Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.



November 2008

Darfur Our Next Intervention?

Written by , Posted in Foreign Affairs & Policy

Dr. Susan Rice is now said to be the leading contender for Ambassador to the U.N. in the Obama administration. The pick would be telling in terms of the foreign policy Obama plans to pursue, and how it doesn’t square with his campaign rhetoric. In 2006 Rice argued for military action, unilateral if necessary, in Darfur:

History demonstrates that there is one language Khartoum understands: the credible threat or use of force. After Sept. 11, 2001, when President Bush issued a warning to states that harbor terrorists, Sudan — recalling the 1998 U.S. airstrike on Khartoum — suddenly began cooperating on counterterrorism. It’s time to get tough with Sudan again.

After swift diplomatic consultations, the United States should press for a U.N. resolution that issues Sudan an ultimatum: accept unconditional deployment of the U.N. force within one week or face military consequences. The resolution would authorize enforcement by U.N. member states, collectively or individually. International military pressure would continue until Sudan relented.

The United States, preferably with NATO involvement and African political support, would strike Sudanese airfields, aircraft and other military assets. It could blockade Port Sudan, through which Sudan’s oil exports flow. Then U.N. troops would deploy — by force, if necessary, with U.S. and NATO backing.

If the United States fails to gain U.N. support, we should act without it. Impossible? No, the United States acted without U.N. blessing in 1999 in Kosovo to confront a lesser humanitarian crisis (perhaps 10,000 killed) and a more formidable adversary. Under NATO auspices, it bombed Serbian targets until Slobodan Milosevic acquiesced. Not a single American died in combat. Many nations protested that the United States violated international law, but the United Nations subsequently deployed a mission to administer Kosovo and effectively blessed NATO military action retroactively.

Many on the left may be surprised at these positions. Likely, they took Democratic leaders at their word when they explained their reasons for attacking Bush on Iraq. Those of us more familiar with political history – such as Clinton’s unilateral sidestepping of the U.N. in Kosovo – and the intellectual currents driving policy debates, saw it for what it was: an argument of convenience.

Left-wing interventionists are actually more common than right-wing ones. Before the neoconservatives had won the day in establishing Republican policy, there was Secretary Madeliene Albright, who asked Colin Powell, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” The ironic difference between the left and right interventionists is this: on the left they only want to use force when U.S. interests are non-existent. Boondoggle that Iraq was in many ways, at least there was a debatable, though certainly plausible, claim of serving U.S. national interests in deposing Saddam. One can’t even make a pretense of serving U.S. interests in Darfur.

When the French foreign minister said, “We cannot accept either a politically unipolar world, nor a culturally uniform world, nor the unilateralism of a single hyper-power,” he wasn’t talking about Bush. The statement was made in 2000 and referred to the administration of Bill Clinton. With Clintonites now littered throughout Obama’s emerging administration, yet another reversal looks to be in order, this time on the usefulness of unilateralism and interventionism.