Tuesday, May 30, 2006

About Darfur...

A lot of people on the left have discovered Darfur, and are calling for intervention by the UN or US. It's even affected some in the USA. Intervention is theoretically possible, albeit it would be difficult (a look at the map will show a lot of the difficulties. Darfur is in the western part of Sudan, and that area of the world isn't exactly blessed with infrastructure). And the Janjaweed militias are now reportedly crossing into the eastern part of Chad, leading to discussions about a force to protect refugee camps there. This is a situation could become a much uglier version of Bosnia, particularly if the "defense" of the camps is no better than that given to Srebrenica in the 1990s.

Also, getting the UN's okay is going to be very difficult. China, for instance, will probably veto any resolution with teeth. To a lesser extent, Russia could also be a problem. Sudan is an export market for both of those countries.

So, what sort of intervention is possible? Well, first, the question is, who would be interested? With the raids now crossing into Chad, this could be a chance for France to shine, particularly the Foreign Legion. In the 1980s, when Libya was trying to push into Chad, France sent elements of the Foreign Legion and helped Chad send Qaddafi running back with his tail between his legs as part of Operation "Epervier". And Libya had a lot of firepower involved (Tu-22 Blinders, T-72 and T-55 main battle tanks, and other systems).

The Janjaweed is much less armed. Mostly, it's mounted raiders using camels and horses as transportation, and armed with small arms (AK-47s, RPGs, etc.). In other words, this is a force even less well-equipped to deal with something akin to "Epervier" than the Libyan military.

In the 1980s, "Epervier" involved the deplyoment of 1,400 Foreign Legion troops, twenty combat aircraft, and $10 million worth of military aid to Chadian forces, mostly in the form of anti-tank missiles mounted on 4x4 vehicles (Land Rovers and Toyota pickup trucks). Transferring a bunch of used HMMWVs and machine guns (a mix of M60s and M2s, plus the ammunition) wouldn't be too difficult. Perhaps some second-hand AH-1S Cobras and UH-1 Hueys (which are currently sitting around at Davis-Monthan) would also help the Chadian military out in that regard (although maintaining the helicopters would be difficult for Chad).

The real issue, of course, is finding the will to do so. The Bush Administration is rightfully hesitant to plunge into intervention in this case - not because the cause isn't worthwhile, but because many proponents of intervening in Darfur have been opposed to the liberation of Iraq (see George Clooney as a prime example, as Austin Bay pointed out earlier this month). Teh logistical challenges are also immense. And to be very honest, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - and the Iranian theocracy - is a much bigger fish to fry at this point.

Still, the ability is there to indirectly intervene. That said, we now need to consider the comment that Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum) made in the movie adaptation of Jurrasic Park, when he pointed out that people trying to clone dinosaurs "were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." The same is true of intervening in foreign conflicts.

In this case, it's a tough call. On the one hand, we do make a mockery of "never again" each time a genocide occurs and we do nothing. It only makes other tyrants and maniacs think they will get away with it. That's a good way to start wars. But on the other hand, the ability to intervene everywhere does not exist. Seeing it through is also another matter. As the 1993 intervention in Somalia and the liberation of Iraq have shown, there is a sizable contingent of people in the Western world who do get ready to throw in the towel when things get tough, and a smaller contingent who would side with the tyrants (see Ramsey Clark as an example).

The level of commitment would be low, though. But right now, the fact is that Darfur is not the pressing threat that Iran is, and there is still a lot of work to be done in the Afghan and Iraqi campaigns in the war on terror. Right now, with bigger fish to fry, America should simply be ready to provide some backup to the African Union peacekeepers in the form of weapons - much as the French did for Chad in the 1980s. If al-Qaeda does decide to make Darfur another front in the war on terror, as Austin Bay discussed in April, then we should be ready to help the African Union shift from peacekeeping to a full-scale takedown of the Janjaweed militia and any al-Qaeda presence. If necessary, America should not shy away from adjusting the Sudanese government's attitude towards Darfur.

But we're not at that point yet.

1 comment:

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

One of the tragedies of Darfur is that there is nothing and no one there worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. None of the great powers that have the capability to intervene stand to gain much if they do.

Humanitarians anguish over all the wars and genocides and general nastiness in Africa, but the harsh fact is that Africans have been killing each other in large numbers since decolonization, and the economic impact of large numbers of dead Africans on the powers who could do anything about it has not risen to the level of intervention.

Money talks and BS walks. IF the humanitarians were serious about relieving the sufferings of Darfur, they'd raise money to bribe Chad to invade Darfur, feed the Darfuris, charter the Ukrainian IL-76's to bring in the relief supplies, and hire Blackwater to take out the Janjaweed militia.