Use of Force to Stop Darfur Genocide

Austin Bay calls for an aggressive international intervention to stop the genocide in Darfur.

In February 2004, reflecting on Rwanda’s genocide, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said: “There can be no more binding obligation for the international community than the prevention of genocide. … The events in Rwanda … were especially shameful. The international community clearly had the capacity to prevent those events, but failed to summon the will. … We must ensure that we never again fail to summon the will.” Lack of political will and lack of credible military power contributed to the Rwandan disaster.


Ending the Darfur genocide means terminating Khartoum’s savage policy. That means peacekeeping forces combating the militias would be waging war against allies of the “host” Sudanese government.


Credible combat power — well-armed, well-led, well-supported soldiers with full authority to use decisive, deadly force — can be deployed in Darfur. That credible combat power must be backed by credible leaders, however. That means leaders with the spine to intervene despite Khartoum’s intransigence and leaders with the grit to continue this difficult mission when (it is inevitable) the fighting gets dirty, good soldiers die and tragic mistakes occur.

Despite Annan’s fine words, outside of London and Washington such leadership is not in evidence. Until it appears, “the international community” deserves to be shamed.

Bay is certainly right that the Darfur genocide will continue unabated if we wait for consensus in the United Nations to muster. The UN does many things well but bold military action is not among them.

The question, then, is whether it is in the interests of the United States and the United Kingdom to intervene. Sadly, the answer is No.

What vital interest does either country have at stake? None that I can think of.

Purely humanitarian interventions can only be justified when the costs, in blood and treasure, are relatively low. That would not be the case here. Indeed, not only would it re-ignite charges of Western Imperialism (not unreasonably, incidentally) but it would even further inflame Muslim resentment against us, given that our fight would be with the Muslim Janjaweed militias.

FILED UNDER: Africa, United Nations, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Alex Knapp says:

    Not to mention we don’t actually have the available troops necessary to engage in the region.

  2. Wayne says:

    We have the troops. However, we would have to change the current rotation system we have in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    A smart long-term approach would be the best. Biggest problem is it would need to be an area wide strategy. The warring tribes area encompasses many borders. We would need to be able to operate in Ethiopia, Kenya, Chad, and well as others. The governments in the area don’t have control of their borders. Their control is even worst then U.S. They are still sensitive about foreign governments working in their official borders.

  3. anjin-san says:

    I guess we only “save” people who sit atop an ocean of oil.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Uh, there are significant amounts of oil in the Sudan, mostly concentrated in the Darfur region…

  5. James,

    Can you point out some of the “many things” they do well? I will grant you that they hold meetings well, they provide opportunities for bureaucrats from third world countries to live on other peoples money much better than their fellow country men well. I will also grant that they produce significant amounts of sound and fury that signify nothing well (ditto for meaningless paper products).

    While you didn’t say that any of the many things they do well were in any way useful, I am having trouble coming up with a list.

  6. James Joyner says:


    Most of their humanitarian relief ops, for example, are quite well done. UNICEF, UNSESCO, and various other programs are immensely helpful. There’s some graft and corruption, to be sure, but that’s true of major domestic charities, too, and they’re not working in the Third World.

    Indeed, the only thing they do that the UN is spectacularly bad at is anything requiring the use of force.

  7. anjin-san says:

    Guess it depends on how you define “ocean”. Sudan has about 500 million barrels proven reserve as opposed to the 112 billion in Iraq, with estimates ranging as high a 300 bbl.

    Lets just say Iraq has an ocean, and Sudan has a pond…

  8. James,

    Given the stories coming out of UN humanitarian relief agents trading food to children in return for sex, the UN knowing about it and producing nothing but hot air to stop it kind of puts the question of their relief value up for question. Looking at the Boxer Day tsunami relief effort, I don’t remember them being a shining moment in UN relief history. How many more would have died if they had to depend on the UN for food, clean water, medical aid, etc after the tsunami and the US didn’t get involved. Looking at the UN refugee camps that continue to operate decades after the open, I also don’t see their relief and being a shining star. I would have to dig around to find it, but I seem to remember some pretty poor percentages for dollars raised vs value of aid reaching those who need it.

    If their relief efforts is the best thing they do, then the UN is really pretty worthless.

  9. andrew says:

    The red states have a lot on their plate right now. However, if any Leftists are up for it I would gladly pat them on the back if they picked up a rifle and went to Sudan. Certainly with their brains they could fight a war without casualties that kills all enemies/solves all problems in one week.