Call for Intervention in Darfur is Short-Sighted
Back in 2006, George Clooney went on Real Time with Bill Maher in order to make the case for intervening in Darfur. Clooney compared his vision of intervention to the NATO bombing in Kosovo under then President Bill Clinton. Clooney is and was then a fierce opponent of President Bush’s Iraq policy.
The logical inconsistency there flabbergasted me then, and I still hold that view. Like Iraq, Sudan is ruled by an Arab regime empowered by oil money. Like Iraq, Sudan has been known to be more than a little hospitable to terrorists. And like the 2003 intervention in Iraq, and like various other troublespots throughout the globe, intervention in Sudan has serious potential of degenerating into a military quagmire.
Despite the national fatigue over seemingly endless military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, both Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin talked of intervening in Darfur during the presidential debate last night. This didn’t bring about gritting of teeth from New York Times writer Nicholas D. Kristof, but instead praise for the prospect of administrations that “would intervene to stop genocide:”
But for me the most striking and historic moment in the debate came when they were asked about Darfur. For generations, American leaders have waffled on genocide, and Biden broke that tradition in a splendid way when he very forthrightly said (according to my rushed notes): “I don’t have a stomach for genocide.” He advocated a no-fly zone over Darfur, a major push to get peace-keeper helicopters into Darfur, and a U.S.-led NATO action of some kind (in my view this would have more to do with Chad and Central African Republic than Darfur itself). He said: “When a country engages in genocide…that country forfeits the right to say, ‘you have no right to intervene.’” Over the last five years, I’ve been sickened to see one leader after another turn away from Darfur, so to watch Biden call for specific responses made me want to cheer.
Kristof doesn’t mention the potential problems that could result from intervention in Darfur, such as the potential of conflict with China, which has supported the Khortoum government, a further overstretched military and Africans and Arabs wondering if we are there for oil.
This is motivated by the same feel-good “we’ve got to do something for those poor people” activism that leads to “Free Tibet” stickers on cars right next to the one that says “Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam.” I find it very hard to believe that some of those who are advocating for intervention in Darfur now wouldn’t be calling for withdrawal once American soldiers start dying.