Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Outhawking the Republicans - Democrats and Darfur

While the Bush administration has taken very little action on Darfur (unless "action" can be defined by empty rhetorical flourishes, coddling members of Sudan's intelligence apparatus, and castrating aid organizations and the African Union deployment), the major Democratic presidential contenders have staked out highly bellicose ground in their "solutions" to the conflict, seeking to play to Save Darfur activists who are rearing for confrontation with Khartoum and prove their own meddle in managing the ever-invoked "War on Terror."

Far from consideration for the candidates is how this militant posturing, if actually carried out, would affect the masses of suffering Darfurians.

Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama (amongst others), all support a no-fly zone for Darfur - a potentially catastrophic idea (see our previous post on the topic) with little possible upside for suffering Darfurians, as the majority of attacks against civilians are carried out not from the air, but on the ground. Instead, the imposition of a no-fly zone is likely to provoke Khartoum into unleashing its wrath on Darfurian civilians and the AU deployment, and worsen the already dire circumstances in which aid organizations operate in the region.

Others of the candidates' stances plunge further into the depths of dangerousness and irrationality.

Clinton, for one, has floated the idea of blockading the Port of Sudan, a measure that is at least tantamount to an act of war.

Like Clinton, who pledged to "work with NATO to take military action” in Sudan if Khartoum does not allow a UN-AU deployment into the country, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), evidently seeking to make an already calamitous situation even worse, proposes unilaterally sending US troops into Sudan, a "humanitarian intervention" that conjures (at best) the disastrous US-led deployment in the early 1990s to Somalia.

The direct involvement of NATO or even US troops in a potential "peacekeeping" force in Sudan, as suggested by some, would in all probability lead to Sudanese groups "start[ing] a jihad against it," in the words of Jan Pronk, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Sudan.

While the Democratic frontrunners toy with Darfurian lives for the sake of pandering and bolstering their jingoist credentials, less sexy but more helpful measures remain on the table for actually attempting to mitigate the crisis, the same ones that have been around all along and have been consistently ignored by politicians and many Darfur activists alike: funding aid organizations, pushing an expansion in the size of (and a broadened mandate for) the AU deployment, and seeking a political settlement through promoting a common rebel negotiating front for talks with Khartoum.

Though less conducive to projecting US military might, these are the demands that activists should be pushing for from the potential heirs to the throne of "leader of the free world."

Unfortunately, should their saber-rattling come to fruition, the powers that be of the future instead seem intent on destroying Darfur in order to "save" it.

18 comments:

Neal said...

One might note an idea that would work, rather than merely harping on those who are at least willing to propose something.

In WWII, there were those who proposed bombing the train lines to the death camps and those who proposed bombing the death camps. No one lifted a finger, of course. Destroying train lines and the death camps would have killed a lot of people but doing nothing killed a lot more.

I have no idea what can be done for the sorry people of Sudan but I do note that you worry more about protecting the lunatic Islamists of Sudan than their victims.

Kevin said...

Your assertions to the contrary, I have repeated ad nauseum, here and elsewhere, several concrete measures that Western activists should push for - funding and a strengthened mandate for the AU, funding for relief agencies, and unity amongst rebel groups in order to pursue a political settlement with Khartoum.

Criticizing plans for a ground invasion or a no-fly zone has absolutely nothing to do, as is patently obvious, with "protecting the lunatic Islamists of Sudan," but is rather a sane response to militant posturing which is likely to plunge Darfur into further chaos.

Neal said...

Kevin,

The assumption of your above post is that we basically have a normal type of Africa problem that can be resolved by means of peace keepers and negotiations. That, however, is contrary to the history of Sudan, going back in time, not to mention the country's history since the beginning of the Islamization movement of the 1980's.

In recent history, the Sudanese government has managed to kill about 2 million people in pursuit of its insane governing theosophy. The leadership operates according to an ideology which, to be polite, would be attractive to Hitler.

The government of Sudan is not a normal government where things are, perhaps, a bit out of hand.

Consider: the rise of the Islamists in Sudan, beginning in 1983, has already caused the death of about 2 million people. Slavery still thrives in Sudan, thanks to the Islamist government. In fact, the issue of slavery remains a central theme in Sudanese history, going back to the Mahdi-pretender during the 19th Century, in which preserving slavery was a central cause he championed. The current Islamists have revived that tradition, with a vengeance.

Sudan's government is not a government to negotiate with. It is a government to be overthrown, just like the Nazis were. Were you to care one wit about humanity, you would be challenging the bona fides of the country's genocidal governmental ideology.

Kevin said...

The moral bankruptcy of the Sudanese government is not a point of contention - but its criminality does not automatically mean that all negotiations (or measures such as funding AU peacekeepers) can be rejected out of hand as some sort of appeasement, with the only option being regime change.

Those who "care one wit about humanity" will always be informed by how their grandiose plans will actually affect the suffering masses.

If you are seriously proposing that an outside force invade Sudan to overthrow the government, you have a very heavy burden of proof to show that such a move would not make things worse (not to mention to ensure that the intervention would not be undertaken in such a way that buttresses Western geopolitical interests). One need only look at Iraq as a graphic example of the above.

Neal said...

kevin,

We have a government in Sudan which is certainly responsible for the deaths of millions of people over the course of the last decade or so. The approach of negotiations has not prevented that. How much worse would a scorched earth policy by the West against that government be? And, so what that the West has an interest of its own? That, if we take a look at such things from an historical point of view, is a time that Western governments really do anything to help other people

Now, I note that I am not a fan of humanitarian intervention as it can be merely an excuse for agression. But, that is certainly not the whole story.

Consider the case of the Armenians during the 19th Century - which was a precursor, albeit related, to the genocide in the 20th Century. Europeans made all sorts of noises about helping Armenians while Abdul Hamid II plotted their annihilation for mostly imagined sins. Europeans fumbled the ball because they could not, as I see it and as the record shows, distinguish their own foreign ambitions from what they knew was an untenable situation. Which is to say, they were not willing to act because they had no foreign policy interest that was advantaged by actually helping the Armenians.

So, the European powers made fits and starts about helping the Armenians but, because the Armenians could never quite be squared with foreign policy interests, European governments stood by while about 250,000 Armenians were butchered.

By contrast, in response to 40,000 Maronites being butchered by the Ottoman authorities (and the likelihood that such butchery would continue), with much of the killing being done by the Druze but with the active support of the Ottoman military, the French stepped in and put a stop to the carnage. That, after all, is how modern Lebanon was born.

So, I think you have the matter almost backwards. Where, in fact, the Western powers actually have an interest, they are more likely to do something good as such is a necessity in order to justify the policy. Where they have little or no interest - as in the case of the Armenians -, the talk is to help people but, when push comes to shove, nothing is done.

My point here is that your approach refuses to exploit actual US interests to advance a good cause, namely, to help innocent people from being killed by the lunatic government - and it is a government ruled by lunatics - of Sudan.

Instead, you propose negotiations which, by the time they get anywhere, maybe another couple of hundred thousand people will die.

Kevin said...

That recent governments in Khartoum have been guilty of massive crimes is not in dispute (including the Nimeri regime, allied to the US during the late 70s and early 80s). Additionally, as you note, the fact that Western countries (and others) have ulterior motives in the region does not negate the fact that the West could potentially play some sort of positive role in resolving the conflict in Darfur. This is a line that has been taken by many on the left - that nothing good could come of Western involvement, by definition - but it is a reactionary position with which I disagree, as it is not informed by humanitarian realities. When the US intervened to restore Aristide to power in Haiti in the early 90s, for example, it was not out of humanitarian concern - rather, it was to stem the flow of black refugees arriving to US soil, and attempt to rein in Aristide's anti-neoliberal platform - but it would be wrong to merely condemn the US move for its motives without recognizing possible benefits, incidental as they may have been.

As it relates to Darfur, my understanding is that you propose a Western invasion of the country, perhaps with the end goal of overthrowing the Bashir regime. I would be interested to hear more details as to how you envision this proceeding in a way that would not have catastrophic humanitarian implications for Darfurians, as well as Sudanese more generally. Starting with the principle of "first, do no harm," how would this force, perhaps US-led, avoid provoking a multifaceted all-out war in Sudan, as government-allied militia groups would surely unleash firepower of a kind not yet seen on Darfurians, and a civil war could be reignited with the country's South? Is there any reason to think that a significant resistance movement amongst Sudanese (not to mention foreign fighters) would not develop? What would happen to the large-scale aid operations that are keeping many Darfurians alive?

One could go on and on, but without any real sort of evidence that these are not legitimate concerns, and indeed likely outcomes of a Western invasion, advocating such is not a position that should be taken by those interested in assuaging the conflict.

Neal said...

Kevin,

First, I am not advocating war. I am, rather, advocating that we all remove our rose colored glasses and begin to address the Islamists as they are: an abominable group of power hungry people who, at this point, have committed genocide on multiple occasions - and in the name of religion.

Second, the goal in foreign policy is not always, as you suggest, to do not harm. Sometimes, the better policy would be to do some harm, for example, to prevent worse harm from occurring. Think how much better the world might have been had Britain and France shown less restraint after Germany moved into the Rhineland, back in the 1930's. So, I do not think the "first, do no harm" idea is always a reasonable approach.

Which is to say, I do not think that the current issue in Sudan can be looked at solely by counting the number of people who, if civilized nations are to support civilization, will be killed if the West decides to do something. No doubt, a lot will die, just as a lot of people on trains running to death camps and in the death camps would have died in WWII if the trains were bombed and the camps were bombed.

Consider: the Sudanese government will, so long as it is in power, need enemies, because Islamist ideology requires them. So, when they run out of undesirables in Darfur to massacre, they will find new victims. And, when they finish with such new victims, they will find even more victims. And on and on and so on and so forth.... Until people wake up!!!

Where I differ with you is in thinking that this is a question of merely saving lives. It is that. But, as with other fanatical movements in history, it is also - and even more importantly - about stopping the movement. Stopping the movement, in the end, will stop the killing. Ignoring the movement's ideology will merely address a symptom but that symptom - serial genocide - will, until it is addressed, return again and again and again. Why? Because that is what Islamism is about.

So, I am not worried about first doing no harm. I am worried about failing to destroy Islamism. And, the way to help those being massacred in Darfur, is to do what can be done - ideologically, politically and, unfortunately, at times militarily to remove that cancer, which is among the worst evils the world has seen in a good while.

I have no direct answer because I am not a military man. But, the government needs to go and the Islamists need to suffer a setback.

denk said...

**
Neal said...
Kevin,

First, I am not advocating war. I am, rather, advocating that we all remove our rose colored glasses and begin to address the Islamists as they are: an abominable group of power hungry people who, at this point, have committed genocide on multiple occasions - and in the name of religion.**

apparently those "moslems" who are "with us" are the "good" moslems though...
as clinton affectionately called them, "our kind of guys" ?

"In fact, the State Department this week was putting out urgent queries around Washington that make it sound as if they are planning to openly aid Kopassus, the most notoriously sadistic army unit, and, historically, the most heavily US-trained one"
http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2007/12/imposed-hunger-in-gaza-the-army-in-indonesia/

Neal said...

denk,

In the midst of your talk about good and bad guys, the regime in Sudan has, since 1983, reinstituted chattel slavery and basically killed about 2 million people in their own country.

Let us assume all the bad things you say or think about the US are true. The fact is, nonetheless, that the Sudanese regime is among the worst on Earth. It is the regime which has officially - as in it is the Sudanese government's publicly stated position - permits chattel slavery. And, there are no shortages of slaves bought and sold in Sudan.

denk said...

neal,

what do you propose to do for darfur, do you support the idea of an imposed "no fly zone" for example, ?

Neal said...

denk,

I propose overthrowing the regime by, if possible, completing isolating the regime economically and diplomatically but, if necessary escalating tactics until it is gone. I do not know how far it will be necessary to go but, in the end, the only way to end the problem with a regime which has, on multiple occasions, committed genocide is to overthrow it. Otherwise, we shall only have the same problem crop up again.

denk said...

neal,

"As many as five million people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A quarter million or so have perished in Darfur, western Sudan. "
http://tinyurl.com/3xdczj

why is everybody campaigning for darfur, why the deafening silence about congo, it doesnt make sense.

Neal said...

denk,

The Darfur massacres are the second round of genocide in the country since 1983. The first round included the use of food deprivation to force villages to convert to Islam (or die), the taking of children from their parents and force converting the children to Islam, the reinstitution of slavery - with the government asserting that slavery is a moral institution justified by Islamic law and with substantial numbers of people taken into slavery - and, all told, at least 1.5 million people massacred or, as noted, intentionally starved to death.

The Congo situation is also terrible. I do not deny it. I am, however, more familiar with the Sudanese situation which is why I stated my views.

One reason that the Sudanese situation is raised, aside from the grave humanitarian issues, is to better inform the world about what Islamism is about. Sudan is, as you know, a Utopian sort of state. The Islamist policies have substantial financial support across the Arab regions - most particularly with support coming from Egypt - and, in fact, slaves taken in the Sudan have been sold in the Gulf States.

In the case of Sudan, there are, accordingly, three coincident problems: the Islamization program (of which I mentioned only part), genocide and chattel slavery.

I do not know enough about Congo, other than the fact that there have been lots of dead people, to comment about it in any detail. I can, however, comment about Sudan because I have read quite a bit about the country.

denk said...

neal.

now that you know congo is much worse than sudan in terms of human tragedies, perhaps you should adjust your priority.

further more, the campaign for darfur is hardly spontaneous, it had been planned almost a decade ago, as a five yr plan to control seven countries.....
http://tinyurl.com/2seu65
dont fall for this "humanitarian" intervention crap and become a shill for the empire.

Neal said...

denk,

The situation in Congo may be a worse incident, but Islamism is the worst ideology to come along since the Nazis. And, unlike the Nazis, the Islamists are pretty blunt about their aims. If ever there has been an imperial ideology - one backed by religion -, Islamism is it. It is something to be destroyed.

The article you cite shows me nothing. My reasons and those of the government for opposing the Sudanese government may be entirely unrelated. My interest concerns countering Islamism.

denk said...

neal,

the world community doesnt seem to share your perception of "threat"
http://tinyurl.com/4f34

Neal said...

denk,

This is not a popularity contest. Before WWII, the world did not think that Germany was a threat either. So, the issue is reality, not whether Europeans hold this or that prejudice about what they perceive as a threat.

Which is to say, I may be mistaken. But, that is not because a bunch of Europeans either agree or disagree with me.

denk said...

neal,

i rest my case.