I suppose there were a few snickers when the Council on Foreign Relations recently announced that actress Angelina Jolie had been invited to join that august group. True, Ms. Jolie's formal education ended with high school, and she doesn't have any particular expertise in foreign affairs or military matters, but she is a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador who has worked actively on refugee, adoption and poverty issues. Besides, Ms. Jolie looks great in those tight-fitting slacks and tops she favors during those U.N.-sponsored, photo-op visits to third world locales.
Apparently anxious to prove that her membership in the CFR isn't based on her celebrity, Ms. Jolie penned an op-ed for yesterday's Washington Post, describing the continuing humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and her proposed solution for the problem, which centers on "delivering justice" for the victims of the Jinjaweed militias.
Clearly, the victims of Darfur deserve "justice," and there are many ways of delivering it. But Ms. Jolie seems to pin her hopes on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, which recently announced plans to prosecute a former Sudanese official and a Janjaweed leader for "crimes against humanity." It took the court almost two years to bring these charges, and indictments against only two alleged participants--in a conflict with no shortage of killers and conspirators--seems pitiful, to say the least. A couple of show trials may be reassuring to a Hollywood liberal, but it won't provide much relief to the victims of Darfur.
Moreover, Ms. Jolie places undue faith in an organization that many Americans--including President Bush--have rightly opposed. Five years ago, Mr. Bush announced cancellation of the U.S. signature on the ICC implementation treaty, noting that it would interfer with our national soverignity and possibly lead to politically-motivated prosecutions. Genuine concerns that U.S. military personnel could be targeted the ICC prompted Senate passage of special protective legislation in 2002, allowing the president to use "all means necessary" to obtain the release of any U.S. or allied personnel detained by the court.
The wisdom of this measure is illustrated in Italy's continuing attempts to arrest U.S. personnel involved in the 2003 abduction of a radical Egyptian cleric in Milan. While most of the Americans are identified as CIA operatives, at least one is an Air Force officer, a former security forces squadron commander at Aviano AB, Italay, where the cleric was taken--and purportedly tortured--after his abduction. Had the U.S. remained a signatory to the ICC treaty (something Ms. Jolie would likely support), Italy could have simply referred the matter to the court, and those Americans might be in the dock today. And, speaking of "justice," what are the odds that CIA agents and a U.S. military officer could actually receive a fair trial from the ICC?
But Ms. Jolie is either unaware--or unconcerned--about such matters, nor does she express any misgivings about the ICC's "go easy" approach toward the real criminals of Darfur. And that brings us to the "missing" element of the op-ed, namely her refusal (or inability) to consider more viable courses of action in addressing the crisis. Let's begin with the global War on Terrorism. The Janjaweed militias exist (in large part) because the Sudanese government supports them. And the Khartoum regime is also the host of numerous terrorist groups, including various Palestinian factions and Al Qaida. Over the past two years, there have been credible reports of terrorists training with the Sudanese military; one overhead image reportedly showed a driving course for car bombers at an army base near Khartoum. More recently, there has been more additional of Al Qaida providing direct training and support for the killers in Darfur. So, successful prosecution of the war on terror is a key step toward easing the suffering in Darfur.
Toward that over-arching goal, Ms. Jolie (and the other Darfur activists) might also consider the creation of a military force to deal with the Janjaweed, along the lines of the recent, successful operation in Somalia. Hollywood activists have long lobbied for the deployment of U.S. peacekeepers in Darfur, but that's a mission better-suited for a neighboring army and local resistance groups, trained by American special operations forces and backed (as required) by U.S. airpower. That may not square with the "blue helmet" approach favored by limousine liberals, but it would certainly be more effective than another U.N. or OAS-led "peacekeeping" mission--or the transfer of our combat troops from critical missions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In fairness, I don't believe that Ms. Jolie is insincere in her concern about Darfur and other humanitarian crises. She has paid her own way for various trips to visit refugee camps, and she adopted a young Cambodian boy before that became fashionable among the entertainment elites. But, given her supposed credibility in foreign affairs (as conferred by the CFR invitation), Ms. Jolie impresses me as an uninformed and unserious observer of the world scene. Suggesting that the ICC represents a key element in ending the atrocities in Darfur is nothing short of myopic--the very type of solution you'd expect to hear at a Hollywood cocktail party.
Had that op-ed come from anyone else (say, a student at the National War College), it would have never been published in the Washington Post, or anywhere else. But, because it was written by a movie star, the article gained a prominent spot in the paper's opinion section. Never mind that her "proposal" is naive, even ludicrous. Running a piece by A Hollywood Star is a good way to spice up an otherwise staid op-ed section. Ditto for those symposia at the CFR.