Darfur again

Via Jeff Weintraub, I got this link from Harry’s Place on possible actions that can be taken to pressure the Sudanese government into calling off the continuing campaign of terror in Darfur. Things have improved somewhat under international pressure, but a lot more needs to be done. A good source of up-to-date information is Passion of the Present

Having opposed the war in Iraq, I should perhaps explain why I support intervention in Sudan. There are two aspects to the issue. The first is simple costs and benefits. A few tens of millions of dollars and some modest military force could save thousands of lives in Darfur. By contrast, the war in Iraq has cost tens of thousands of lives (quite possible more than 100 000) and hundreds of billions of dollars, for prospective benefits that have not yet been delivered.

Second, I think it’s necessary to strike a balance between the extreme claims for national sovereignty, defended, for obvious reasons by the Chinese Communists, and the US doctrine, backed by Howard and endorsed in blood by Putin, that any sufficiently powerful government should be able to do what it likes in response to perceived threats. Where a government engages in war against its own citizens, the international community should be willing to step in, starting with sanctions and going on to safe areas protected by no-fly signs and peacekeepers with rules of engagement that allow them to defend themselves and refugees against any attack. If this leads to the downfall of the government, as it did with Milosevic in Serbia, so much the better. The step of overthrowing a government, even a brutal and dictatorial one, and imposing rule by an occupying army is one fraught with danger, which should be an absolute last resort.

5 thoughts on “Darfur again

  1. Most third party mediation theory works against military intervention in Sudan. The Sudanese government and its ethnic supporters will be prepared to fight against anything more than a blue helmet operation – the stakes for them are fairly high, while the likely payoffs for the international community are low.

    If “we” were to escalate some sort of ground war, it would be nothing less than a disaster. Khartoum will immediately tear up the Naivasha accords struck with the SPLM, expel John Garang and his friends from the interim government, and dissolve the Southern Assembly, when it reconvenes. We will be back to 1983 in no time, probably with another 2 million dead bodies.

    Furthermore, the Russians and the Chinese will have no compunction in continuing to supply attack helicopters and other weapons to Khartoum at bargain basement prices. Another disaster.

    There is no real optimal policy here, and there is little that can be done, except to continue the process that began in early September 2001 with the appointment of US envoy John Danforth, and the reinvigouration of IGAD.

    Probably the best perspective on Sudan is from Alex De Waal at http://www.justiceafrica.org

  2. There was one thing I missed, and that was Prof Quiggin’s implication that the war in Kosovo was any different to the Bush Doctrine which allegedly states “any sufficiently powerful government should be able to do what it likes in response to perceived threats”.

    Yet this is precisely what happened in Kosovo, and it was no more successful than in Iraq. Indeed, the Rambouillet ultimatum to Milosevic, whose rejection of it triggered the Air War, was a far less legitimate pre-war process than anything in 2002/3 vis-a-vis the UN. Do you honestly believe that NATO thought the following terms in the ultimatum were reasonable? (appendix B):

    Section 6a. ‘NATO shall be immune from all legal process, whether civil, administrative, or criminal.’

    Section 6b. ‘NATO personnel, under all circumstances and at all times, shall be immune from the Parties’ jurisdiction in respect of any civil, administrative, criminal or disciplinary offenses which may be committed by them in the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia).’

    Section 7. ‘NATO personnel shall be immune from any form of arrest, investigation, or detention by the authorities in the FRY.’

    Section 8: ‘NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.’

    Section 11: ‘NATO is granted the use of airports, roads, rails, and ports without payment of fees, duties, dues, tolls, or charges occasioned by mere use.’

    In other words, “let us occupy your country and do as we wish without any possible lawful recourse, or we will bomb your capital”. Just amazing. Now that Kosovo is a narco-state, teeming with terrorists (Gosh! This is sounding familiar), and having ethnically cleansed the Serbs, I’m sure this incredibly successful model can be applied to Sudan!

  3. Steve, are you implying that, like Kosovo, it was a bad policy to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, since the results are so similar?

  4. Afghanistan hasn’t been such a problem, because it cost relatively little, and it’s not too hard to keep the Talibs at bay with a bit of air support. The best you could hope for at the moment is to hold Kabul, zap the terrorists from the air, and collaborate with easily bribeable war lords. At a cynical level, if the product of Afghanistan’s opium fields is being primarily consumed in, say, Iran, I don’t see how that could work against us.

    Iraq, on the other hand, has been a great disappointment. As JQ has said, it entailed a gigantic waste of money and lives for very little in return. Iraq is now the centre of regional terrorism, which it wasn’t before. There have been so many mistakes that it will be practically ungovernable for a long time, not to mention that the war seems to have split the Trilateral core (EU/Jap/US) for the foreseeable future.

  5. JQ, your general approach is unsound, not least because it is as open ended as “a little bit pregnant”. “Their own citizens”? But who are outsiders to define these? There have been real historical instances where things like that have been cooked up, either deliberately or as emergent behaviour that was predictable (and predicted) in advance. For instance, it would justify the annexation of Hawaii, the Sudetenland, Hyderabad, Goa, and quite a few other places. Quite simply, your test doesn’t distinguish any features of these but justifies the lot. (In my view, there are rare justifiable cases – but all those I just cited were wrong.)

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