colonization” is a ridiculous idea for a host of reasons. Collounsbury is correct that many of Africa’s problems do have their roots in European colonization. Having said that, what of it?

At the risk of seeming unfeeling, that was then and this is now. The proper response to the train-wreck-in-progress that is Zimbabwe is not to collapse in a guilt-ridden puddle of angst, it is to insist that Mugabe tread a minimially acceptable line and to react with the firmness and resolution that the people of Zimbabwe deserve when he refuses to do so. No doubt Mugabe & friends will start screaming that this is “interference” in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs and is a racist attempt to “re-colonize.” Let them scream.

In any event, it isn’t the West that bears the direct responsibility for the current mess in Zimbabwe, it’s South Africa. South Africa could probably sort the situation in Zimbabwe in a week if they brought their diplomatic and economic clout to bear. Certainly, they could have gone a long way toward ensuring meaningful elections had they been willing to do so. They were not.

How do you intend to insist that Mugabe tread that line, and what sort of reaction would constitute the firmness and resolution you have in mind?