I've been meaning to comment on the expansion of the AU's peacekeeper force in Sudan for quite awhile, so here goes. Blogosphere commentary has broken along two lines: the Justin Logan pitch which says, basically, that this is much better handled as an intra-African matter, we should offer logistical support but not involve ourselves militarily, and thus the infusion of cash and increase in size of the AU's forces is the best of all possible worlds. In the blue trunks, however, is Brad "whiny little humanitarian" Plumer, who thinks the AU is reluctant to seriously involve themselves, unwilling to put forth the necessary numbers, and should be supported by a NATO deployment.

Well color me a whiny little humanitarian. The AU's forces are almost comically inept, and I say only almost only because they often veer towards criminally inept instead. Their past failures are legion and their total unwillingness to act until long into the atrocities is woven into the fabric of any recent African disaster you care to look into. Remember that the AU has been hanging out in Sudan during this whole process, seeing and hearing no evil, but allowing plenty to be done in their presence. And while I'm pleased that their hands-off mandate is being scrapped and replaced with a license to protect civilians, that they're only heading in that direction now should tell you all you need to know.

As Brad rightly points out, Sudan is a big place. A France-sized place, in fact. Since no one's talking regime change, we're not looking at an invasion here, so the success of any intervention is going to be contingent on the belief among the Janjawid and Sudanese government that it will succeed and can't be safely ignored. A 7,000 man AU force isn't going to perform that function. A NATO deployment, even if it was just a small, supplementary force, probably would (much like Britain's 1,000 person deployment to Sierra Leone essentially ended the chaos there). And for that reason, I can't get too excited over this development. It's a halting, stumbling step in the right direction, but we need more than that. As we wait, and as we cheer the international community's slightly better response, the genocide continues. So I'd caution against a wait-and-see attitude to the AU's too-small deployment, and I wouldn't let up on the outrage. Much more is still needed, and while outright NATO invasion isn't the only path forward, it's a hell of a lot better than this one.

Update: Tom Malinowski has a must-read op-ed on the subject in today's WaPo. Pay close attention to his argument that the small, positive steps we're taking are allowing us to claim fulfillment of our moral responsibilities without actually doing anything to end the genocide. Also watch his run-down of why NATO support will be hard to round-up. I don't know about you, but all I could think when reading the piece was "Coalition of the Willing"...