Into the Heart of Darkness: Cosmopolitanism vs. Realism and the Democratic Republic of Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Political Science Honors Theses; 2010
It was 42 years before the end of World War II that Joseph Conrad wrote his infamous novel "Heart of Darkness," yet today its relevance to the Congo remains starkly the same, as the aegis of colonialism has left a devastating footprint. The novel explores the hypocrisy of Belgium's imperialism as the act of civilizing the African became quite uncivil. The imperial incivility, political factionalization, and decades of authoritarian rule and war have led the United Nations (UN) to enter the Congo, quite like Marlow's travel up the Congo River. Yet, amidst the chaos of Belgium's enterprise and the aftermath of World War II, the Congo offers a troubling and difficult case for policymakers and for international relations theory. This paper aims at pondering this case to hopefully shed light into the heart of darkness and give an explanation for 'the horror' that Kurtz only realized at his final moment. Following World War II, it was abundantly clear through international consensus that the urgency for preventive action against another world war required the reorganization of the League of Nations system. The former colonial and imperial powers of Europe were decimated and the United States and Russia stood as victors against an impetuous regime. The global order was changing rapidly with the creation of the atomic bomb and the rise of the United States and Russia as superpowers. With a potent collective memory, the post-World War II era ushered in the establishment of international law and human rights doctrines under the auspices of regional and universal organizations, in large part as a result of the UN Charter. On April 25, 1945, the Charter of the United Nations (UN) was finalized under the Westphalian principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and peace and security amongst nations. The Charter outlined principles for peace and prosperity and collective security. Most importantly, the UN Charter motivated several universal documents, which subsequently outlined the fundamental importance of individual sovereignty amidst a system dominated by interstate relations. A new global order emerged aimed for deterring future wars and creating a council of peaceful discourse amongst states. It is important to note that this emergence shifted the international system from a Westphalian state-centrism to a UN-based idealism that granted the individual sovereignty and autonomy within their respective state, as well as in a newly formed "international community." Although some basic tenets of the Treaty of Westphalia continued, i.e. state sovereignty and the right to wage war, this UN idealism assumed the common interests of the member states and embarked on massive efforts of international cooperation, conflict resolution and peacekeeping. Ultimately, the UN system has moved the international system closer to a cosmopolitan ideal of universal norms and laws. Peacekeeping, a direct example of UN ambition and its idealism, is not once mentioned in the UN Charter; however, the newly formed UN system began a campaign of peacekeeping throughout the 1950's to the present day. In the post-Cold War era, it is hard to imagine that such peace and prosperity could have continued in this international "community" given the reuse of genocide as a form of war in the 1990's. The international response to the genocide in Rwanda demonstrated several weaknesses in the UN system, such as its inability to work efficiently with member states in stopping the systematic slaughter of the Tutsi minority. Instead, the UN allowed the genocide to continue as did the United State, the sole superpower. In the DRC, the most astounding element is the silence in the international media and the ignorance of the global North to the political breakdown of 10 central African states that resulted in a continental war in 1998. At the middle of this conflict lies the 'heart of darkness' so pervasive that the very foundations of human civility and decency are challenged. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has suffered from nearly 70 years of colonial rule and exploitation and several decades of authoritarian dictatorship. Since 1998, an estimated 5.4 to 7.8 million Congolese people have lost their lives due to the conflict, the most of any conflict since World War II. Eventually, the UN Security Council voted to initiate a UN mission to the Congo after passing UN Resolution 1304(2000). The emergence of the United Nations Organization Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) has attempted to institutionalize normative democratic principles and subsequent international law within the government and society. MONUC is currently the largest UN mission in the world consisting of nearly 20 thousand military personnel. Dissecting the structural bureaucratic workings of MONUC and other international efforts will provide an important basis for understanding the current situation on a domestic level. At the center of most African politics is the arbitrary nature of the state as a result of European colonialism. This arbitrariness is a cause for much of the violence throughout the continent as most conflicts surrounding the DRC have rebuked state boundaries and repeatedly violated the concept of national sovereignty as granted by international law. This paper aims at describing the flaws in the theory of liberal institutionalism in reference to central Africa. The nation has failed, the state has failed, and therefore the ability of international institutions to build a strong liberal form of government in the DRC is a challenging feat. Additionally, there exists a multipolar domestic political system in the DRC, owing to the hundreds of tribal and ethnic affiliations. To assume a national identity and embody a 'Congolese' affinity is a first major step to unifying the state. Without this element, the DRC can neither exist as a nation nor act as a state in the international community. This assumption draws on a very Western plane of thought and does not take into account the intransigent nature of African polities, i.e. the complex hierarchical systems of tribal unity that already exists. However, given the norms that persist within the international community ideal, Congolese affinity is an important element in taking control of the government and allocating the resources towards pragmatic means of distribution. Amidst the deep-rooted historical connections and ethnocentrisms in the DRC, this element separates the Congolese from the international community ideal. It is most important for this paper to distinguish between the cosmopolitanism of the United Nations and the international community, as the former stems from the latter. The United Nations is an international organization of nation-states aimed at engaging in meaningful discourse to achieve international peace and security, but also it is a means for states to define and pursue their national interests and engage in conflict resolution. The UN is a physical body where international law and human rights manifest. The term 'international community' is a concept stemming from and supported by the UN system and its concept assumes the common interests of member states, i.e. states share common goals of international cooperation and peace often through collective measures. Therefore, the UN may represent a more cosmopolitan approach to international cooperation and peace. However, the term is more difficult to define as international relations scholars debate its very existence. Therefore, what is the international community in reference to the DRC? To better understand the nature of the international system, this paper will focus on two divergent schools of thought in international relations theory; cosmopolitanism (universal moral worth as world citizenship) and realism, (state-centrism, state sovereignty and the national interest). After examining these theories in tandem with international efforts in the DRC, this paper hopes to find a more consistent construction of the international system, and one that can better explain the DRC case. Essentially, my thesis aims at examining the DRC in terms of the humanitarian plight, the current UN mission, MONUC, and the willingness of states in the international system to contribute to the most destructive war since WWII. Based on the evidence of the DRC, what view is most consistent, if any? The political breakdown of central Africa and the continued humanitarian plight and political strife in the DRC offers a troubling but necessary case in international relations as it challenges the efforts of the UN system and the concept of an international community following the end of World War II. Is this community only limited to the developed states of the global North? What are the implications of events in the DRC for how we think about the UN and the notion of an "international community?" This paper aims to examine not only the domestic affairs of the DRC through the actions of MONUC, but also to investigate and understand what truly lies at the heart of darkness, and what can the UN and the supposed international community do about it. This analysis is formatted into three sections to better portray important factors in analyzing the international community. Section I focuses on the history of the DRC beginning with Belgium's imperialism in 1874 and ending with the fall of Mobutu's regime in 1997. Within this large gap of history, important context is provided with frequent reference to US and Russian relations during the Cold War and to other international efforts at the fall of Mobutu's regime and the beginning of the largest war since WWII. The objective of this section is to provide a historically motivated base for analyzing the domestic and international forces in the DRC. Part II utilizes the domestic and international history to analyze cosmopolitan and realist substantiation. This section will also examine various state relations with the DRC during the height of violence, the UN mission (MONUC), and the Security Council's role in maintaining peace. At a larger level, this section as a whole will tie together these factors to offer a conclusive view of the international community, which will be provided in section three. In conclusion of the first two sections outlined throughout this paper, cosmopolitan ethics cannot be supported as a tangible portrayal of the international system given the DRC case. Part II and III explain in far more detail this dilemma. Realism continues to shape international efforts in the DRC case; however, progress has been made amidst the tumultuous period of the 1990s and the DRC case in general.