Monday, April 02, 2007

A Choice In Darfur

Last week was hailed by some as a moderate breakthrough in Darfur, as Sudan once again agreed to consider allowing UN support to the beleaguered African Union peacekeeping mission in the troubled region. However, as even the New York Times acknowledged in an editorial this weekend, Sudan is unlikely to comply with this new deal, let alone implement it in a manner that will actually make a difference to the hundreds of thousands of murdered or the millions of displaced Darfuris. Unsurprisingly, things are once again getting worse; five African Union peacekeepers were killed as they guarded a water resource, underscoring how vulnerable and ineffective the AU force truly is.

Those who care about stopping genocide and ending the crisis in Sudan are faced with a choice: Support the multilateral process of the UN and international law or call for unilateral intervention by, among other possibilities, the United States. All too often, those involved in the Darfur debate, such as the Times and its stalwart columnist Nicholas Kristof, opt for the first solution, calling on the UN to get serious in enforcing its rules and norms. Witness the Times editorial referenced above:

The diplomatic timidity of the handful of governments that have denounced the horrors in Darfur has been almost as frustrating as the callousness of the many that will not. The European Union, for example, has no meaningful sanctions of its own against the responsible Sudanese leaders. The United States, which has been enforcing financial sanctions against a list of companies and individuals linked to the Darfur genocide, needs to expand the list, toughen the sanctions and persuade its allies, in Europe and elsewhere, to apply similar restrictions.

The United Nations has repeatedly disgraced itself by its halfhearted and inadequate response to the gravest human rights challenge it has faced since it failed the same genocide test in Rwanda more than a decade ago. The Security Council, which has authorized an international force, must now see to it that it is actually dispatched. The Human Rights Council, which should focus moral pressure on the Sudanese government, holds back from doing so. And Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his representatives have too often been taken in by Mr. Bashir’s hollow assurances.

China and a shrinking bloc of nonaligned nations have repeatedly put the sovereign right of Sudan’s rulers to annihilate minorities ahead of the international community’s legal responsibility to prevent genocide and protect human rights.

Other international leaders need to demonstrate that they can act as well as talk, or else fine words and empty deeds will be the epitaph for the dwindling survivors of Darfur.

OK...all nice words. But what does the Times ultimately recommend that will end the genocide? Nothing. The UN cannot and will not act. The Security Council is crippled by its institutional structure that allows any permanent member -- Russia and China in this case -- to block the will of the international community and the enforcement of international law. The UN Human Rights Council prefers to focus its attention on Israel and dismiss any challenges to its moral authority than examine what's going on in Darfur. As of today, there has been no condemnation from the highest international human rights body. Nicholas Kristof, who perhaps more than anyone else has kept public attention on Sudan and Darfur, is no better. He truly cares about Darfur, but refuses to acknowledge the only avenue by which the genocide must be ended.

If Darfur is to be saved before only a Pyhrric victory will be left, it must be the US that chooses to save it. If the UN is to be involved, then China and Russia must be told that their defense of Sudan will come at the high price of international economic relations with the West. If China wants to benefit from globalization and trade with the US and Europe, it must behave responsibly in international politics and stop protecting the worst of the worst. However, such actions will take a long time. If Darfur is to be saved, the US must deploy peacekeeping forces immediately, or, more likely, offer logistical support to an EU force that can bolster the AU force already on the ground. Only such direct and immediate intervention will stem the tide of genocide before its too late.

Of course such an action is a violation of international law. So was the intervention in Kosovo, as well as the invasion of Iraq. The letter of international law is all too often a hindrance to the enforcement of its spirit. and if you're serious about saving Darfur, it's time to abandon hope in the UN or law itself, and acknowledge that only military force can bring justice.

No comments: