Democracy Arsenal

January 31, 2006


Stop Darfur's Freefall
Posted by Derek Chollet

The State of the Union address is one of those policy Chirstmas trees where every pet project and issue wants (and usually gets) its own ornament – Suzanne and Heather’s posts below illustrate how once one gets into the business of listing the many worthy issues, they add up quickly -- and that’s just on the international stuff.  So, in that spirit I’d like to make a wish for my own special ornament: that President Bush says he’s going to do something about Darfur.

With all the pressing issues in the news – Iraq, Iran, Hamas, North Korea – it’s not surprising that what’s happening inside Darfur has moved to the side.  But the next few weeks will be critical – the mandate for the underfunded and beleaguered 5000-troop protection force headed by the African Union is due to expire by March 31, and things in Darfur are only getting worse. 

During the past year, there has been a lot of well-intentioned international activity to help Darfur – but the killing isn’t stopping.  As John Prendergast recently told the New York Times, “Darfur is in a free fall.”

Kofi Annan agrees.  “People in many parts of Darfur,” he wrote last week, “continue to be killed, raped and driven from their homes by the thousands. The number displaced has reached 2 million, while 3 million (half the total population of Darfur) are dependent on international relief for food and other basics. Many parts of Darfur are becoming too dangerous for relief workers to reach. The peace talks are far from reaching a conclusion. And fighting now threatens to spread into neighboring Chad, which has accused Sudan of arming rebels on its territory.”

With the United States assuming the presidency of the UN Security Council tomorrow, the Bush Administration has an opportunity to press for a new and more meaningful policy to stop the killing.  As Kenneth Bacon writes in today’s New York Times (and others have echoed), the United States should use the next 28 days to save Darfur. 

Continue reading "Stop Darfur's Freefall" »

January 23, 2006


African Union Stands Up to One of Its Own
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

One of the most frustrating phenomena that bedevils the US at the UN is having to deal with dictators, failed states and rogue leaders that are routinely annointed to lead and represent regional groups.   This is how we wind up with the likes of Libya on the UN's Commission on Human Rights and Syria on the UN Security Council. 

Several regional blocs, including most notoriously the African Group, have traditionally determined their leadership on the basis of a strict rotation that is oblivious to the credibility or qualifications of countries for the leadership posts they seek. 

The premise of this policy, which is not impossible to understand, seems to be that with all the world judging them for their failures, they will refuse to stand in judgement of one another.   The result, however, has been to undermine the participation of Africa in international forums and to discredit the forums themselves on account of their inappropriate membership and leadership.

But there's finally some evidence this practice may be coming to a stop.  Based on the rotational system Sudan was slated to become the next President of the African Union.  Enmeshed in multiple civil wars, accused of sponsoring grave atrocities against its own people, and under investigation by the International Criminal Court the Sudanese government has hit an all-time low in terms of credibility on the continent and around the world.

To their credit, Sudan's African neighbors seem poised to break with tradition and deny Khartoum the top slot.   Faced with mutiny, the Sudanese government seems ready to end its bid for the chairmanship.

It's a small but potentially significant step forward.

August 15, 2005


Adventures of a Hero of Mulilateralism
Posted by Michael Osborne

Responding to my post of yesterday, in which I made the point that France had intervened without UN authorisation in the civil war in Côte d'Ivoire, KB says that “when the French deployed in 2002 it did so at the request of the legitimate government of the IC and therefore didn't need UN say so.”

The French action has not been adjudicated in any international tribunal but I suspect that if it was it might well be found to have been unlawful. For one thing, by the time the French arrived on the scene a large portion of the north of the country had been seized by opponents of President Laurent Gbagbo, who had thereafter requested French assistance.  Under international law, if rebel forces succeed in acquiring control over a significant portion of the country, the conflict advances to a state of "insurgency," by which time the government's inability to control the entirety of its territory renders its claim to legitimacy uncertain.  Short of U.N. authorisation, states are then expected to refrain from offering assistance to either side in the conflict, inasmuch as any assistance would likely influence the outcome of what has now become a civil war.

July 26, 2005

Africa, Terrorism

Attention to Africa: Be Careful What You Wish For
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

This piece in Tuesday's Washington Post is a lovely bit of writing, even if it does draw too heavily on the "white man's burden" school of Africa reporting.  The substance of its coverage, focused on a unit of National Guard reserve Green Berets training Chadian soldiers, under the headline "US Pushes Anti-Terrorism in Africa," was, however, lacking in content and context.  Using the magic of the web, allow me to fill in some gaps.

1.  So, the US has just discovered a terrible terrorism threat in Africa?

For years now, Africa advocacy groups have been toying around with the theme that Africa presents ripe opportunities for terrorists, in hopes that the US would pay more attention.  Well, folks, my mother used to tell me about Saint Theresa, who cursed you by giving you what you thought you wanted -- and here we are.

According to the International Crisis Group, the highest threat of Islamist activity is actually in Mali, "star pupil of 1990s neo-liberal democratisation."  ICG (see links below) also says that the Salafist Brotherhood for Preaching and Combat was dramatically weakened by the raid described in the article.

In any case, what seems clear is that recognition of terrorism in Africa is not, in fact, leading to increased resources for government, health, education and other areas that will, in the long run, give people choices beyond joining terrorist groups and hunting gazelles and/or non-Muslims.   It's leading to more DoD programming with little regard for broader political consequences.  Oh well.

2.  And the military response is the best one?  Thank goodness the Pentagon is on the case.

Back in March, the International Crisis Group published a report on US anti-terrorism activities in Africa which had some rather pungent things to say about where there is a problem:

With the U.S. heavily committed in other parts of the world, however, Washington is unlikely to devote substantial non-military resources to the Sahel soon, even though Africa is slowly gaining recognition -- not least due to West Africa's oil -- as an area of strategic interest to the West. The resultant equation is laden with risks, including turning the small number of arrested clerics and militants into martyrs, thus giving ammunition to local anti-American or anti-Western figures who claim the PSI (and the proposed, expanded Trans-Saharan Counter Terrorism Initiative (TSCTI) still under consideration in the U.S. government) is part of a larger plan to render Muslim populations servile; and cutting off smuggling networks that have become the economic lifeblood of Saharan peoples whose livestock was devastated by the droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, without offering economic alternatives. To avoid creating the kinds of problems the PSI is meant to solve, it needs to be folded into a more balanced approach to the region, one also in which Europeans and Americans work more closely together.

3.  Of course, this will also promote democratic accountability, since that is so important to the Bush Administration.

One of the things I love about working with the military is that by and large you get very straightforward answers to questions.  Our Post reporter is clearly troubled by the implications of training a military whose job is to protect an embattled and autocratic government frm its irate fellow-citizens.  She notices that members of Chad's president's small ethnic group control everything and are "feared" by others.  She poses the question to a soldier and gets the following answer, much more straightforward than any comment you will get on the subject back home:

"It just makes sense. They're the president's guard, and so in this region, with all the coups and stuff, you'd want them the best trained," said Capt. Jason, the team leader.  U.S. officials said the battalion is based in N'Djamena to safeguard the government and prevent its vehicles from falling into the hands of regional commanders.

Res ipsa loquitor.  (**Thanks, Dan, for correcting my Latin spelling.)  But there's really no further comment on the old democracy vs. stability argument needed.

4.  And nothing like this has ever been tried before?

Here's where readers can test out their wonk skills.  What do ACRI and ACOTA stand for?  Which was an initiative of the Clinton Administration, and which of Bush 43?  What was the difference between them?

The Africa Crisis Response Initiative was a State Department-managed, DOD-supported program to train selected African militaries for peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, and promote Africans' ability to work together (basically, to build a peacekeeping capacity for circumstances in which the US and other Western nations would not send forces themselves).  This was a Clinton-era initiative in the wake of Rwanda.

In FY2004, the Bush Administration replaced this with Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance, focused "on training trainers and providing programs tailored to individual country needs."

Obviously, peacekeeping and terrorist-hunting are not the same things.  But we do have a dismaying track record of Administrations trying out and then abandoning ideas for Africa, as if no one had ever thought of them before.  And then we wonder why our programs encounter difficulty in producing long-term change.

So we know that the trouble with the war on terror is that our allies can't just be Britain, Poland, and those plucky democrats in Georgia and Ukraine.   Now that Secretary Rumsfeld has shored u p our bases in Uzbekistan, and gotten the Kyrgyz to say that they didn't really mean what they said when the Russians and Chinese were in the room, can't we be a little more honest about where we can't avoid dealing with thugs, and a little more discriminating about which thugs we hug?

One is just left with the impression here that this Administration's policy is more like that wonderful board game Risk -- "terrorists here?  let's put some chips there" -- than an actual calculation of the sum total of US interests and how to maximize them.

The International Crisis Group report I linked to above has some good policy suggestions, among them doing more cooperative work with the Europeans in Africa.  At least that would give our soldiers some up-to-date maps of Chad.

(It's good to be back.  I'll have my midwest trip report soon...)

July 06, 2005


Getting Serious on Africa
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Salon asked to publish one of our nifty swifty Democracy Arsenal Top 10 lists, so this is reposted here courtesy of them.  I am gonna add in just a few DA links to reference our own prior discussioins on some of these issues (couldn't be as shameless in driving people here from Salon as I might've liked).

On the eve of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, President Bush deserves some credit for his proposals to address the lot of Africa's roughly 850 million people. Bush's promises to double U.S. aid to Africa, to cancel the debts of Africa's 18 most heavily indebted nations, and to up funds for AIDS and malaria all tackle issues that matter in ways that will have an impact. But all told, these measures fall well short of amounting to a comprehensive strategy for Africa.

The administration promotes the impression that Bush is leading a drive to eradicate poverty and stem the African continent's many other woes. For now, these claims are overstated. Under heavy pressure from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and at a moment when the U.S. badly needs to improve its global image, Bush has chosen proposals that sidestep some of the biggest questions about Africa's future. Bush's critics have focused mostly on his failure to do enough for Africa. They complain that the U.S.' allotment for overseas development assistance falls far below the .7 percent of GDP target that the most generous European nations are hitting. Reaching .7 percent would require a fivefold increase in U.S. spending on development aid, something the administration has flat-out rejected.

But in addition to asking for more funds and pressing the administration to make good on its newest pledges -- the purported doubling of aid monies actually falls far short of that -- Africa's advocates should demand that important gaps be filled if Bush is to style himself as Africa's protector and benefactor. They should press the administration to go beyond discrete pledges and programs and adopt a more comprehensive approach to addressing the continent's many needs. Regardless of which motive is paramount, moral outrage over the suffering and underdevelopment on the continent or fear that Africa's plagues -- disease, terrorism, failed states and environmental degradation to name a few -- may ultimately hit our own shores, a more systematic approach to an Africa policy is the right one.

Here are 10 things President Bush could do to show he's really serious about Africa.

1. Make good on existing promises. Perhaps the biggest weakness in Bush's newest announcements on Africa is his track record of leaving similarly ambitious proposals underfunded and underfulfilled. Doubts about whether Bush will deliver have not surprisingly undercut positive reactions to these latest ideas. It has taken more than three years for Bush's Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) to begin disbursing funds. As of this spring just one country, Madagascar, had seen a cent and just 2 percent of the appropriated funds had been spent. Amounts pledged to fight AIDS in Africa have also been vulnerable to repeated lowballing in the administration's budget requests. To rebuild trust, Bush should make clear that these new promises will be accompanied by a push to satisfy the old ones.

2. Launch a major push on vaccine availability. One of the less noticed but potentially pathbreaking outcomes of pre-G8 summit finance minister meetings was an agreement to expedite efforts to pre-purchase massive quantities of newly developed vaccines for distribution in African countries. The administration historically has been loath to intervene in the pharmaceutical industry's practices for making treatments and vaccines cheaply available in poor countries. U.S. leadership will be critical to this plan, and Bush should provide it. (Check out this blog for more details on how the plan will motivate faster vaccine development.)

3. Stop lumping all of Africa together. A key first step toward understanding and addressing the African continent is to recognize racial, socioeconomic, environmental, cultural, military, religious and political diversity within it. Some nations -- South Africa and Nigeria, for example, are key U.S. military and economic allies; others, like Congo and Sierra Leone, are in disarray and virtually without hope. By refusing to lump all of Africa together either rhetorically or through policies, Bush can pave the way for approaches that better reflect a polyglot region.

4. Address each stage of development. Whereas the MCA is targeted at Africa's most capable governments, and the latest debt initiative aims to help the very weakest, most of Africa's nations fall somewhere in between and aren't getting much out of the new Bush programs. A comprehensive strategy to address poverty in Africa needs to address countries at every stage of development. Missing pieces include debt relief for more nations (Nigeria has already been singled out to get a break), aid to African entrepreneurs and small businesses, and infrastructure/job creation programs.

5. Create a governance aid program. The Bush administration has rightly pointed out that hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid for African countries have historically been plundered and wasted by corrupt and/or inept governments. This is why the MCA gives only to countries that meet strict governance criteria. Rather than simply citing the problem and rewarding those who have overcome it, the U.S. should lead a major push to strengthen governance structures in countries that have the will to improve. Working with multilateral and private organizations, we should be training African lawyers, judges, accountants and auditors and sending in pro bono professionals of our own (as we've done in Eastern Europe, Afghanistan and Iraq) to address the stranglehold of corruption on Africa's progress. (the New York Times makes a similar point).

Continue reading "Getting Serious on Africa" »

June 21, 2005


The Long Arm of Beijing - Felt in Harare
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Things in Zimbabwe have gone from very bad to a lot worse, and almost no one is talking about what's happening or one of the forces behind the Mugabe regime's endurance:  China.   Our last check-in on events in Harare was around April Fool's Day.  But Mugabe's success in shutting down the opposition and winning himself another term was no joke.

Since then his appalling policies have gotten much worse.  The despot has borrowed a page from South Africa's apartheid government and started razing squatter camps and digging up urban gardens as a way to punish and disperse his opponents, many of whom lived in city shantytowns.  Meanwhile the country is facing massive shortages of food and fuel, its economy is in ruins, its fields are fallow, and its currency nearly worthless.

Here, on a site maintained by Mugabe opponents, is an interesting analysis of China's role in propping up the Harare regime:

A couple of excerpts:

Quietly, without fanfare, China has been moving into Africa. Africa is the one continent which still has relatively untapped reserves, particularly of fossil fuels and minerals. Her main targets have been Sudan, Nigeria, and Angola . . .What could China want in Zimbabwe? We do not have oil, our population is small compared to those of larger African countries. Our location is not particularly strategic for an outsider. What the Chinese want is raw materials and opportunities for investment.

ZANU PF has doubtless observed how China has been able to supply the Sudanese government with military equipment used against their own people and at the same time frustrate any United Nations action against Sudan for the atrocities in Darfur . . . The Chinese government also has an interest in political alliances that will promote China's policies world-wide. They want supporting votes in international bodies that will protect them from scrutiny over their human rights abuses, their non-observance of international labour standards, not to mention violations of democratic principles and civil rights. A state such as Zimbabwe can provide that support.

Recently we have seen the use of the Chinese jets, the army trucks and riot gear in the war on the urban poor. The use of slogans for campaigns such as "Driving out the Rubbish" are reminiscent of Chinese campaigns during the Cultural Revolution.

The analysis confirms the theme of Joshua Kurlantzick's piece in this week's New Republic, picked up by Brad Plumer at Mojo.  Kurlantzick tracks China's arrogation of "soft power" - economic, political and diplomatic influence throughout the world, particularly in Latin America and Africa.

On the quick, a bunch of implications relating to some of the debates ongoing here:

- Going back to our Truman debates, though I agree that the notion of hegemony is distasteful, this kind of thing underscores for me the importance of ensuring that U.S. influence around the world doesn't wane - China's choice of friends, based on self-interested criteria, may help keep tyrants in power; 

- In weighing U.S. influence at the UN and the potential for reform of the organization, China is a major counterweight, and almost always enjoys the allegiance of the world body's controlling bloc of developing world countries.   Our single-minded focus on the war on terror to the exclusion of priorities uppermost in the developing world has only heightened this problem.

- All this ties in to the idea that, while its at a slow boil, we are in a battle of ideas not just with extremists, but also with China's version of globalization - a concept built on economic interests only, with no concern for democracy or human rights.  One of the gravest weaknesses of the Bush Administration's foreign policy is that it has allowed China to build popularity and influence while our own ties and stature around the world have atrophied.  This is doubly egregious in light of that fact that our appeal - the promise of freedom, our culture - should inherently be much more powerful than China's.  But our messenger's approach and tactics have badly undercut the message, and right now China's delivering where we aren't.

June 07, 2005

Africa, Progressive Strategy

Five Myths About Polling That Progressives Should Reconsider
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Last week’s commentary on the Zogby International/International Crisis Group Darfur poll between Kevin Drum and Suzanne and Derek -- and Nick Kristof's piece on the same begged for some broader commentary on what polls do and don’t tell us. I am aided and improved here by guest commentator Mark Lindeman, Assistant Professor of Political Studies at Bard and my personal unbiased (though progressive) polling expert.

Myth #1: Don’t know = don’t care.

Drum’s post gives us a good example of this one:

For starters, only 18% of the poll's respondents are even aware Darfur exists. The other 82% are either "slightly aware" of Darfur or not even that — and I'd bet my last nickel that "slightly" is just a face-saving version of "I couldn't tell you which continent Darfur is on if you paid me." So I'd take this whole poll with a large shaker of salt.

Now, what’s really interesting about this poll is that, though 82 percent start off saying they aren’t really aware of Darfur, 80 percent say they would favor establishing a no-fly zone. That’s pretty impressive for a crisis they’ve only just heard about. Tells you that maybe don’t know = gee, I was running the blender during that part of the news, or I thought it was a promo for that new LiveAid with the Spice Girls getting back together… but I know that mass killing and rape are bad, and I want to see it stopped… why don’t you tell me about it?

These kinds of numbers are an invitation to inform the public, not give up on them.

What Heather said. Right now, probably what most Americans know about Darfur or Sudan is that terrible things are happening and no one seems to know what to do about them. Most people don’t enjoy learning about terrible things they can do nothing about. (See myth #2 below.)

By the way, words matter. The poll designers asked respondents to describe their knowledge (sic) as “very aware,” “slightly aware,” “not very aware,” or “not at all aware.” It takes chops to consider oneself “very aware” of Darfur. (If this isn’t obvious, try reading my local paper for a while and see what you know.) So, Kevin Drum is probably wrong that so few people “are even aware Darfur exists.”

That said, I basically agree with Drum’s main point. (And I don’t know whether he intended to embrace Myth #1, although the myth is out there.) Sure, we can’t take literally the finding that “80% of Americans back a no-fly zone over Darfur” if many of them don’t know whether Darfur is a region of Sudan, an Iraqi city, or the villain in a possible Star Wars Episode Seven. The result doesn’t tell us what people think about this issue – they haven’t thought about this issue. But it gives us a clue about how people think, and what they might think once the issue is raised. Use that salt carefully!

Myth #2: Polls like this reflect a momentary frisson of horror, not a lasting concern.

Actually, Americans are pretty consistent:  they don’t favor willy-nilly introduction of US troops, but they do want to feel that the US is “doing its part” to solve huge disasters and problems. The quickest way to make this myth come true, by the way, is to keep emphasizing to the public how awful and hopeless a situation is; they will feel guilty, get overwhelmed, give up, and look away – same as most people do, foreign policy elite or not, when they see the same homeless folks outside the office day after day.

It’s true that Americans don’t have a “lasting concern” for (say) Darfur in particular. I think Heather sums it up nicely: Americans want the U.S. to do its part. The ICG survey dovetails with many other studies that show that Americans often enthusiastically support a wide range of international interventions, as long as they don’t feel that the U.S. is being left to “go it alone” as “the world’s policeman” or designated sugar daddy. (Check out the indispensable PIPA website, for specifics on this and other topics.)

Another take on “lasting concern” might be that Americans aren’t willing to “stay the course.” It depends on the course, of course (yecch). But the 2004 election suggests to many of us that the American public’s threshold of pain and frustration may be too high, not too low, if one has to choose. Yeah, Americans let their leaders get away with a lot.

Myth #3: Especially on international humanitarian issues, overwhelming majorities are needed to get anything done.

That is, 38 percent support for action in Darfur won’t cut it. Actually, all you need is a few hundred thousand, a few million tops, provided they’re the right million. Who has saved funding for AIDS in Africa several times when the White House wanted to cut it or roll back its promised increases? Not MoveOn’s millions… a few thousand activist evangelicals, and a few dozen of their leaders who were willing to hold the White House’s feet to the fire. If this poll were done on southern Sudan, I’m not confident the numbers would look very different. Yet the Administration put tremendous resources into getting a peace deal there. Why? Because some of their core voters cared a great deal. Ditto trafficking in persons. Heck, does anyone really think overwhelming majorities of the citizenry are in favor of CAFTA?

ICG commissioned this poll to help draw some attention to these issues. It’s the perennial line foreign-affairs advocates get on the Hill: “my constituents never mention foreign policy issues to me.” But they don’t actually need a mass national movement – though one would sure be nice. They need a targeted national movement. Suppose you commissioned a Sudan poll among evangelicals… or a CAFTA poll in swing states… might be interesting.

Yeah, I’m kind of bitter about this one. But I won’t belabor it, since Heather has covered it. Besides, this debate started in a different place, with Derek’s controversial claim that “doing the right thing is also wildly popular!” That seemed to evoke images of crowds marching in the streets and chanting, “Thank you, President Bush, for intervening in Darfur!” Maybe “wildly” wasn’t the best choice of words. But, dammit, Derek was on to something.

To elaborate on one of Heather’s examples: why did George W. Bush spend so much time in his 2003 State of the Union address trumpeting his commitment to spend billions fighting AIDS in Africa? Sure, it made part of his base happy, but it made lots of people happy. Because Americans are pleased to hear, in Bush’s words, that this “nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature.” Who doesn’t want to live in a country that can do that, and better yet, actually does it?

Was Bush riding a groundswell of public concern about AIDS in Africa? Not hardly (never mind whether one can ride a groundswell). Did he find people begging to increase the foreign aid budget? No – typically most Americans think the foreign aid budget should be decreased, mostly because they think it is much larger than it actually is. So, was Bush exercising courageous leadership? Nope. He was in tune with the values that Americans consistently say they want the U.S. to stand for. Wouldn’t it have been nice if he had actually followed through on his promise without needing “help” from those evangelicals?

Myth #4: Looking at polls to make policy is something done by nasty, unprincipled politicians.  Real leaders with convictions don’t use or need polling.

Making decisions based on your conscience and intellect is principled. Refusing to use tools at your disposal to inform your intellect before making decisions is… not very bright.

I agree with that, but I will add something else. “Going against the polls” because you know something that most people don’t, or see consequences that they haven’t considered, is consistent with representative democracy. Going against fundamental American values is not. I think the normative importance of the polls is in helping to reveal those values, what Americans want the U.S. to be working toward, even if they don’t know how it should do the work. Those expressed values will be naïve, at times, but still worthy of attention. I won’t write about instrumental uses of the polls right now.

Myth #5: Besides, you can get polls to say anything you want anyway.

This one’s for you, Mark.

Let’s put this one in perspective. Public opinion polls are murky and ambiguous, like budget projections, or like satellite reconnaissance photographs. This is not an argument for ignoring them, it’s an argument for looking closely. Can you get a poll to say that the U.S. should attack Canada, or imprison all the millionaires, or rename Washington D.C. “Maoville”? Conceivably, if the question is sufficiently distorted, but it wouldn’t take a “polling expert” to spot the problem. Can President Bush get a poll to say that he has the right idea on Social Security “reform”? Heaven knows he has tried.

For around 70 years now, public opinion polls – not always, but sometimes – have served to rebut what “everyone knows” that just isn’t true about the American people. Lately, what everyone seems to know is that Americans don’t care about anyone or anything beyond the confines of their nation or perhaps their television. It just isn’t so. And if we use it as an excuse for silence on Darfur, then shame on us.

June 06, 2005


Divest from Sudan
Posted by Derek Chollet

Suzanne has provided a fairly exhaustive list of what, short of military intervention, the United States can do -- and should do -- to end the slaughter in Darfur.  It’s right to avoid the either-or trap between massive military intervention or doing nothing.  With the demands our military faces right now in Afghanistan and Iraq, I don’t support a massive American military intervention.  And I also don’t believe that that’s what is needed (in fact, my impression is that the African countries don’t want one).  But there’s a lot we can do now to help the AU force – this would involve military assistance and some kind of intervention, preferably through NATO, but not a major troop commitment.

Thinking about what other tools are available, I’d like to draw attention to one more idea that we should all get behind.  Again, this comes from the good folks at the International Crisis Group:  Americans should demand that colleges and universities divest themselves from companies that are operating in Sudan.  Harvard did so earlier this year, and other major universities are being pressured to follow suit.  Last month, ICG’s John Prendergast and Harvard’s Samantha Power sent a letter to 100 university presidents urging them to examine their portfolios for links to Sudan and divest.  Student groups have sprouted up and have done good work (the group STAND -- Students Taking Action Now: Darfur – has 80 chapters nationwide), but with school out for the summer, progressives should work to pick up the slack.      

And a few weeks ago, the Illinois legislature took this one step further: it passed a law to make Illinois the first state to prohibit doing business with Sudan.  Illinois’ five pension systems have about $1 billion invested in 32 companies that work in Sudan, which this bill will put an end to.  It will also prohibit the state from investing in foreign government bonds of Sudan and investing in companies doing business in or with Sudan. 

Illinois might be the first, but it is not alone: A related measure has passed the New Jersey House but is bottled up in the Senate, California’s legislature has a version bouncing around, and just last week, legislation was offered in Ohio’s state Senate proposing something similar.   

I think this is an inspired idea, one that deserves greater attention (a place to start is here).  Imagine if more states followed Illinois’ lead?  For those of us who believe that we should be doing much more to end the genocide in Darfur, the divestment option is a two-fer: it puts meaningful pressure on the Sudanese government to stop its support of the janjaweed militia, and it keeps the political fires stoked here at home for the U.S. government to do more. 

June 05, 2005

Africa, Human Rights, Weekly Top Ten Lists

Top 10 Things To Do for Darfur Short of U.S. Military Intervention
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Kevin asks whether we ought to be prepared to send in armed troops to stop genocide. My answer is yes, provided we think we can get the job done and there isn’t an equivalent or better alternative to get the killing stopped. Given the weaknesses of the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed, I assume the operation would ordinarily be eminently doable.

But one of the worst things about our single-handed Iraq invasion is that for the first time in recent memory a legitimate question can be raised about whether the U.S. is over-extended to the point where we cannot assume new military obligations. As a political matter, Iraq has also made it tough to contemplate mounting another challenging military intervention. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, but it does suggest that we won’t.  Progressives need to look beyond the a false dichotomy of either proposing a military intervention that is a political non-starter, or keeping a low profile on the Darfur tragedy out of an abashed sense that we don't know how to fully solve it.

If we right away did everything possible short of sending combat troops, we’d save a lot of lives, and make an eventual U.S. military role more feasible (and maybe even less necessary). I am no expert on Darfur, but those that are suggest that these are some places to start:

1. Put the heat on NATO to buttress the AU – The US, UN, EU and NATO have been passing the hot potato when it comes to taking action in Sudan. NATO has its limitations, but its better positioned than any other organization to become the focal point for partnering with the AU to try to make that mission effective. The U.S. should take the lead in pushing the alliance to prove its relevance by getting involved. NATO should take the lead in negotiating terms with the AU, instead of waiting until broader help is asked for. This month’s G-8 meeting in Scotland would be a good opportunity to make the case (though other G-8 members may turn the tables wanting support for their anti-poverty plans in Africa).

2. Put NATO troops on the ground – It will be impossible to turn around Darfur without putting substantial numbers of competent and equipped troops on the ground quickly. That’s an impossibility for the AU, so partnering effectively with them means sending in a portion of the 17,000 troops NATO supposedly has at the ready. All else under discussion – airlift, training, advisers – are half-measures. But in doing this, we need to realize that a NATO "bridge" until the AU is ready to take over may wind up lasting a long while.

3. Enforce a no-fly zone – The need for a no-fly zone to stop air raids on civilians has been discussed for upwards of a year.It was contained in the Darfur Accountability Act, which the Administration opposed.

4. Making it clear that preventing genocide trumps intelligence cooperation – The Sudanese government must love the fact that the U.S. is being reported to have toned down its outcry on Darfur so as not to interfere with Khartoum’s help in the fight against terrorism.The Administration has never disavowed this, and needs to if its other efforts to end the genocide are to be taken seriously and attract support.

5. Impose sanctions and an arms embargo – These are also parts of the moribund Darfur Accountability Act. Particularly if they targeted core sectors like the oil industry, sanctions would demonstrate that the U.S. means business, and would raise the cost of the Sudanese government’s indifference. In addition to full implementation of bilateral sanctions, the U.S. should push the UN Security Council to press ahead with its stalled sanctions effort. (Sudan’s defeat in today’s World Cup qualifier made me think sports sanctions should be considered too – they worked in South Africa).

Continue reading "Top 10 Things To Do for Darfur Short of U.S. Military Intervention" »

June 02, 2005


Sudan - Don't Give Up So Fast
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Kevin Drum questions whether there's any truth to Derek's contention that the American public supports greater action on Darfur, and whether there's any option on the table for ending the crisis short of sending in American troops, something the public is hesitant to countenance.

As the resident night owl, I offer a few thoughts in response, with the hope that Derek adds some more in the AM:

- While Kevin's right that in the Zogby/International Crisis Group poll on U.S. public opinion toward Darfur, just 28% of Americans described themselves as "very aware" of the crisis, when the crisis was described to them large majorities nonetheless supported action: 70% thought the international community should respond and 84% thought the U.S. should use its "military assets" (short of troops) to stop the tragedy unfolding.  Under the circumstances, with the military stretched to the breaking point in a far-flung conflict that many Americans view as endless and unnecessary, its remarkable that fully 38% of survey respondents do support putting U.S. soldiers on the ground.  After all, that's 20% more than said they know what's really going on in Sudan.  Were it not for our entanglement in Iraq, that number might be a lot higher.

- Second, there are alternatives to U.S. boots on the ground.  Kevin is right that the Darfur mission is highlighting the AU's weaknesses in terms of capabilities, equipment and funding.   The most obvious short-term solution is a hefty NATO backstop to an AU force, likely going beyond the logistics, transport and training they are providing today to include actual troops in country (over the long-term, we ought to be thinking about measures like those outlined here, including a long-term investment in developing capable military leadership for a standing AU force).  This is what Derek, Madeleine Albright and others have been urging.  A large amount of U.S. energy has been expended over the last decade in sustaining and expanding NATO in preparation for a post-Cold War role.   With Europe chaotic but essential secure and peaceful, right now its hard to imagine a better use of the capabilities amassed than Darfur.  It's also a chance for the many European countries that are not entangled in Iraq to share some of the burden of keeping the global peace, something they profess willingness to do.  Building consensus for a robust NATO mission won't be easy, but the U.S. is obligated to try.

- A third option is stepped up UN peacekeeping.  The UNSC voted to establish a 10,000 person strong peacekeeping mission in Sudan back in March, but the peacekeepers have only just begun to deploy.  The UN forces will share some of the AU limitations, including lack of rapid-deployment and sophisticated airlift capabilities.  Over the long-term, a standing UN force would be one way to remedy these shortcomings, and strengthen the alternatives to U.S. intervention.  There are also political constraints on UN involvement, including most notably China's ties to the Sudanese regime.    But the Chinese are not above the kind of pressure that global acknowledgement of a genocidal crisis brings to bear.

So its not enough to throw up our hands even if we reject U.S. ground troops as a serious option.  There are alternatives.  Its the Administration's job to make them work, and our job to push them to do so.

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