High Noon In Darfur

The Washington Post has a piece on last week’s rally for action on the ongoing genocide in Darfur:

Yesterday’s rally, along with protests planned in 17 other cities, was the largest public outcry for Darfur since the conflict began three years ago. It underscores growing public support across the nation to end the bloodshed, in much the same way activists in the 1980s launched a social justice campaign to end South Africa’s apartheid system.

“The world policy on Sudan is failing,” said actor George Clooney, who recently visited the Chad-Sudan border, where hundreds of thousands of Darfuris live in refugee camps. “If we turn our heads and look away and hope it will all go away, then they will, and an entire generation will disappear.”

His father, Nick Clooney, a veteran journalist, said: “We didn’t stop the Holocaust. We didn’t stop Cambodia. We didn’t stop Rwanda. But this one, we can stop.”

There is no doubt that the Sudanese Arabs are attempting to ethnically cleanse the black African Darfuris, and the situation in Darfur is a major humanitarian crisis. The janjaweed militias are nothing less than a death squad, and the Sudanese government has major ties to al-Qaeda which threaten to further destabilize the region and create a safe harbor for terrorists. The question is, what can be done? The strategy of diplomatic sanctions against Sudan are an option, but history has shown that sanctions are ineffective at best and end up hurting the most vulnerable rather than the governments they’re designed to target. A multinational peacekeeping force is another option, but who will have the will do implement such a thing? What will prevent Darfur from becoming another Sbrenica – a bloodbath in which UN peacekeeping troops end up being impotent to prevent? What of the endemic corruption of UN forces in the region, which have included assaults and rapes on the very people that they’re supposed to be protecting.

One cannot help but admire and support the sentiment behind the rallies for Darfur. However, many of the people rallying for action in Darfur would condemn the people of Iraq to an even worse fate, and marched in opposition to “racist war” and “imperialism” and all the other buzzwords of the anti-American left. Would these people support a unilateral action to disarm the janjaweed by force? It seems unlikely that the UN would support decisive military action against the Sudanese government, which is one of the only ways to truly end this conflict.

There is the option of creating a mercenary force to fight the janjaweed or arming the Darfuris themselves. This strategy would almost certainly be distasteful to the George Clooneys of the world. Sending in mercenaries might help route the janjaweed, but what is to prevent them from further destabilizing the region? It’s an intriguing suggestion, but the chances that a mercenary army could fight off the Sudanese without provoking an international incident seems quite slim. Unless we want to begin something like the French Foreign Legion (which is a tempting prospect at times), we simply don’t have a way of pursuing such an option.

What Darfur shows, in gory detail, is the utter impotence of the current international order. From Darfur to Tehran, the impotence of international institutions has allowed one crisis after another to spiral out of control. America, even if not engaged in Iraq, could not possibly intervene in every crisis zone, and when we do, it’s usually followed by criticism of our aims. Europe’s lack of military capability means that situations like Darfur can’t be met with the necessary level of military force, meaning that any credible peacekeeping force would have to consist largely of US troops.

There are no good options in Darfur, just as there are no good options for Iran, North Korea, or a whole host of other major international flashpoints. Our international institutions are too corrupt, ineffective, weak, and scattered to truly make a difference. America is the world’s sheriff not because we want to be, but because we’re the only ones with the guts to do the job. On the international stage, we’ve become Gary Cooper in High Noon – the only one with the guts and the gun to try and clean up the mess. Unlike the movies, if things continue as they have, the good guys won’t win in the end.

What we need is a set of international institutions that are accountable, transparent, and has the teeth to actively intervene in places like Darfur. The UN is not that body – it is throughly corrupt from top to bottom, ineffective, and toothless. It has become a joke, and rightly so. Unless the United States and others are willing to form a new international body that will do the job, the situation in Darfur will be only the beginning. Unless George Clooney would like the same “unilateral” action by the US that he decries in Iraq, all the talk in the world and all the diplomatic posturing won’t prevent this genocide from taking more innocent lives.

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