As you may have read in the papers, the situation in the Central African Republic is threatening to descend into total chaos. Mass slaughter and ethnic cleansing are likely if there is no international intervention. How will the US respond to this humanitarian crisis coming on the heels of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide? This is how the conversation between key figures in the White House is likely to go-
People in the room: President Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama’s daughter Malia.
Obama: If that’s everything, I need to leave for Malia’s school play now.
Kerry: Mr. President, there is one more thing on the agenda.
Obama: What is it? I thought we covered everything.
Kerry: It’s the civil war in the Central African Republic.
Obama: Can’t it wait?
Kerry: I suppose. It’s not like a few more thousand dead due to sectarian violence in Africa is going to make much of a difference at this point.
Obama: Alright then. Have a good evening, gentlemen.
Kerry: I was kidding Sir.
Obama: So was I? Let’s talk about it then. Can one of you quickly fill me in?
Biden: That’s what she said!
[Biden gets a glare from the President and quietly sinks into his seat]
Malia: Let’s go daddy.
Obama: In a minute, sweetheart. Go on, John.
Kerry: Our diplomats tell me that we could be looking at another genocide like Rwanda here.
Malia: What’s a genocide?
Biden: Well, Malia. A genocide or a holocaust is when something really bad happens to Jewish people. And we can never have that again. Never. But this is OK since it is happening in Africa.
Kerry: That’s not true. It’s also OK when it’s happening in Burma or Syria or China or North Korea or Chechnya or….
Obama: Thank you, both. What happened in Rwanda 20 years ago was a terrible event like 9/11, Malia. We can’t have another Rwanda just like we can’t have another 9/11. Do you understand?
Kerry: (coughs) Ahem. Actually Mr. President, I would phrase it differently. We will do everything humanly possible to not have another 9/11.
Obama: And Rwanda?
Kerry: Well, it would be quite nice if we dint have another Rwanda. But it’s not up to us, really.
Biden: (at Kerry) Where is this country anyway?
Obama: Yeah, where could a country named the Central African Republic be located? Why don’t you look it up on Google Maps and stop interrupting us. John, what do you recommend? Deploy boots on the ground?
Kerry: Already done, Sir. We have over 500 fine folks from Exxon Mobil digging for oil in the country as we speak.
Obama: Oh. I meant troops.
Kerry: We can’t send troops till we find oil first. That’s a bedrock principle of our foreign policy.
Kerry: I don’t make the rules. Deploying troops is expensive. They are to be used only if we have strategic assets to acquire or protect. Like oil reserves, mineral deposits, shipping routes etc.
Obama: Fair enough. But don’t we have like 150,000 troops stationed around the world? Can’t we move some of them to this country?
Kerry: Not exactly. Those men only serve a symbolic purpose. Show and intimidation.
Obama: But Putin just invaded Crimea!
Biden: And I bet he was really intimidated while doing it.
[Obama and Kerry glare at Biden]
Obama: Fine. We’ll just send in some drones then. Cheap and easy.
Kerry: I don’t know about that. It’s risky. We could end up killing lots of innocent civilians.
Biden: So what? It’s not like anybody here wants to win another Nobel Peace Prize or anything.
Obama: Can’t we re-classify the civilians posthumously as terrorists like we do in Pakistan and Yemen?
Kerry: Maybe. I am more concerned about the precedent it would set. We can’t have impoverished countries assuming that the US will intervene each time there is a genocide. It would be highly irresponsible on our part to encourage that kind of thinking.
Obama: So we just sit back and watch the horror unfold?
Biden: The good news is, we don’t have to watch. CNN is not going to give up on the Malaysian plane anytime soon.
Kerry: We just ask the UN to handle it. Standard operating procedure.
Obama: But the UN is not capable of handling this.
Kerry: Obviously not. But they issue statements, move a few soldiers around, transfer diplomats. The UN is good at conveying the impression that someone else is doing something about it. That’s the sole reason for its existence really.
Obama: So you just want me donate $100 when I get a call from UNICEF and get back to guessing where that plane is on Facebook?
Biden: Yes. And the best part is – that $100 is tax deductible.
Obama: I don’t know, something about this isn’t right. Aren’t we morally obligated to act?
Kerry: I can see why you might think that. But morals are complicated. Keep in mind that the Pope and the Catholic Church have already killed millions of Africans by ordering them not to use condoms.
Obama: (sighing) But surely we have to do something?
Biden: How about we buy a few red iPod’s for Christmas gifts this year?
Obama: I need an idea that doesn’t involve any real financial or military support but still shows we care just a little bit?
[They all look at each other for a few seconds. Then they smile and nod.]
Obama: Get me Angelina Jolie on the phone.