What Next for Darfur?

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


The New Republic is devoting its current issue to Darfur, and many of the essays seem to suggest that the United States ought to grab its military and intervene to keep the peace there. (Or rather, many of the articles seem intent on tweaking unnamed liberals whose “anti-imperialist” pose supposedly makes them complicit in genocide… or something.)

Anyway, leaving aside the fact that the Khartoum government recently signed a peace agreement with the main Darfur rebel groups—which may or may not translate into actual peace—and a large-scale military intervention might be unnecessary, there are real practical problems with an invasion of Sudan, if that’s what’s being recommended, that this TNR editorial passes over much too glibly. I reported on a bunch of difficulties over a year ago, and Samantha Power notes that the obstacles are no less dire now:

Thanks to the war in Iraq, sending a sizable U.S. force to Darfur is not an option. Units in Iraq are already on their third tours, and the crumbling Afghan peace demands ever-more resources. Moreover, sending Americans into another Islamic country is unadvisable, given the ease with which jihadis could pour across Sudan’s porous and expansive borders. Making Darfur a magnet for foreign fighters or yet another front in the global proxy war between the United States and Al Qaeda would just compound the refugees’ woes.

So what could be done short of invasion if, as some fear, the peace talks break down? Mark Leon Goldberg of the American Prospect recently wrote a piece noting that the Bush administration could deploy much more diplomatic pressure than it has in the past, and that there are plenty of steps short of invading that could go very far to halting the violence.

Unfortunately, as Marisa Katz reports in the TNR issue, the administration’s policy towards Khartoum over the past three years has generally been unabashed appeasement—partly because Sudan’s genocidaires such as Salah Abdallah Gosh have offered cooperation on terrorism issues (although one official tells Katz that this cooperation hasn’t been all that valuable). Now the administration’s stance appears to be changing of late, and for whatever reason, Robert Zoellick seems to have been able to pressure most of the parties involved to agree to a tentative peace deal, although this is one of those things on which we’ll really have to wait and see.

Finally—and perhaps most importantly—Eric Reeves, who has done better and more extensive work on Darfur than any journalist over the past three years, surveys the vast humanitarian wreckage in Darfur and points out that even if the fighting stops (again, a big ‘if’), the area is still going to be an utter disaster. Millions are displaced. Agriculture has been ruined. The next generation of Darfuris will grow up without having learned the necessary farming skills to sustain themselves. There are refugee camps that are bordering on permanence. Massive foreign aid and assistance will be needed. Massive, but doable. Yet Western countries have rarely, if ever, been good about helping refugees in post-conflict environments, or devoting the requisite resources to alleviating poverty and the like. That will need to change, and it would be unimaginably catastrophic to ignore Darfur just because the fighting has stopped.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate