Darfur - Jan 21, 2009
On the front page of today's Post, Stephanie McCrummen and Colum Lynch have a good, nuanced look at the future of U.S. policy on Sudan under the Obama Administration.
As previously discussed, Susan Rice has a hawkish position on Darfur, promoting direct U.S. and/or NATO military intervention. Clinton, Jones and Gates have also said some pretty strong words. But, the Posties note:
So far, Obama has been more cautious on Darfur than some of his appointees, advocating tougher sanctions against Khartoum and a no-fly zone that might be enforced with U.S. "help." He has not called for direct U.S. intervention.
The Post gets into why it's important that Obama not overreach and go mega-hawk on Sudan:
Some analysts and Sudanese observers with no love for the government of Omar Hassan al-Bashir worry that Obama's administration may try to impose a military solution that might have worked at the height of the killing in 2004 and 2005, but not anymore.
"Things have changed dramatically since 2004," said a senior U.N. political officer in Khartoum, who asked not to be identified so that he could speak more freely. "The kind of conflict we have now is really a low-intensity conflict with high-intensity political ramifications. So all of this posturing of a military solution, or a no-fly zone, it's not going to work."
The U.N. official and others said that military intervention could have dangerous consequences for Sudan as a whole, as well as the nine countries bordering it.
As venal as many consider Bashir's government to be, it did sign a landmark peace deal that ended a long and bloody civil war between the north and south. If Bashir's government is destabilized, that deal could fall apart, plunging another huge swath of the country into war.
The line from an un-named Obama team member is far more skeptical of Bashir. It's a mixed bag:
But an Obama campaign adviser who worked closely on the candidate's Africa positions said the naive move would be to think it is possible to trust Bashir's regime, which has a long history of broken promises and is highly unpopular across much of Sudan.
The adviser noted that the government only signed the deal with the south after the U.S. helped push it into a corner by indirectly arming the southern rebels. Eventually, the government realized it could not win.
Accountability should also be part of any long-term political settlement in Sudan, the adviser said; the leaders who orchestrated the campaign in Darfur must face their misdeeds, he said, even if that comes several years late.
"If we accept the notion that the brutality we've witnessed from this regime over the past two decades is acceptable to bring about temporary stability, then shouldn't we have done the same for the Nazis in Germany?" said the adviser, who was instructed not to speak to the news media.
But the adviser said that military options, including covert operations and regime change, are likely to remain under serious discussion in the new administration.
"These people have been in power for almost 20 years " the adviser said. "I doubt that the majority of Sudanese would cry if they were ousted."
The suggestion of regime change is probably irresponsible. The outright rejection of a negotiated impunity for Sudanese leaders is good, and notable.
All in all, I'm actually fairly optimistic that Obama will not overreach and start a larger war in and around Sudan, and that he will do a better job than the Bush Administration at pressing the issue internationally. Bringing peace and stability to Darfur will require the Europeans, and even more so the Chinese and Russians, to change their policies. The Bush Administration did genuinely try to lobby those countries, but it didn't prioritize it that highly, and only succeeded so much. It will be no easy task, but I do think Obama will do somewhat better.