Blogs > Cliopatria > Hell in Darfur

Mar 2, 2005 9:34 pm

Hell in Darfur

The Wilson Center has released a paper entitled "Resolving the Three Headed War From Hell in Southern Sudan, Northern Uganda, and Darfur" by John Pendergrast. While more than a bit light on background, it is unsparingly damning regarding the recent actions by the Sudanese Government and concurrent inaction of the international community. Here is an excerpt.

"In November, when the UN Security Council met in Nairobi to push the IGAD process towards a swift conclusion, the regime sensed an extraordinary opportunity. By agreeing to sign a deal by the end of the year, Khartoum effectively held the carrot of peace in front of the noses of the international community while it wielded the stick in Darfur. In effect, the government had a free hand in Darfur in late November and throughout December, which it used for offensive military operations. The extension of this state of impunity was sought successfully through the signing of the CPA. The regime hoped for and received a measure of international goodwill, and has used its new breathing space to increase attacks in Darfur and to further undermine the activity of opposition groups throughout the country."

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Jeff Bell - 3/4/2005

Mr. Luker,

Hi. In re-reading your post, I caught one item of yours that I failed to address. In regard to a concern about coordination with the African Union, this I would categorize as an example of "European" style theoretical over-think. A desire to make something sensible fit into a theory that doesn't fit reality.

Naturally we would want to have the African Union do the job, and coordinate with them. It has a nice theoretical, feel-good sense that appeals on the abstract level. But that's about all.

But the reality is that the African Union is not doing the job, it's best to have one command and control, they are not wealthy like us, are without a doubt excessively concerned about window-dressing concerns like 'will I look bad if I let the U.S. handle this', they don't have the advanced technology that we do, and finally is a collection of mostly undemocratic governments with bigger fish to fry. If they were truly wise and altruistic THEY would be begging US to intervene.

To suggest that my low esteem of the efforts of the African Union implies "colonialist instincts" or imperialism is, simply, nonsense.

Jeff Bell - 3/4/2005

Mr. Luker,

I'm enjoying our discourse, even if it is just two way. Cheers.

Regarding the necessity of re-instituting the draft before considering action in Sudan: It is something that I'm agnostic about because action is required now, and any draft would only effect troop levels at best 2 years from now. Frankly, I haven't formed an opinion on the draft.

As to any "colonial enthusiasum", I personally have no desires for power over others, and I think on the balance, that is true of our nation. I simply want to save lives. I tend to read your comment as a projection of one's own impulses onto another's, I could be wrong.

Lenin, by the way, was someone who incorrectly saw capitalism through the lens of colonial expansionism, he thought that it was it's life blood. He was wrong.

Colonialism is something we don't engage in, it refers to a nation actually having it's members running another nation, not by proxy, but actually, as the British did in India. The most undemocratic aspect being that the foreign leaders held superior status over the native people and did not allow them to hold high office, and, as Lenin emphasized, benefitting through the imposition of favorable trade laws within that country. In other words, the opposite of democracy, which is what we are promoting now.

Churchill was in fact a colonialist. But to Churchill's chagrin, European colonialism died after WWII and Lenin was proved wrong (again), capitalism flourished without colonialism.

By the way, Lenin also said "while there is the state, there can be no freedom. When there is freedom, there will be no state." To someone in America, a statement like this seems like the statement of a child. I hold it up as as example of the long tradition of distorted and foolish analyses that Europeans seem uniquely prone to because of their very different historical and stratified societies. The French are especially disconnected in this regard, there is a famous quote of a French politician saying "yes, it may work in practice, but will it work in theory?". In other words, an action can't be taken unless it fits into the current convoluted theories of the day.

Recall that the great false philosophies of Communism and Nazism were birthed, nutured, and exported around the world from Europe, not the U.S. Now there is a similar false philosophy that was birthed in the Middle East which we must realize must be extinguished completely --- with democracy -- and, in the case of Sudan, one of the byproducts is that we will on occasion be called on to act to save lives before they are lost, just as Jews trapped in Nazi Germany in the lead up to the killings in the early 40s required help (which, like Sudan, we were weak in responding to).

I say, keep it simple -- save lives, and insist on democracy, and avoid the European tendencies of digging up convoluted layers that can always be found in our actions that on the surface, but wrongly imply hypocrisy, greed, and malevolence.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/3/2005

Mr. Bell, Consider the possibility that the fact that the African Union has not even been referenced in any of this discussion suggests the possibility that your enthusiasm for having United States troops in Darfur conceals more colonialist enthusiasm than one would want to admit. There remains some hope that regional unions of states may play intermediary roles that make it unnecessary for the United States to intervene in every human disaster, wherever it may occur on the face of the earth.
I did notice that you didn't pony up to support re-instituting the draft; and have you noticed that all branches of the United States military are currently failing to meet their recruitment quotas?

Jeff Bell - 3/3/2005

Given that the U.S. military is the defacto military arm of the U.N. and European powers for stopping large scale genocide, why is the U.N. and Europe NOT begging the U.S. to intervene?

The defenseless are calling for the cavalry to save them and the powers listening are drawing the line at diplomacy.

I suggest that the source of the inaction is twofold:

1. A misreading by the U.N. and Europe that military intervention is a thing unnecessary and too risky.

2. A pervasive "unwisdom" in the Democracies, more in Europe than here, that fell out of the 20th Century -- the idea that military action should be the last resort.

I submit that this "last resort" guide is a disservice to our future and those who rely on us to protect them. It is a misreading of the true nature of right and wrong, the too cautious way for the good guys to think and dangerously so. To even breath such a notion in some circles is to risk being labelled a "war-monger", which is itself a form of blindness.

Military action should be used when it is the RIGHT option, which requires a willingness to be balanced, clear-headed, realistic, flexible, open-minded; neither too risk averse or too bold; to suffer contentious debate; to be neither too willing or unwilling regarding the concept of short term loss of life, treasure, and status; to have vision enough to predict positive and negative scenarios going out many years; and be willing to honestly assess our own ideological biases, fears, limits, values, hopes, and self-interest in coming to a wise decision.

These should always be the talking points we should return to in our discussions.

I submit that history will judge the world response to Sudan to date, in a matter of a few years, as being hijacked by debilitating fears, unrealistic hopes, entrenched mindsets, and excessive distaste for conflict and risk. The result is a form of moral blindness -- not on a scale of Facism or Communism -- but still a blindness.

Jeff Vanke - 3/3/2005

Here's an idea. Let's get some of the many Iraqis interested in protecting Iraqi democracy but momentarily successfully intimidated from doing so, and ask them to help in Sudan.

I agree with Jeff Bell. Where there's a will, there's a way. Without too much difficulty, I think, the Bush administration could put moral pressure (yes I put those two terms together -- the Darfur situation is that clear) on other powers to get involved immediately.

Jeff Bell - 3/3/2005

If politics weren't what they are, and I were Prez, I'd:

1. Take out a host of non-lethal Sudanese military assets with the new technology we have at our disposal, thereby transfering the fear and pain from the defenseless to the perpetrators. Make them pay for crimes committed with an appropriate punishment.

2. Cycle in the first batch of 15,000 troops or whatever it is from Iraq for 4 weeks and challenge the Euros to take it from there.

Oscar Chamberlain - 3/3/2005


You point out the practical problems fairly. But is there another way that is more likely to have results than the US leading an intervention, despite the very real limits on our strength?

Ralph E. Luker - 3/3/2005

Mr. Bell, Couple your argument with a recommendation that the United States re-institute the draft and I will take your argument seriously. As it is, available forces are stretched to their limits in Afghanistan, Iraq, and standing commitments elsewhere. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell believes that the United States _still_ does not have troops sufficient in Iraq to secure the peace. Without additional available troops, your call for immediate intervention in Darfur is about as windy as you believe my call is for greater attention to Darfur from the European powers, the U. N. and the U. S.

Jeff Bell - 3/3/2005

Mr. Luker,

Thank you for your view, you are not alone, I'm sure, in your view. But I would like to suggest that this view, while common, is not the stuff of greatness. Let me point out, in a lawyerly fashion, where I believe your argument breaks down:

If genocide is occurring, I suggest it is a fallacious argument to suggest that we can't intervene militarily because we are busy elsewhere. That to me is an excuse, a cope out.

To likewise tie a worry I see imbedded in your statement about where action in Sudan will lead to next likewise is a tangential worry which I suggest is, as Roosevelt said, nothing more than "fear itself". People are dying in that country, that's the issue.

To be "in favor of greater attention in Darfur from the U.S., Euros, and the U.N." is a nice general position to take. But is there anyone not for "greater attention"? No, there are those like myself that say only, that's not enough. That why your position is policy, because it's not controversial, the good guys can all agree on it. Doesn't mean it's the right approach though. In fact, if a solution is not controversial, I would suggest it's probably not even a solution. And in this case, that's the case, this course of "attention" is inherently weak, the genocide has flourished and will continue to without intervention.

The final assertion that my suggestion that "problems in nations" can be "serial solved by sending in Marines" may strike some good people as a failure of imagination, but that would be their own. Because in fact, numerous officials have stated that in fact the genoicide could be stopped with large number of troops. What's missing is the will to do so. There is an optimal time to intervene, typically earlier is better, fewer lives lost.

Let's make a bet. I will bet that Sudan heats up over the next 2-5 years, but doesn't ever get much media coverage, and, because the root problem is still there, either (a) horrible, massive numbers of people die in the next 2-5 yrs and afterwards we look back wondering why we didn't do anything (like Rwanda), or else (b) we get pulled in late in the game, and it's a very tricky military effort (like Balkans). I vote for (c) send troops in now and save lives.

Thanks for listening.

Jeff Bell

Ralph E. Luker - 3/3/2005

Mr. Bell, Perhaps you'd like to give us some outside number on how many Muslim countries you believe that United States should occupy at any single time. I'm in favor of greater attention to the situation in Darfur from the United States, European powers, and the United Nations. The notion that problems in nations stretching from north Africa to the Indian border can be serially solved by sending in the marines strikes me as a massive failure of the imagination.

Jeff Bell - 3/3/2005

We, the United States, should get involved in this conflict with military forces. Why? Because it's the right thing to do. To not intervene is disgraceful, the very opposite, for example, of the code that U.S. servicemen follow in looking out for each other.

To not do so is a form of moral blindness. To do so is honorable and an act that we will always be proud of, another timely proof of democracy's most profound caring and virtue.

We are the protectors of the one power, the U.S. military, which can effectively save massive numbers of innocent lives in Sudan.

I urge this matter to become part of the American discourse.

Jeff Vanke - 3/2/2005

Scandalous it is. The French or the Germans could single-handedly make a huge difference. Our own challenges to do so demonstrate why Powell's old two-wars dictum was a good one. Maybe we could tell the French this is finally their chance to make up for losing Sudan to the British at Fashoda in 1898.