Monday, May 08, 2006

More to Do In Darfur

The signing of a peace deal between the Sudanese government and the largest rebel group in Darfur was certainly good news. But let's not get too excited. As the Wall Street Journal points out, Khartoum's track record is not so good in this area:
we have seen Sudanese governments violate too many previous agreements to place too much stock in this one. Between 1983 and 2005, Khartoum killed as many as two million people (and enslaved hundreds of thousands) in its war against the black Christians of southern Sudan. That war itself began when Khartoum violated the 1972 Addis Ababa Accords, which had ended a previous civil war, in a bid to Islamicize the south.

In 1989, current Sudanese President Omar Bashir took power in a coup to prevent the ratification of a peace deal. In 1997, he agreed to a "Declaration of Principles," spelling out the elements of a workable peace deal. Mr. Bashir also co-opted factional leaders of the rebel movement by offering them government jobs in exchange for cooperation against their erstwhile allies. But his war against the south continued, ending only in 2005 after the rebel movement under John Garang achieved a military stalemate. Garang was killed in a helicopter crash later that year.

Mr. Bashir has established a similar pattern in Darfur, a war which began as Khartoum's battles against the south were ending. In April 2004, his government signed the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement with rebel groups in N'Djamena, Chad. But Khartoum continued to kill Darfuris via the Janjaweed. In November, Mr. Bashir agreed to grant unrestricted access to humanitarian aid groups.

Yet as Jan Egeland, the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator, wrote in The Wall Street Journal Thursday, "Aid workers in Darfur are forced to cope with threats, intimidation and an Orwellian nightmare of unending bureaucratic restrictions [by the Sudanese government] that effectively--and intentionally--impede our ability to help those in need."

Put simply, Sudan's track record inspires no confidence that it will abide by the agreement it has now signed. Unlike the 2005 deal with Garang, Khartoum isn't under any serious military pressure from the rebels, nor is there any looming threat of external military intervention. It may serve Mr. Bashir's purposes to co-opt the main rebel faction, not least as a way of breaking the back of the movement and destroying the rebels who remain. That doesn't bode well for ordinary Darfuris, whose most realistic hope of salvation is their ability to mount an effective self-defense.

What can be done to help the deal stick and to ensure Sudan adheres to its commitments? Some measure of enforcement is necessary, and the UN cannot be trusted to do it. More from the WSJ:

A larger problem is the unwillingness of the international community to treat Sudan as the outlaw state it is. While unsparing in his criticism of Khartoum, Mr. Egeland is at pains to emphasize violence "by all sides." When the U.N. Security Council voted to sanction four Sudanese individuals, two of them were rebel leaders. More broadly, the Darfur crisis is a reminder that the very institutions that, prior to the Iraq war, were said to be the only legitimate arbiters of international intervention turn out to be the least helpful when intervention is most needed.

America's allies in Europe have rejected an Administration proposal to deploy NATO forces to Darfur. The U.N.'s humanitarian agencies have done yeoman work to feed and shelter refugees. But the Security Council has been unable to impose broad and effective sanctions on Khartoum thanks to Chinese and Russian opposition.

This leaves the United States, the only country in the world with the capability and, potentially, the will to aid Darfuris and every other group threatened with genocide or brutal oppression. President Bush has certainly been engaged with the crisis in Darfur, more so than any of his alleged moral betters in places such as France and Sweden. Yet having endured so much opprobrium and resistance to his last two acts of international hygiene--the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq--it's no wonder he's reluctant to carry another burden, particularly when American interests are not directly at stake.

There's a lesson here for all of those liberal internationalists who now demand the Administration "do something" in Darfur: If you want to stop genocide, don't shackle the world's only policeman.

This last point is loudly echoed by Mark Steyn in today's Australian. In a scathing indictiment those who want to "Save Darfur" but rely on the UN to do so, Steyn writes:

If you think the case for intervention in Darfur depends on whether or not the Chinese guy raises his hand, sorry, you're not being serious. The good people of Darfur have been entrusted to the legitimacy of the UN for more than two years and it's killing them. In 2004, after months of expressing deep concern, grave concern, deep concern over the graves and deep grave concern over whether the graves were deep enough, Kofi Annan took decisive action and appointed a UN committee to look into what's going on. Eventually, they reported back that it's not genocide.

Thank goodness for that. Because, as yet another Kofi-appointed UN committee boldly declared, "genocide anywhere is a threat to the security of all and should never be tolerated". So fortunately what's going on in the Sudan isn't genocide. Instead, it's just hundreds of thousands of corpses who happen to be from the same ethnic group, which means the UN can go on tolerating it until everyone's dead, at which point the so-called "decent left" can support a "multinational" force under the auspices of the Arab League going in to ensure the corpses don't pollute the water supply.

Those of us on the Free Iraq-Free Darfur side are consistent: There are no bad reasons to clobber thug regimes, and the postmodern sovereignty beloved by the UN is strictly conditional. At some point, the Left has to decide whether it stands for anything other than self-congratulatory passivity and the fetishisation of a failed and corrupt transnationalism. As Alexander Downer put it: "Outcomes are more important than blind faith in the principles of non-intervention, sovereignty and multilateralism."

Just so. Regrettably, the Australian Foreign Minister isn't as big a star as Clooney, but I'm sure Downer wouldn't mind if Clooney wanted to appropriate it as the Clooney Doctrine. If Anglosphere action isn't multinational enough for Sudan, it might confirm the suspicion that the Left's conscience is now just some tedious shell game in which it frantically scrambles the thimbles but, whether you look under the Iraqi or Afghan or Sudanese one, you somehow never find the shrivelled pea of The Military Intervention We're Willing To Support.

Steyn may be harsh, but he's dead right. The situation has not been resolved in Darfur; the process is underway, but the end is not yet in sight. Khartoum must comply immediately with its obligations under the newly-inked treaty, and if it does not, it must be called to task. When, not if, the UN fails to do anything, the US must step up and enforce the international law that the international community is unwilling to uphold.


Antiquated Tory said...

I don't understand this faith in the US coming in and saving the day in places where it has no immediate strategic interest. (I'm also rather surprised at someone of your intellectual sophistication paying much attention to a 19th century Imperialist wannabe like Steyn.)
The US has repeatedly misunderstood the situation in Iraq and bungled its handling of same since the original Ba'athist coup. But at least there were vital interests at stake. There is no reason for the US administration to feel that they would fare any better in the Sudan, it is further down their priority list that Iraq and Iran, and they don't have enough active military to spare.

Seth Weinberger said...


Nowhere do I say that the US will intervene; I merely say that the US should. You're right to note the problem of interest. But, Bush does seem to be demonstrating interest. Perhaps he sees a humanitarian intervention as bolstering his flagging poll ratings. Or, maybe he's trying to reinforce the theoretical point about the US enforcing the rules of the UN, as he did before Iraq. Either way, I'd say the odds are good that the US will step in if/when Khartoum breaks the peace treaty.