Obama's Sudan policy
The Post's Stephanie McCrummen has an article up this afternoon (why is the Post putting non-breaking stories online in the middle of the day? It sure seems like a disastrous business model to me, but maybe they know what they're doing) looking at the state of the Obama Administration's policy on Sudan. Obama's Sudan envoy, Scott Gration, has gone the "let's talk and see if we can work things out" route -- this with a Sudanese president who has been indicted by the ICC for war crimes.
The human rights community in DC is largely skeptical, though not universally. Too often, the "we just need to talk to them" approach really means "we're not making it a priority." That was the case, say, with the Bush Administration and China. They said that publicly bashing China would not be productive (which is partially true), but they also made it a really low priority in US-China relations. (There's various evidence that Bush did really want, in his head, to do the right thing on China, and on Darfur - but clearly he didn't).
Obama took a relatively hard-line stance on Darfur as a Senator. During the primary campaign, any Democrat who didn't do so would risk a significant backlash. Obama also came with advisers who are relatively hard-line on Sudan - Susan Rice (who even previously advocated a military blockade of Sudan's port) and Samantha Power.
When Rice was appointed UN Ambassador, the conventional wisdom among reporters and some bloggers (err, me) was that this meant the Administration would take a very hard line on Sudan.
Gration and Rice have, as you'd expect, clashed over the past months. McCrummen doesn't have an update on where that stands specifically, but she seems to say that Gration is running the show, and he has the support of the White House in what he's doing.
I think the critics are probably right - Gration's policy of trying to negotiate peace with the Sudanese government is probably naive. And it's troubling how little attention the Administration has given to Sudan. But I'm not certain; maybe Gration will somehow make something work, and it's possible, for all we know, that a more hard-line policy would indeed have disastrous consequences.
And not to go all po-mo on you, but maybe there is no "right" answer here. There's no policy option that would, you know, just fix the problem (of continued violence in Darfur, and also the constant danger of war between the South and the Khartoum government). They're all bad options at this point. Any 'good' policy options were gone by 2003 or 2004, or maybe much earlier than even that. The remaining policy options are all mediocre, and it's hard to know how they would turn out.
The US doesn't have great options in part because we don't have much moral authority or moral capital. We had a fair amount more before 2000 -- not to say that the US was generally a benevolent player internationally before 2000, but that there was a mix of good and bad, and the rest of the world didn't, you know, hate us, even despite the bad we had done. It's our policy now (say on Afghanistan, or Honduras) that is going to affect our ability to be able to do right when the next genocide or civil war comes along.