Monday, September 27, 2004

From: Bush To: World Re: Sudan

"I'm sorry, but we're too busy cleaning up the mess we made in a country in which we already had people on the ground to provent widespread human rights violations. We don't have the troops, or the cajones, to stop the genocide in the Sudan. Please try again when someone else is in the Oval Office. - Georgie"

No, Bush didn't really say this, but that's been the gist of his answer to calls like this one from John Kerry:

John Kerry, at the National Baptist Convention in New Orleans, in a speech hardly mentioned in the media except notably by Stanley Crouch in the September 13 Daily News, "got a standing ovation by calling on President Bush to take leadership in 'the immediate deployment of an effective international force to disarm militia and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Darfur.'"

Still, as Jeanne of Body and Soul points out, some have managed to blame Kerry for our lack of effort in the Sudan, as David Brooks seemed to do when he wrote:

Confronted with the murder of 50,000 in Sudan, we eschewed all that nasty old unilateralism, all that hegemonic, imperialist, go-it-alone, neocon, empire, coalition-of-the-coerced stuff. Our response to this crisis would be so exquisitely multilateral, meticulously consultative, collegially cooperative and ally-friendly that it would make John Kerry swoon and a million editorialists nod in sage approval.

And so we Americans mustered our outrage at the massacres in Darfur and went to the United Nations. And calls were issued and exhortations were made and platitudes spread like béarnaise. The great hum of diplomacy signaled that the global community was whirring into action.

Meanwhile helicopter gunships were strafing children in Darfur.

Jeane replies to Brooks with this:

Assuming John Kerry has not taken over the presidency before being elected (and done the opposite of what he has said he believes should be done), I guess we -- including Brooks -- have to acknowledge that it is none other than Fearless Leader who has wimped out on stopping genocide in Darfur. One might ask why, if this issue is really important to David Brooks, he is so strongly supporting the man who has failed to act. One might also ask if Brooks has noticed that it isn't really wimpiness, or a sudden, uncharacteristic commitment to multilateralism that has caused Bush's failure to act, but rather the fact that we have no troops to spare.

Like Jeane, I am usually reluctant to advocate military intervention, but also like Jeane, I see no real alternative in Darfur at this point. Without someone on the ground to make sure that humanitarian aide reaches refugees, while preventing further violence, I see no reason to think that the situation there will get any better. However, I'm not convinced that the lack of troops is the only reason we're not intervening. The number of troops required would probably be pretty small, but I think that Bush, like Clinton before him, sees images of the Sudan, with a scrolling marquee underneath that reads "Public Relations Disaster," everytime he's confronted with the idea of military intervention on the behalf of black Africans. I don't think it's unfair to call this racism. The disaster in the Sudan in 1993 seems to have shaped the establishment's perception of intervention in sub-Saharan Africa exclusively, without affecting its view of intervention in Europe or the Arab world.

This situation also highlights the political tragedy that is the United Nations. Without U.S. initiative, none of the other Security Council countries seem willing to advocate military intervention. Why? Are the militaries of France and non-S.C. countries like Germany really overextended as well? Are they afraid that if they take the initiative, the U.S. won't follow, and they will be forced to foot the bill on their own? Is that really a valid reason for not intervening? I hate the perception, that many in the U.S. have of our country as the police force of the world, and if the rhetoric from France, Germany, and other nations leading up to the Iraq war is any indication, the rest of the world hates it as well. Yet, when the other member countries of the United Nations fail to act in situations like this, it starts to look like despite their protests, this is how they view us as well.


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