Thursday, August 05, 2004

PotP Calls for Protective Force

Passion of the Present rightly notes that the joint statement of Khartoum and the UN on disarming the Janjaweed in Sudan is largely worthless:

The UN and the Sudanese government have jointly issued a statement saying they have agreed as to how the violence in Darfur can be halted.

This announcement seems premature, at best, given the real challenge of halting the far-reaching and genocidal campaign that has been unleashed. Here are two fascinating and very different accounts of the situation in Darfur--one writer pro-government and one convinced that genocide is being intentionally carried out by the government. Both writers agree that the militias cannot be disarmed anytime soon, and that doing so will require very strong and area-wide enforcement.

Here are the two links mentioned:

Pro-government article:
No one will give up their weapons until the government fully establishes a comprehensive security in the region. The government will have to virtually buy off those who bore arms, but to affect this we need at least three years."

Critical article:
The best, and perhaps the only, means of disarmament is that employed by the British seventy-five years ago: establish a working local administration, regulate the ownership of arms, and gradually isolate the outlaws and brigands who refuse to conform. It took a decade then, and it won't be any faster today. Not only are there more weapons now, but the political polarities are much sharper.

PotP concludes:
We must continue to press sharply for an outside protective force from the African Union, as the minimum necessary foundation for an international rescue that stops the genocide and begins the process of reweaving the torn fabric of life in Darfur.

I agree that this is the minimum necessary, but I do not think it will be sufficient. If the African Union is willing and capable of providing such security, it would certainly take some pressure off the US to supply forces as well as demonstrating a much needed commitment on the part of African nations to police themselves.

But I strongly suspect that the African Union does not really have the capacity, and will eventually lose the will, to provide the necessary protection. And the UN, which still thinks, despite all the recent evidence to the contrary, that sanctions are a credible option in resolving human rights abuses, is certainly not going to authorize Western troops on Sudan's sovereign territory.

So if these people are going to be protected at all, it will probably devolve on more "unilateral" action by the US and whatever coalition we can muster. I would not be particularly displeased by such an outcome; in fact, I have advocated it for years, long before the specific Darfur crisis. And since Sudan is on the list of Terror-Sponsoring Nations, it would certainly be in the interest of our national security, and consistent with the War on Terror, to do so. In October, 2001, President Bush said that "for those nations that stand with the terrorists, there will be a heavy price." Sudan's bill is long overdue.

But in addition to providing protection, we should be helping these people to defend themselves. Something like Kurosawa's Seven Samurai in which the peasants are armed and trained to defend their village. Or perhaps Neil Stephenson's HEAP (Holocaust Education and Avoidance Pod) in Cryptonomicon. I don't pretend to understand all of the details that would be involved in such a project, but it would not be the first time the US gave such assistance to a beleaguered people. The Southern Sudanese achieved a truce largely because of the effectiveness of their armed resistance. I wished that we could have provided more direct aid at the time, and there may yet be occasion to do so in the South. But certainly the largely defenseless population in Darfur would be a worthy candidate for this sort of assistance.

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