The quality of the screens inside the White House situation room wasn’t much better than on my grandparents’ old television. Images were arranged like The Hollywood Squares. The Central Intelligence Agency appeared in a small box on the upper right-hand side of the screen, the Defense Department next to it and the State Department filled out the top row. Despite the poor resolution, the message that came across was clear. Credible reports said there were mass atrocities in South Sudan. This usually is the point in the film where the president sends in the Marines. Cue 1980s rock music.
The music and the Marines were excluded from this drama. Instead, I found myself baffled by how few tools we seemed to have at our disposal to address a worsening humanitarian situation. There were political costs to putting boots on the ground. United Nations peacekeepers were largely ineffective. Calling the leaders of each side and using strong diplomatic language wasn’t likely to change their calculus.
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