Zimbabwe is now another spot on the map of the civilized world's troubled conscience. Burma is also there, along with Tibet and Darfur. These are uniquely nasty places, and not just because uniquely nasty things are happening. They're nasty because the dissonance between the wider world's professed concern and what it actually does is almost intolerable.
...here are the accumulating estimates of the conflict's toll on Darfuri lives. September 2004: 50,000, according to the World Health Organization. May 2005: between 63,000 and 146,000 "excess deaths," according to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at Belgium's Catholic University of Louvain. March 2008: 200,000 deaths, according to U.N. officials. April 2008: The U.N. acknowledges the previous month's estimate might have undercounted about 100,000 victims.
A solution for Zimbabwe's crisis isn't hard to come by: Someone – ideally the British – must remove Mr. Mugabe by force, install Mr. Tsvangirai as president, arm his supporters, prevent any rampages, and leave. "Saving Darfur" is a somewhat different story, but it also involves applying Western military force to whatever degree is necessary to get Khartoum to come to terms with an independent or autonomous Darfur. Burma? Same deal.
International relations theorists... justify these sorts of interventions under the rubric of a "Responsibility to Protect" – a concept that comes oddly close to Kipling's White Man's Burden. So close, in fact, that its inherent paternalism has hitherto inhibited many liberals from endorsing the kinds of interventions toward which they are now tip-toeing, thousands of deaths too late.
So let's by all means end the hand-wringing and embrace the responsibility to protect, wherever necessary and feasible. Let's spare the thousands of innocents, punish the wicked, oppose tyrants, and support democrats – both in places where it is now fashionable to do so (Burma) and in places where it is not (Iraq). If that turns out to be Mr. Obama's foreign policy, it will be a worthy one. It does come oddly close to the Bush Doctrine.