Monday, January 28, 2008

The New York Times Hates the Darfuris

OK, so that's probably not true. But yesterday's editorial in the New York Times certainly isn't going to do anything to help end the suffering, deaths, and dislocation in Darfur either. In the editorial, the Times accurately points out that "The new United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur is not off to an encouraging start." The problem is that, unsurprisingly, the Sudanese government in Khartoum has done nearly everything possible to undermine the mission and prevent it from being able to do its job.

The 20,000 man joint UN-AU force was supposed to supplement from the badly under-equipped, under-sized (7,000) and poorly trained AU force that had been "patrolling" Darfur. So far, however, only one-tenth of the additional forces have been deployed (meaning that 9,000 of the 26,000 troops are in Darfur), largely because Khartoum has refused to allow non-African peace keepers. Much of the equipment necessary for the mission has not been provided, including helicopters which are essential for patrolling an land area the size of France. To date, none of the 24 helicopters so far requested has been deployed. One of the leaders of the genocidal janjaweed was named to be a special adviser to Sudanese President Omar El Bashir. And just 2 weeks ago, a UN convoy came under fire from Sudanese government forces, in an attack that Sudan denies was intentional, but UN officials claim should have been avoided as Sudanese forces were informed of the presence and route of the convoy.

It should be of no surprise that the UN mission in Darfur is failing. The UN is notoriously bad at these kinds of missions, which in reality should be called "peace making" rather than "peace keeping." In peace keeping, two sides which have been warring decide that they wish to end the conflict, but do not trust each other enough to warrant laying down their arms. A neutral third party is needed to interpose itself between the two sides and guarantee the peace will be observed. The UN, as a neutral and trusted third part is very good at these kinds of missions.

But that doesn't really describe the situation in Darfur, which looks more like peace making, in which an outside party uses military force (or the threat of military force) to impose a peace on a situation, particular when one weaker group is being threatened by a larger group. The NATO intervention in Kosovo is a classic example of peace making. Darfur looks much more like this kind of operation that it resembles peace keeping.

However, as good as the UN is at peace keeping, it is notoriously bad at peace making, largely because it lacks the political will to take sides and impose its will on the aggressor (which is exactly why it was NATO and not the UN that intervened in Kosovo, and why the UN was so disastrous in Bosnia [see Srebrenica]). The UN has neither the appetite nor the ability to bully Sudan, to deploy sufficient numbers of well-equipped troops, or to do what is really necessary to protect the people of Darfur.

So, why does the New York Times hate, or so I jest, the Darfuri? Because in the editorial in which the Times notes many of the problems I list above, the Times concludes that "There is no hope at all until a credible and credibly armed peacekeeping force is deployed" and that "What is needed is troops, equipment and a lot more diplomatic pressure on Sudan. The word of the United Nations is on the line, and so are the lives of Darfur’s people."

Has the Times learned nothing? Wasn't the word of the UN on the line when the Serb forces demanded access to slaughter the Muslims of Srebrenica? Wasn't the word of the UN on the line when UN forces on the ground in Rwanda stood back and watched 800,000 people hacked to death? Wasn't the word on the UN on the line when Albanians in Kosovo were driven from the homes and subjected to ethnic cleansing?

The UN will not be able to help the people of Darfur. It is simply not a mission for which the UN is well suited. And continuing to hope that the UN will come through is to condemn more Darfuris to explusion from their homes or death. If the Times really wanted to see the suffering in Darfur end, it would set aside calls for the UN, and instead ask President Bush and the leaders of NATO to take matters into their own hands as they did in Kosovo. That is the only chance that Darfur has.

1 comment:

Diodotus said...

The UN can of course legitimize such an action. And should. But you're right, it's not peacekeeping that's needed.