WHERE'S THE BEEF?...

WHERE'S THE BEEF? There is a lot of good material in The New Republic's Darfur package and I don't want to sound churlish. But one of Mark's points deserves some emphasizing. In eight articles dedicated to the subject and collectively dedicated to building the case for armed American action in Darfur, not one of them outlines, straightforwardly and at longer length than one or two sentences, an actual plan (or possible plans) for an American armed intervention in the Sudan that the magazine would endorse. I looked twice and couldn't find such a proposal. So let's lower our standards a bit: Do any of these articles even in crude or broad terms engage any of the second-step considerations and worries about intervening? Questions about what the end game would be here (occupation? partition of the country?) and worries about backlash and how another invasion of a Muslim country might be perceived by people in the Third World -- that kind of thing? Aside from Samantha Power's astute but (given the context) off-message point about the infeasibility and undesirability of an American troop presence in the country, such considerations never really get brought up.

The lead editorial is all Wieseltierian prose flourish. Andrew B. Loewenstein's piece has interesting material on the UN's refusal to call the Darfur killings a genocide but isn't really prescriptive. Marissa Katz's (very good) indictment of Bush administration policy is also intrinsically backward-looking. Richard Just's indifference-is-the-real-colonialism argument makes odd semantic points about imperialism but never actually addresses the question of how other people in the Third World would perceive an actual American invasion of Sudan. And so on.

There are people out there (I'm one of them!) who have real questions about this situation and who would like to be persuaded -- through actual answers to those questions -- that an American or Western armed intervention in the Sudan is both feasible and a good idea. Not all of those who have such questions, and who believe those questions are legitimate even when the word "genocide" is thrown down as a conversation-stopper, are Scowcroftian realists. Besides, Darfur is a place in Sudan as well as a rhetorical device. Stuff is going on there. Dynamics change in one direction and then another as time passes. Peace talks have been going on recently -- Are they bogus? Potentially promising? Inherently illegitimate given the offenses perpetrated by the Sudanese regime? These are real questions -- I don't know the answers, but journalists and analysts who are more informed on the subject than me presumably do. The situation is complicated. Finger-wagging gets you only so far. Liberal hawks have rightly criticized some of the vagueness and abstraction plaguing the recent Darfur ralliers' calls for the West to "take action." But a similar critique could be extended to the hawks.

--Sam Rosenfeld

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