Learning from Rwanda
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES
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While many Americans may be numbed by the violence and human suffering that plagues Sub-Saharan Africa, the horror of Rwanda was so acute that it moved all save the most hardened observers. Moreover, coming on the heels of the debacle in Somalia, Rwanda raised the prospect of a mounting series of events across Africa which might require U.S. or multinational responses. In addition to easing the plight of the Rwandan people, we must draw strategic lessons from this crisis in order to mitigate the impact of similar disasters in the future. Several lessons are clear. Efficient and effective responses to African disasters must escape the clumsiness of past U.S. policies and be based on an understanding of the historic, economic, social, and political context of each event. Moreover, an assessment of the proper response must be placed in the wider framework of an emerging post-Cold War national security strategy. What happens in Africa will affect the image, credibility, and moral standing of the United States around the world. It will also influence public attitudes on the appropriate extent of involvement in the Third World. The level of global attention that Rwanda received makes this event a critical albeit unintended factor in determining American policy toward the Third World. If the United States is incapable of responding to disasters in Africa, isolationism will be strengthened. We can rebound from on Somalia but probably not from two. The symbolism of Rwanda in strategic terms may outweigh its immediate significance. By examining this situation, we may develop the insights and means to make maximum use of scarce resources when the next African disaster explodes.
- Safety Engineering