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February 15, 2006

Is NATO really right for Sudan?
Posted by Jeffrey Laurenti

Progressive-minded Americans can relish the moment.  Kofi Annan went to see George Bush on Monday to tell him—if we may strip away the layers of flowery diplomatic politesse—to put up or shut up.  For two years Washington has been insistently demanding strong action by the United Nations to halt the janjaweed massacres and expulsions in Darfur.   Now that the international will has congealed to send in a U.N. protection force, an administration that has dominated the jawboning needs to do a share of the heavy lifting.

But the notion that NATO should send a force into Sudan is, with due respect to Senator Joe Biden and its other enthusiasts, simply bone-headed.  NATO is already on thin ice in Afghanistan as an alien force in a Muslim sea, but at least the Afghan government in Kabul wants it there.  NATO has even less business going into a civil conflict in Sudan, where a resistant government in Khartoum suspects Western governments really just want to split the country—and many Africans believe it. 

Western military capacities can certainly strengthen the limited reach of the force currently deployed by the threadbare African Union.  But they can’t substitute for it:  Africa’s participation is indispensable (and no one else, from NATO or otherwise, will put up the troops needed on the ground to police so vast an area as Darfur).  And neither Europeans nor Africans have any stomach for becoming a military arm of the Darfur rebels.  Neither do Americans, at least not those outside of Washington.

The obvious framework is a U.N. operation that harnesses both African and Western capacities. Members of NATO can put the same military capacities to work under a U.N. aegis as under NATO’s – but the Africans will not take orders from a Euro-American command and political body in which they have no voice. Of course, Washington is allergic to U.N. operations, and armchair warriors are quick to accuse U.N. leadership of being too reluctant to use military force.  (That’s why we did our own thing in Somalia in 1993.)  But after the recent experience of U.S. military unilateralism, the American public may be grateful for the restraint on reckless “robustness” that global accountability may entail.

We should be careful what we wish for.  Just when the American people have caught on to the folly of military adventurism in Iraq, do “progressives” want to tell them we have another war to involve them in?  Handle with care….   


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I'm sorry, a "civil conflict"? Just like that unpleasantness the Jews went through in Germany during the 1940s, right? If I remember, the German government didn't like American intervention either.

Fact Check: Somalia was a UN operation. According to Bill Clinton in his book it was the UN who asked the US to go after Adide because his group had killed UN troops. We did not do "our own thing" in Somalia.

To argue that it should be the UN not NATO might make logical sense in a vacuum but in reality the UN has done, and will do, nothing to stop Darfur. However, I totally agree that based on how NATO has performed in Afganistan that relying on it for some other mission might not be a great idea either.

Lane Brody

Judah, the only thing the Holocaust and Darfur have in common is that many people have died. The motivations, though, are completely different. In Germany the point was to wipe Jews from the Earth, in Darfur the point is to silence a rebel movement. Therefore it is a 'civil conflict' within Sudan. Twice as many people could die in Sudan than did at the hands of the Nazis, but that doesn't make it a genocide. Genocide is not defined by bodycount, but by the goal of the perpetrators.

Genocide, schmenicide. I don't care what we call it. Its mass murder of one group of people by another. There may be a conflict between the SLA/JEM and Khartoum, but there is clearly a campaign of wide-spread killing of innocents. This isn't Northern Ireland.

I believe that the U.S. should begin a mission to the Sudan but not as part of a U.N. force and dismissive of the idea of U.N. "leadership." The U.S. needs to go in to Sudan on its own with a Coalition of the Willing not involving the U.N. For too long, the U.N. has benefitted from the image as an humanitarian organization while the Americans doing all of the work continue to go unnoticed. A mission in Sudan will be a great way for the U.S. to show respectable global leadership. The U.N. is only temporary, we must strive to bring honor to America's eternal image as envisioned by the revolutionary principles that made and continue to make this nation grow.

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It is impossible to guage whether the President truly cares about a humanitarian crisis in Sudan. His inaction suggest that he might not. But either way his hands are tied. Under Clinton ( who chose to ignore Rwanda), military intervention without the United Nations seems justified because it was the right thing to do. UN action is pretty much impossible because of Chinese support for Sudan and because of the sovereignty clause in the Charter that allows Sudan to hide behind supposed fears of "neo-colonialism". The last time the Bush admininstration went round the UN was to invade Iraq- so it has used that card. americas reputation has been left in tatters and any military intervention cannot be now seen in a positive light.

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