What can we do to end the horrors being perpetrated in Darfur? Is divestment from companies that invest in Sudan enough? Given the pain, the suffering, and the killing going on every day in Darfur, as the Sudanese government appears to perpetually put off allowing any meaningful peacekeeping force to enter the country, I am strongly tempted to jump on Senator Joe Biden's latest suggestion--send U.S. troops and put and end to the slaughter once and for all.
The Houston Chronicle reports:
Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Democratic presidential candidate, called Wednesday for the use of military force to end the suffering in Darfur.
"I would use American force now," Biden said at a hearing before his committee. "I think it's not only time not to take force off the table. I think it's time to put force on the table and use it."
In advocating use of military force, Biden said senior U.S. military officials in Europe told him that 2,500 U.S. troops could "radically change the situation on the ground now."
"Let's stop the bleeding," Biden said. "I think it's a moral imperative."
Many others have had similar suggestions. New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, who has been reporting on Darfur, at great personal risk, for years, recently wrote about suggestions his readers sent him. In a March 13 column, unfortunately behind the TimesSelect subscription curtain, Kristof wrote:
Six weeks ago, I invited readers to send in their own suggestions for what we should do about Darfur, and the result was a deluge of proposals from all over the world.
The common thread was a far more muscular approach. Several readers suggested that we should dispatch a private force -- supplied by a military contractor like Blackwater USA -- to fight the janjaweed militia.
Many readers also recommended that we supply arms to Darfur refugees or rebel groups. Some people suggested that we blockade Port Sudan, through which Sudan exports oil.
Kristof, whose opinions on this subject deserve profound respect, does not think any of these "far more muscular" approaches would be helpful. And, by inference, he would probably think the same of Senator Biden's recent proposal. Again, from his March 13 column:
After inviting the discussion, I feel ungrateful in criticizing such well-meaning suggestions -- but I'm afraid that in the aftermath of the Iraq war, aggressive military measures would be counterproductive. We would be handing President Omar al-Bashir a propaganda victory and a chance to rally support (''Those American crusaders are trying to steal another Arab country's oil!'').
Likewise, Darfur is already awash with guns and irresponsible armed factions terrorizing civilians. The last thing Darfur needs is more AK-47s.
Ok. After first hearing about it, I was ready to strongly push Biden's proposal, but Kristof's words have reminded me of the vast complications of that approach. Bush's Iraq War is tragic in so many ways, but one of the worst ways is that is has helped tie our hands in dealing with the Darfur massacres.
So what is Kristof's preferred approach? I already know, based on Ruth Messinger's words a few weeks ago, that Kristof supports the divestment campaign. And he has some other suggestions in his March 13 column:
[W]hat Darfur needs isn't a single dramatic solution but a collection of incremental steps that add to the pressure for a peace agreement there.
President Bush could ratchet up the pressure by giving a prime-time speech on Darfur. He and Tony Blair could lead a summit on Darfur in Europe. He could invite leaders of China and Egypt to join him on a trip to a Darfur refugee camp in Chad.
Mr. Bush is expected to announce soon a series of financial sanctions on Sudan (similar to those that have inflicted considerable pain on North Korea and Iran), and those are welcome. Enforcing a no-fly zone would also help add to the pressure.
But the top priority for Darfur is something that few people talk about -- a negotiated peace agreement. Peacekeepers are desperately needed, but the only real hope for lasting security is a negotiated peace among all the tribes of Darfur. And that is conceivable: an attempt last April came close, but ultimately a flawed deal was reached that made the conflict worse.
Unfortunately, in the month since this column was written, nothing of the sort he proposes has actually happened. No Bush prime-time speech on Darfur. No Bush-Blair summit on Darfur. Do Bush-China-Egypt joint trip fo a refugee camp. And the proposed sanctions are not yet in place, either, much less a no-fly zone.
Obviously, there is also no peace agreement.
In that context, perhaps Biden isn't so far off base. How much longer will the killing go on?