The editors of the New Republic have a credulous plea for doing more to save Darfur.
The genocide in Darfur has been going on for three years now. And, for three years, the international community hasn’t done much to stop it. It has threatened, but not enforced, sanctions. It has sent peacekeepers, but with insufficient numbers and a weak mandate. It has decried “crimes against humanity,” but charged no perpetrators. And so the violence continues, with more than 200,000 people killed, two million left homeless, and the conflict now spilling over into neighboring Chad. The Sudanese government, meanwhile, has not even pretended to disarm its murderous Janjaweed militias.
It is commendable, then, that the Bush administration is starting to get serious about Darfur. At the United Nations, John Bolton is pushing for authorization of a more muscular U.N. force to take over for the African Union (AU), while the State Department is trying to get NATO to increase its logistical support. Both efforts are worthy. The current AU force is overwhelmed. Fewer than 7,000 troops patrol a region the size of Texas from the back of pickup trucks. All they can do is report back on violations of the sham cease-fire, escort a few humanitarian convoys, and, occasionally, accompany refugees who leave the relative safety of the camps to collect firewood.
The Bush administration will also have to step up political pressure at home. Last December, Congress refused the State Department’s request for $50 million to sustain the AU’s Darfur mission. As a result, State has had to take away money from Afghanistan to pay its Darfur bills. Congress is going to need a lot of convincing before it approves an even larger NATO commitment.
The excuse among American officials is not the usual one about military overstretch. They know that sending a battalion or two to Darfur is entirely feasible and could make a huge difference. Rather, they talk about a lack of appetite from the American public. “I don’t get a lot of people calling me on the phone or writing me letters saying, ‘Send U.S. troops to Sudan,'” Chris Padilla, chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, said during a December discussion at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. That may be, but six senators have found enough support among their constituents to sponsor a bipartisan resolution calling for NATO troops, including U.S. troops if needed, to stop the genocide in Darfur. Opinion polls, too, have found that a comfortable majority of Americans support sending U.S. troops to Darfur as part of a U.N. or NATO mission.
Nice as this may be, it simply is not going to happen. The American public has never had an appetite for risking American lives to stop Third World genocide for purely humanitarian reasons. Indeed, they have largely lost their will to fight in Iraq after historically minimal losses and the fact that our troops are killing America’s enemies by the hundreds.
The UN is, not unreasonably, reluctant to get involved in the peace enforcement business. It is a creature of its member states and has to be mindful of sovereignty of host governments.
The world largely sat by during the Rwanda trageda and regretted it only afterwards. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell used the G word to describe Darfur well over a year ago. We have done next to nothing and, despite ratcheting up the rhetoric a bit, are likely to continue on that path.
Update: I would argue that the position of most Americans on this is not unreasonable. As Immanuel Kant observed way be in 1795,
[I]f the consent of the citizens is required in order to decide that war should be declared (and in this constitution it cannot but be the case), nothing is more natural than that they would be very cautious in commencing such a poor game, decreeing for themselves all the calamities of war. Among the latter would be: having to fight, having to pay the costs of war from their own resources, having painfully to repair the devastation war leaves behind, and, to fill up the measure of evils, load themselves with a heavy national debt that would embitter peace itself and that can never be liquidated on account of constant wars in the future.
As a consequence, people in a Republic are willing to go to war only when they believe their own interests would be so negatively affected by not doing so that they have little choice. That, incidentally, is why the public is turning against the war in Iraq: they are no longer convinced that our fight there is protecting an American interest worth the cost.
Update 2: Austin Bay has a related thoughts at TCS.
Peace Breaking Out All Over
Iraq Civilian Deaths in Comparative Perspective
A Decade Later, Srebrenica Continues to Haunt
Bush: Friend of Africa
NATO to Provide Aid in Darfur (Robert Tagorda)
Sudan Aids in War on Terror (Robert Tagorda)
Is the Administration Understating Darfur Deaths? (Robert Tagorda)
Matter Meets Anti-Matter
Pushing the UN to Act When it Must
Sudan Signs Peace Deal (Robert Tagorda)
Powell: Sudan Killings ‘Genocide’
Military Plan for Darfur
U.S. Alone in Sudan