The Century's First Genocide: Who Cares? (Darfur)

Last century, public opinion had difficulty recognizing or grappling with evil when it took the form of genocide. Thus, American Presidents were reluctant to take even modest steps to mitigate catastrophe: they interpreted public silence as indifference and were wary of the risks of engagement.

Samantha Power noted the pattern in her book, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide:

Permit me to summarize the security situation in Darfur.

No, I’m not calling for western ground troops: the African Union should be able to do the job provided it is given sufficient UN authority, western money and logistical support. As Nicholas Kristof [notes](file:///C:/Downloads/Darfur/07kristof.html), about 50 AU peacekeepers were sufficient to create a safe haven in Labado, Sudan. According to the International Crisis Group we need a minimum of 10,000 AU ground troops. Currently they have about 2300 soldiers in the Sudan.

Rwanda has about 400 troops in the country. Oddly, they want to send more: last April, they had 2,500 ready to go, but lacked the means and authorization to get them into Sudan. Today, the EU and NATO are playing 4 dimensional chess: they can’t decide who should take the lead in coordinating the AU troop airlift. While Brussels fiddles…

Oh yeah, a no-fly zone would also be nice.

Maybe 10,000 die each month in Darfur, perhaps more; so far the death count is around 200-300,000. Kristof notes that the Janjaweed militias practice policy rape.

The International Crisis Group’s page on Darfur is helpful for background information. Human Rights Watch has a more frequently updated page of news stories on Africa.

There is also a MPSIMS thread on humanitarian aid to Darfur.

I seriously considered quitting the SD when nobody replied to my MPSIMS thread if you must know. That sucked for me, all my posts about not washing my pants get 40 replies but that one was just forgotten. Hell, just clicking on the free link in my post isn’t hard.

I honestly don’t know what the debate is though. There is some info in the news about the EU & NATO offering to airlift AU peacekeepers and Russia offering to help, and the ICC is starting to investigate human rights abuses, but thats about it.

Oh, you shouldn’t feel bad. I read it, I just didn’t comment. With something like that, that is probably the natural response. It doesn’t really call for a lot of response, being informative more than interrogative.

As to the OP, your suggestions seem perfectly reasonable to me. So I, too, have nothing to add or debate.

  • Tamerlane

Hey, Wesley, don’t feel too bad: your MPSIMS thread is clocking in at a solid 30 views now! Interestingly, So Called Armenian genocide in Comments on Cecils Columns is busting the hamsters’ chops at 4389 views.

When confronted with historical genocides some say, “Never again”. But somehow actual genocides lead to brainlock. (Hey, I should know. I did squat during the Rwanda event and I’ve procrastinated for months on this particular thread).

Anyway, there’s lots to debate.

Firstly, we can always bash the President for foot-dragging (though see historical experience). Hilariously, when Condi gave him a summary of the Rwanda experience, he penciled in, “Not on my watch.” I guess the shoe is on the other foot, isn’t George?

Second, we can note that one of the largest constituencies for action in the Darfur has been -wait for it- Fundamentalist Christians! Let’s face it, the body count in the Sudan has dwarfed that of basically any policy issue faced by the American President, Iraq included.[sup]1[/sup] Fundamentalists should therefore be praised for their mastery of moral subtlety.

Third, we can debate whether the White House was right to put a stop to the Darfur Accountability Act, sponsored by Corzine and others.

Fourth, we can discuss the 5 point plan put forward by the International Crisis Group.

Fifth (following a thread from March 15) we might ask what other nations might do. Or, we could wonder where the Egyptian government is doing. Hm. Sounds like a Pit thread.

Sixth, we could debate whether favoring divestment from the Sudan (as Barbara Lee advocates) is really a great idea. (My answer: favoring it is great; doing it is not so hot. At present.)

Seventh, we could discuss whether the US ought to send ground troops. Personally, I’m afraid that such an action would attract Al Qaeda, complicating the situation.

Eighth, we could discuss whether, oh, Canada might send ground troops. (Eh, probably not necessary.)

Ninth, we could discuss the military strategic/tactical issues involved (not my expertise).

[sup]1[/sup]Arguably, North Korea might be excluded.

Oh yeah tenth, should some of us maybe possibly pick up the telephone and initiate a 30 second chat with our elected representatives’ switchboard?

It wouldn’t hurt ya know. You don’t have to make it a habit: Genocides only occur a couple of times every couple of decades.

My Sudanese guys are genuinely puzzled by all the excitement about Dafur. They point out the US had a Civil War, but for some reason we will not allow Sudan to have one.


Still, they represent (I guess) a serious opinion in Sudanese and Islamic thought. They resent our interference with their internal affairs.

If we want to stop them, we will need guns.

Ah, well, I suppose that is the problem with few or no responses in a high turnover forum - the thread drops off the main page very quickly. Not such an issue with the comments forum and that is a somewhat more controversial issue given the slightly murky historical record, a very vocal Armenian diaspora in the west and a long policy of official Turkish obfuscation, hence the column.

But I certainly agree that Darfur, though it isn’t at a Rwanda level yet, certainly has the potential to continue to spiral out of control and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later ( preferably yesterday ).

  • Tamerlane

Here is an update to ICG’s analysis, originally published in the Wall Street Journal Europe (6Jun05).

They now say that Darfur requires a minimum of 12,000 - 15,000 troops, and that the African Union (AU) hopes to have 7,700 in place by September, provided all goes well.

About 10,000 die in Darfur every month. Failed states create conditions amenable to Al Qaeda. The International Crisis Group proposes that NATO send in troops, until the AU can handle it alone.

Some Europeans (eg France) would prefer a European Union (EU) solution. But ICG doubts whether they are up to the task.

Also, the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) mandate is currently too weak: they should be given permission to take on the Janjaweed.

Debate: Militarily, do these numbers make sense?

What sort of instant response capacity does NATO have?

Gee, this isn’t peacekeeping we’re talking about. Should NATO get involved in such an aggressive humanitarian action? (Would it enhance military readiness?) Or is this an invitation to quagmire? What’s the exit strategy? How would the Powell doctrine be applied here?

Recall that Sudan has rather intricate (and largely nondemocratic) internal politics and multiple armed factions.

My Senator is Bill Frist.
He couldn’t give a damn about…well, anything to be frank. Unless it has the words “Baptist”, “Family Values”, or “Campaign Contribution” in it.

My Congressman, Bart Gordon, is a Democrat; therefore powerless, for all intents & purposes.

Does NATO really care? I think the reality is that of those countries that could really make some difference here just don’t give a damn. Thus they are content to ignore Darfur.

Bosda Di’Chi of Tricor
Frist cares about his fundamentalist constituency. Some of the victims in Sudan are Christians. Fundamentalists (if Kristof is to be believed) have been among the strongest proponents of action in Darfur. Indeed, Frist was spotted in Chad last year.

The politics in this issue are rather interesting. (More generally, it might be noted that Bob Dole was one of the more vocal proponents of action in Bosnia last decade.)

I would recommend a phone call.

Of course, there’s also the question of what should be done at the legislative level (thus the debate about the Darfur Accountability Act).

rfgdxm: ---- Does NATO really care?

I guess the issue is whether NATO’s member governments care.

Does the Sudan have WMD ? Should we abrogate their sovereignty?

NATO cares.
As does the EU.
Roadblock is cleared.

The AU would be the ones abrogating their sovereignty. Not only that but aren’t humans automatically entitled to some basic human/civil rights that deserve to be protected irrelevant of their government? I know it would bring out a long debate about things (ie, should the EU invade the US because of Gitmo and the fact that we have the death penalty) but gross, systematic human rights abuses are something totally different.

Along with NATO and the EU, as the AU likely wouldn’t be able to violate their sovereignty without the backing of NATO and the EU.

Great link; I’ll note that it pre-dates the OP. :smack:

BBC’s Africa page is pretty good. Their Sudan page is updated less often.

Personally, I’m holding off on the phone calls for a few days.

Still to be debated: should NATO take a more hands-on approach, as ICG recommends? This rat-bastard is currently leaning towards the “No” end, though it may cost tens of thousands of lives (but I guess/hope not hundreds of thousands) . Yikes.

I’m wondering how much actual force it would take to get the Sudanese to back off. As I understand it, the Sudanese are sending out very lightly armored troops (if they’re armored at all in the sense of modern warfare) to gun down innocent civilians in villages, backed up by helicopter gunships. About a regiment in the right place armed with heat-seeking missiles and RPGs ought to be able to ratchet up the cost of these mission a lot for Sudan. Wouldn’t even have to stay in place, just strike and move on and wait for the next target(s).

Has the Sudanese government got a formidable army of any kind?

I’m sure you’re aware of this, Paul, but I’ll remind my fellow posters that the Sudan civil war has lasted from 1955-1972 and 1983-present.

The US civil war lasted all of 5 years; I am not aware of its problems spilling out over its borders to a significant extent.

Furthermore, Sudan has long meddled in the affairs of its border nations, and visa versa. Methinks the region has something less than a nation-state, and that there are a host of considerations that trump so-called sovereignty in this case.

Whether it is prudent to intervene, of course, is a separate matter.

I’d recommend a no-fly zone in a heart-beat, except that I don’t know squat about military matters.

From these two links, it appears that the US shouldn’t feel too threatened by Sudan’s air force, which has a staff of 3000. Still, the info is a little dated; those wishing more recent figures should probably contact them directly.

From the 2nd link:
Sudan Air Force
P.O.Box 736
Khartoum, Sudan

I just spent about ten minutes writing to all of my representatives. (When I went to the website to get the mailing address for each, it said that due to security concerns, I was supposed to e-mail them instead of using the postal service.)

There was a story on NPR’s Diane Reem show. The columnist who was talking about this very issue said that after Rwanda’s genocide, he talked to a senator who said that if only 100 people from each congressional district had contacted their representatives, something would have been done.

This says to me that the apathy of the average American is costing lives. The guest on the show said that the White House chucked the Darfur Accountability Act because they knew there wouldn’t be any political fallout-- and they were right.

I think each of us who care about this issue should make it a priority to get a couple of our friends to write to our representatives as well, urging them to convince others to do the same. 100 people from each congressional district is a very attainable goal.