THERE'S THE BEEF....

THERE'S THE BEEF. The New Republic has obliged those of us puzzled by their previous Darfur editorializing with a new one spelling out what exactly they think we should do. I have some concerns. "The consensus among experts," they write, "is that it would take approximately 20,000 troops to secure Darfur." At the same time, the explicit model for this operation is Kosovo where the initial KFOR deployment was over twice that size, and even today "more than 16,000 peacekeepers" are on the ground. Darfur contains 2-3 times as many people as Kosovo, is over 20 times as large in terms of area, is more diverse in ethnolinguistic terms, and is less conveniently located to NATO's home base. So why should a much smaller mission suffice?

And what if Sudan doesn't want to be invaded by 20,000 foreign troops? Well, if they resist, "NATO would have to follow through on its threat and attack Sudanese military installations from the air until Khartoum got the message. This is precisely the strategy that NATO used in Kosovo--and it worked." That's not really what happened. Take a look at this RAND Corporation study of Slobodan Milosevic's surrender and you'll see that, for one thing, we bombed plenty of civilian targets (power plants, factories, etc.), and an important factor was Milosevic's belief that we were "prepared to employ 'massive bombing' to demolish their country's entire infrastructure--including its remaining bridges, electric power facilities, telephone systems, and factories." In addition, "The increasing talk of an eventual NATO ground invasion was probably another, though lesser, factor in Milosevic's decision." Are we prepared to make -- and carry out -- those threats? Is Sudan -- a much less developed country than Serbia -- even as vulnerable to these kinds of threats? What's more, Milosevic's surrender depended crucially on NATO's eventual ability to get Russia to withdraw its support for the Serbian position -- will Khartoum's supporters in Russia, China, and the Arab League similarly come around? It's very possible that mild coercion will change Sudan's thinking, but it's also possible that it won't, and it seems unwise to launch a war without being prepared for things to go poorly.

They say that "The ultimate goal of Western intervention is not to make Darfur an independent nation; it is to establish an international protectorate that would seal Darfur off from the rest of Sudan." This, again, seems to involve misreading the Kosovo precedent, wherein a very similar strategy was implemented but is clearly heading in the direction of Kosovar independence. Maybe Darfuri independence is a good idea, maybe it's not; but that's what's going to happen if you prevent the state that Darfur is currently part of from governing the region.

Last, I don't think the editorial has a very plausible response to those of us who worry "that American troops entering another Muslim country would further inflame anti-American sentiment around the world." They say "the perpetrators of the Darfur genocide are Muslims, but, as in the Balkans, the victims are Muslims, too" which is basically non-responsive. We're not looking at an issue of abstract logic ("should Muslim opinion oppose a western invasion of Sudan?") but at an empirical issue. Call me crazy, but my observation is that public opinion among the world's Muslims is disinclined to give the United States the benefit of the doubt. Especially among Arab Muslims, I think that after Iraq, Abu Graib, and Haditha, an effort to wage war against an oil-rich Arab government in hopes of dismembering its country is not going to be well-received. TNR is more-or-less committed institutionally to the view that how Muslims feel about the United States of America should be irrelevant to our foreign policy, but that's the kind of thinking that's going to wind up getting a lot of Americans killed one day.

--Matthew Yglesias

You need to be logged in to comment.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)

Connect
, after login or registration your account will be connected.
Advertisement