Following the news of Mugabe’s planned festivities for his 85th birthday, Christopher Hitchen has a new article in Slate outlining all the reasons why Zimbabwe should be considered a rogue state at this point and that other countries would be justified in using force to get rid of him sooner rather than later. His arguments are convincing, though ironic in at least one way.
Hitchen’s argument for a humanitarian intervention is timely. He is right in pointing out that given the rapid deterioration of conditions in the country and given Mugabe’s actions in stealing the election from Morgan Tsvangirai, the time has come.
However what I found most interesting was Hitchen’s argument that though “Mugabe’s crimes were frightful enough before… [his] were the crimes of an elected government, and it wasn’t absolutely clear that they exceeded the threshold at which intervention can be justified or, rather, mandated.” Where was such logic in 2003, when Hitchen became one of the most strident defenders of the need to invade Iraq in 2003. Saddam Hussein may have been guilty of any number of crimes against humanity, but he was elected by the people of Iraq.
Hitchen’s willingness to stump for Bush’s invasion of Iraq makes him the wrong person to be calling for a military invention now in Zimbabwe. Violating any country’s sovereignty should only be an act of last resort and must be done under the strictest of standards. The fact that Hitchen’s has not held himself to such a standard in the past, undermines his current argument for doing so in Zimbabwe, no matter how correct he may be this time.