Darfur again

Until fairly recently, it seemed as if the worst of the tragedy of Darfur was over. The Sudanese government appeared set to rein in the terrorist Janjaweed militia, the rebels seemed willing to negotiate and the international community seemed finally to be taking some action.

But in the last few months, things have gone from bad to worse and ethnic cleansing on a large scale has resumed. There are lots of reports at Passion of the Present

No-one comes out of this with much credit. It’s no surprise, of course, that the Chinese Communists have pursued their standard line of non-interference in the internal affairs of brutal dictatorships. But the position of the democracies is just as bad. The Bush Administration started out with a firm line, arguing that the actions of the Sudanese government and its proxies constituted genocide. But now it’s backed off and is actually siding with Sudan in the Security Council. In part, this is for the creditable reason that Bush wants the separate peace deal that ended the long-running civil war in southern Sudan to hold, and is therefore treating the government gingerly. But Bush is also siding with Sudan in trying to undermine the International Criminal Court.

If Bush has been bad, the Europeans have been even worse. This is a situation very like Bosnia and Kosovo, or Rwanda, the kind of thing the new EU was not going to let happen again. What’s needed here is an effective peacekeeping force. The African Union has supplied some troops but without robust rules of engagement and backup (including both military components like air and logistic support and technical expertise of various kinds) they have proved ineffectual. This is a chance for Europe to show that it can achieve more, at much lower cost, through effective peacekeeping, than can Bush’s militarism. So far, the chance is being blown.

It is a disgrace that the kind of slow-meaning ethnic cleansing we are seeing in Darfur can be allowed to continue, month after month, and year after year, without any real action being taken.

29 thoughts on “Darfur again

  1. JQ, Kurdistan-in-Iraq is most definitely not any sort of safe haven – unless you happen to be a Kurd. This is an example of the limits of our knowledge leading to false conclusions. If you had had, as I had, an Armenian nanny when growing up in Iraq, and knew (at second hand) her stories of how the Kurds were worse than the Turks when it came to Armenian genocide, then you would have known to look up the other minorities living there, “…lesser fleas to bite ’em…”. Think Armenians, Arabs, Turcomans, Yezidis, and a few stray Persians and perhaps even the odd half-assimilated Mongol from up Tabriz way.

    Katz, you haven’t thought through your criteria. It can often happen that there is a logical inconsistency betweem your ends and means (as there is in Iraq now, but wasn’t for the British with no democratic agenda). That is, the USA can only create a fake democracy and hope it develops over time, since the preconditions of democratic tradition aren’t there; but you cannot impose democracy, almost by definition.

    This wouldn’t matter if you didn’t have a particular agenda. But in Darfur/Rwanda type cases the only possible agenda is one that dictates preserving what’s there (or you wouldn’t go in). But the Katz numbered criteria imply willingness to press things to genocidal extremes – the sort of things the French did to pacify Algeria in the 19th cewntury, and which would have worked perfectly well in the 1950s if only there hadn’t been external constraints. These methods break what you seek to save, if you have a humanitarian motive and the wrong sort of target. The French merely wished to civilise and control, so extirpation was a non-problem.

  2. Ian : I think you’ll find that the standard Chinese line on this would be to suggest that greater economic integration of countries ruled by dictators is likely to allow them to extert greater influence in the long term (this is also true of China itself, incidentally). If you sanction/invade brutal dictatorships, they will never cooperate, and, in any case, sanctioning often has the greatest affect on the civilian population. Hence by supporting them, they can get better concessions out of them when needed — which appears true of North Korea. How far would the US have got alone in trying to stop North Korea’s nuclear program ?

    Also, I don’t see why China securing a steady source of energy from a brutal dictatorship is any worse than what other countries are doing (at least China has a greater number of people likely to benefit). The US, and therefore indirectly Australia, supports Saudia Arabia (amongst others), after all. Why should the Chinese cop criticism for this from countries that do it themselves ?

  3. Conrad,

    No, the Chinese government absolutely rejects the idea that trade or economic integration will lead to reform. If they argued that line in relation to other countries they wouldn’t be able to continue resisting reform within China.

    You are correct thatother countries support dictatorships – but so far as I know none of those dictatorships are currently engaging in mass murder on the scale of Darfur.

    Furthermore, the US has finally started to wise up to the folly of supporting dictators – they still do it on occasion but not on anything like the scale they used to.

    With Russia generally out of the picture (with the exception of its “near abroad”) the US has been able to be much more selective in which dictatorships it supports and has been better able to pressure those dictatorships for reform (since they no longer have the option of switching ot Russian patronage).

    China has legitimate interests in foreifgn trade and national security, like the US those interests may sometimes compel it to deal with unsavory regimes, but there’s a real risk over the next decade or two that the US and China will revert back to the old Cold War reasoning: “He’s a bastard but he’s OUR bastard.”

  4. Conrad, firstly what Ian G said about US support for dictators, and secondly, dislike as intensely as I might Saudi Arabia, I don’t think anything goes on there as bad as in Darfur – surely you agree?

    Ian, I doubt that the US will so revert – but for China there would be no ‘reversion’ involved at all.

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