Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sudan Rejects UN Peacekeepers (Again)

Continuing in a long line of decisions, Sudan has once again rejected the deployment of UN peacekeepers to Darfur. Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir emphatically rejected the proposal to replace the too-small and ineffective African Union peacekeepers with a larger, multinational force under the UN, saying "Sudan, the first country in Africa south of the Sahara to win independence, will not be the first country to be recolonized." The African Union has already backed down, with AU President Alpha Oumar Konare stating that no action could be taken without the consent of the Sudanese government. This decision comes in the wake of the cease-fire signed between Sudan and the largest Darfur rebel group that depended on the deployment of UN forces.

It's time for the UN to step up and try to enforce its own norms and values. In the 2005, the UN passed the "Responsibility to Protect," agreeing that "states have a primary responsibility to protect their own populations and that the international community has a responsibility to act when these governments fail to protect the most vulnerable." Sudan is, without a doubt, one of the worst human rights violators in the world. Ethnic cleansing, genocide, slavery, government-sanctioned rape; all of these have been employed by the Sudanese government against the people of southern Sudan and Darfur. The UN has made it clear that sovereignty does not create a license for such behavior; rather, the Responsibility to Protect declares that sovereignty creates a duty on the government to, at a minimum, not rape or slaughter its citizens.

Of course, it's exceedingly unlikely that Sudan will either comply with the demands of the UN or stop its crimes. And it's even more unlikely that the UN will take any meaningful action to enforce its rules and norms. This underscores what I have said time and time again: the UN is not an effective body to handle issues that promote liberal norms at the expense of sovereignty. The US must, as leader of the international community and global hegemon, enforce the norms and values that underpin that community. Just as NATO stepped up when the UN was incapable of acting in Kosovo, and (like it or not) the "Coalition of the Willing" stepped up when the UN was unable to enforce and maintain its containment of Iraq, it is time for the US to take the lead in ending genocide and punishing those states that commit and indulge the destruction of their own people.

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