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December 29, 2006

What Darfur Means for our National Security
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Apologies for the long gaps on the blog. I'm home in New Mexico for Christmas and finally got to my mom's house in the Four Corners where I astonishingly found a new DSL line.  This is a big deal seeing as the most advanced technology until now is a windmill to pump water for the horses.

The day before Christmas, I drove by a sign from It stated simply "Not on our watch".  It was a poignant reminder of what's going on in the world--and it made me feel awkward on my way to the shopping mall to catch the last minute sales.  The sign also reminded me of three things that recently came across my defense-wonk radar. First, this great article in last week's New Yorker about social science insights gaining ground in the US Government--including the Defense Department. Second, that even the highly resistant Bush Administration is warming up to the idea of a larger Army . And third, that the DoD just released its latest Counter Insurgency Doctrine manual. 

The manual codifies an important lesson of insurgencies: it takes more than the military to win. So what has this all got to do with SaveDarfur? 

Well, this organization is an impressive example of networked organizing and not-usual-suspect partnerships (humanitarian left and Christian right)  Their influence reaches across the country through locally motivated and self organized groups. Their message goes beyond moral compulsion and includes policy recommendations.  Their site includes good instructions for influencing elected leaders-- They have movie-star advocates who know the issue in-depth.

But our inability to save Darfur is related to the other aforementioned items in fundamental ways. And although coalitions hang together because they stick to narrow causes, we must find a way to turn such activated public audiences into a call for broader change.  If I put my Congressional staff hat on for a minute, it reminds me of the days that I longed for an organized constituency like the SaveDarfur groups who could coordinate en masse in Congress with the message "See, even the military itself says we need non-military tools to beat today's threats like terrorism and to prevent genocide". What would follow from that, hopefully, is a discussion about the division of labor in our government--specifically how we've handed the military far too much responsibility for our national security and foreign policy. Then maybe the tendency to just throw more troops at the problem would be revealed for what it is: a tenacious case of Cold War hangover.   Why, exactly, do we need so much more landpower (Army and Marines) if we don't plan on invading and occupying countries routinely? It would be diferent if we intend on training them to do different missions--but that means relinquishing the myth about "fighting and winning our nation's wars" thru superior firepower. Maybe we need a wholesale reorganization. But if we continue asking our military to do everything, soon they won't be able to do anything--including stopping genocides.

Nobody knows the answers yet, but we have to start talking about this dilemma. We need an overhaul about how we think about national security. The policy ground work has been done on genocide's not even a question of international political will anymore, the change needs to happen here at home.  Americans understand that power is not just the ability to dominate, but the ability to influence change. Will these new troops be dedicated to humanitarian intervention? To peacebuilding and conflict prevention? To working closely with the United Nations, NATO, the European Union? Supporting the African Mission in Sudan?  If the military's own doctrine advises non- military solutions, why aren't we creating more diplomats, legal advisors and civil engineers to dispatch abroad instead? Why is it that the State Department's effort to meet today's challenges--with surge capacity for crisis areas-- only funded through a Defense Department loan?

Saving Darfur is a leadership challenge that goes far beyond the human tragedy in that part of the world. Our hurdles are obvious--a defense industry clinging Gollum-like to its precious Cold War platforms and future war with China--a large chunk of the public that thinks its okay to open up a can of whup-ass on the world--political opportunism that thrives on fear.  But the answers are available to us. Unlike the Cold War,  it really isn't rocket science anymore. Genocide is both a moral and philosophical challenge and Americans are uniquely capable of doing something about it. But Saving Darfur now and stopping other genocides in the future will require a historic realignment. We need a persistent crowd of Americans to occupy the intersection of philosophy and government and steer policy in a new direction on national security. SaveDarfur is an admirable start. But these concerned Americans must dig deeper, take on these bureaucratic and budget issues and show up on the steps of Congress with them, too.

Of course, electing George Clooney to the Senate would be a huge boon to these efforts... and I'm completely serious about that.


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another take on calls for humanitarian intervention in africa for those who truly want to dig deeper behind the propaganda...

Darfur: an open discussion on intervention, regime change & the politics of genocide

lighter audio download/streams on same program can be found at the guns & butter archives here
part one on august 16:
part two on august 23:
Five different perspectives on the ongoing crisis in the Darfur region explore the ethical and political questions behind popular calls for humanitarian intervention and regime change in Sudan. Panelists include Co-Director of the IAC in New York, Sara Flounders; Professor of Anthropology, Dr. Elliot Fratkin; investigative journalist, Keith Harmon Snow; researcher on war crimes, Dimitri Oram; and Associate Professor of Anthropology, Enoch Page; and concludes with a panel discussion. This event on the crisis in Darfur was held on July 6, 2006 at Smith College in Massachusetts.

keith harmon snow recently posted on darfur @ indymedia - south africa
Why does the global north want to 'Save Dafur'? Wake up and smell the Oil!
Funding behind the “Save Darfur” and "Stop Genocide” campaign which is gaining ground fast in North America and Europe is remarkable. Fancy brochures, countless web sites, T-shirts, bumper stickers— even "Save Darfur!" video-war-games. Have the powers that be have suddenly developed a conscience? Unfortunately, not so.

A small number of "experts" are currently allowed to represent the story of Dafur to the Western public. However, on closer inspection, much of it turns out to be deliberate disinformation. An example: New York Times photos of Sudan feed into stereotypes about wind-blown deserts and wandering nomads— in fact, it is none of the sort. The “breadbasket of Africa,” Sudan is actually rich in lush, green agricultural lands and natural resources. However, pictures like these (see below) enable corporations and governments, and “humanitarian” agencies, to expropriate and control Sudan. With right-wing think tanks doing the PR for the "Save Dafur" campaign, even progressive groups in the US are suddenly advocating US military "involvement" to alleviate the humanitarian crises in Darfur. — which, this investigator contends, the US is at least partially, if not wholly, responsible for to begin with.

Innocent women, men and children are caught in the middle of this nasty Western campaign aimed—- as Dr. Eric Reeves from Smith College has openly advocated (Washington Post August 2004)—at regime change in Sudan. In their many columns and forums advertising the “genocide” in Darfur, the advocates of aggressive US foreign policy in Sudan hide from the public the evidence of a massive resource grab in the Darfur region and the country as a whole:
- At stake in Sudan are vast petroleum reserves coveted by Exxon-Mobil, Total, Halliburton, Schlumberger and Chevron, and the entire Darfur region is one vast concession that is being fought over today. See it on the oil industry maps at and
- Israel covets the uranium reserves of Darfur.
- Coke, Pepsi, Pfizer, Merck and Unilever (owns Ben & Jerry’s) seek to control the Gum Arabic plantations of Darfur: home to some 80% of world supply and the best quality Gum Arabic in the world—and the source of USAID research projects in the 1980’s that were cancelled when the Sudanese decided to control their own destiny, and their own resources. When the Sudan government defends itself or fights back it is automatically committing genocide, no matter who actually does the killing, or who else is involved in the war.

This is not an apology for the government of Sudan. It is a challenge to caring people everywhere to wake up and see the interests behind the campaign to "Save Dafur"- to recognize it is a war in which at least one side tries to enlist their genuine concern about human rights as a tool for gaining the upper hand.

two other recent appearances by keith harmon snow on guns & butter are of related interest
sept 27, 2006: Behind the Numbers: Plunder in Central Africa
Interview with journalist, Keith Harmon Snow. “Genocide” in the Darfur region of Sudan is analyzed in the context of global investment capital, natural resource exploitation, “intervention” media war propaganda masquerading as humanitarian effort. The militarization of the region by the U.S. and other nations.

The take-over of Uganda and Rwanda by rebel forces supported by the U.S. is discussed, as well as the role of Uganda and Rwanda in the destabilization of the entire region to facilitate competing global corporate interests in the plunder of Africa’s great mineral and oil wealth. The film “Hotel Rwanda”, publicized as based on historical fact, is revealed as fiction, to cover the manipulation of internecine wars in the exploitation of Rwanda’s resources by western business interests. First broadcast July 19, 2006.


dec 13, 2006: Mining the Apocalypse: Terrorism and Private Profit from the Horn to the Heart of Africa
Interview with journalist and genocide investigator, Keith Harmon Snow. A French judge has brought indictments against top officials in Paul Kagame's Rwandan government regarding the 1994 downing of the plane carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, which is routinely cited as the flashpoint for the "Rwandan genocide". We take a look at the Rwandan genocide and the Second Congo War. Keith Snow is releasing his UNICEF/United Nations sponsored investigation into the genocide in Ethiopia of the indigenous Anuak people in the Gambella region of southwest Ethiopia. Keith Snow's website is

also see

john bellamy foster: A Warning to Africa: The New U.S. Imperial Grand Strategy
The U.S. military buildup in Africa is frequently justified as necessary both to fight terrorism and to counter growing instability in the oil region of Sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2003 Sudan has been torn by civil war and ethnic conflict focused on its southwestern Darfur region (where much of the country’s oil is located), resulting in innumerable human rights violations and mass killings by government-linked militia forces against the population of the region. Attempted coups recently occurred in the new petrostates of São Tomé and Principe (2003) and Equatorial Guinea (2004). Chad, which is run by a brutally oppressive regime shielded by a security and intelligence apparatus backed by the United States, also experienced an attempted coup in 2004. A successful coup took place in Mauritania in 2005 against U.S.-supported strongman Ely Ould Mohamed Taya. Angola’s three-decade-long civil war—instigated and fueled by the United States, which together with South Africa organized the terrorist army under Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA—lasted until the ceasefire following Savimbi’s death in 2002. Nigeria, the regional hegemon, is rife with corruption, revolts, and organized oil theft, with considerable portions of oil production in the Niger Delta region being siphoned off—up to 300,000 barrels a day in early 2004.16 The rise of armed insurgency in the Niger Delta and the potential of conflict between the Islamic north and non-Islamic south of the country are major U.S. concerns.

Hence there are incessant calls and no lack of seeming justifications for U.S. “humanitarian interventions” in Africa. The Council on Foreign Relations report More than Humanitarianism insists that “the United States and its allies must be ready to take appropriate action” in Darfur in Sudan “including sanctions and, if necessary, military intervention, if the Security Council is blocked from doing so.” Meanwhile the notion that the U.S. military might before long need to intervene in Nigeria is being widely floated among pundits and in policy circles. Atlantic Monthly correspondent Jeffrey Taylor wrote in April 2006 that Nigeria has become “the largest failed state on earth,” and that a further destabilization of that state, or its takeover by radical Islamic forces, would endanger “the abundant oil reserves that America has vowed to protect. Should that day come, it would herald a military intervention far more massive than the Iraqi campaign.”17

Still, U.S. grand strategists are clear that the real issues are not the African states themselves and the welfare of their populations but oil and China’s growing presence in Africa.

michael watts: Empire of Oil: Capitalist Dispossession and the Scramble for Africa

The strategic interests of the United States certainly include not only access to cheap and reliable low-sulphur oil imports, but also keeping the Chinese (for example in Sudan) and South Koreans (for example in Nigeria)—aggressive new actors in the African oil business—and Islamic terror at bay. Africa is, according to the intelligence community, the “new frontier” in the fight against revolutionary Islam. Energy security, it turns out, is a terrifying hybrid of the old and the new: primitive accumulation and American militarism coupled to the war on terror.

A thoughtful post, and I agree that there is a dire need for a more vigorous debate of national security doctrine across the political spectrum.

A few comments based on points you brought up:

1. I disagree with the comment that "social science insights are gaining ground in the US Government--including the Defense Department"; from the comment and the linked article, one could easily infer that prior to recent events, the military's doctrine and actions had little to no intellectual underpinnings; this is NOT the case. All of the services have had graduate-level studies programs (ie the Army's School for Advanced Military Studies", led by Ph D's, that rely heavily on the social sciences to educate the military thinkers within the establishment. However, despite the presence of graduate level studies and no shortage of intellectuals who read and write within military circles and beyond it, there are peculiar institutional prejudices that are difficult to overcome. For instance, although the new Counterinsurgency manual is excellent and much needed, the fact is that no service had a counterinsurgency manual or doctrine prior to it being published.

2. I believe an institution in greater need of a doctrinal and structural overhaul is the State Department; the reason why the military has taken on so many nontraditional tasks in Iraq and Afghanistan is largely because the State Department has proven unable to perform roles that, on the outset, appear to fall within the arena of the foreign service officer. When one looks at the state of the world today, and looks at what the major American foreign policy issues of the next several decades will be, does it appear that the State Department is organized and manned to meet them? I would reply with a resounding No! to my own question. While it is important for the Defense Department to continually look at its role in the world and for National Security policy to provide clear guidance, I would argue that the present and the near future demand a more robust, capable State Department. Time for Goldwater-Nichols 2 for State?

3. I recently wrote about some of the capabilities required by the military now and in the future at my sight (; check it out if you get a chance.

4. I for one hope to see George Clooney continue to make acclaimed and/or enjoyable films for the next several decades!

Keep up the good work and excellent discussions here!

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