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(Update) The Save Darfur Coalition's Fantasy

10:45 AM, May 6, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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(Today's Wall Street Journal editorial weighs in on the latest peace initiative. The editors doubt it will hold given the track record of the criminal regime that resides in Khartoum. They also have a message for many of those demanding action to stop the brutality. "There's a lesson here for all of those liberal internationalists who now demand the Administration 'do something' in Darfur: If you want to stop genocide, don't shackle the world's only policeman.")

Posted on April 28, 2006:

Nearly two years ago I attended a lecture by Samantha Power, author of "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide" (a book I highly recommend), at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. She spoke on the same day the government of Sudan got a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission. On the negotiations to end the killing in Darfur, Power warned that peace talks are sometimes just cover so nations can look the other way at atrocious behavior. But how do you stop such behavior before it becomes a full-blown genocide and once it does how do you end it before eveyone is murdered or displaced? She answered that what is missing in Darfur, as it was in the Balkans and Rwanda, is the "political will" of the international community to act. Though, citing Iraq, she rejected a "militant unilateralist" approach in favor of a reformed UN armed with a robust force ready to intervene to prevent more Rwandas. This brings me to the superb piece, Crisis Intervention: Iraq, Darfur, and American Power, by The New Republic's Lawrence Kaplan. He writes:

Springtime has arrived on the nation's college campuses, but this year the students out marching in the streets are demanding a foreign intervention rather than protesting one. For months now they've been in full cry, and rightly so, over the international community's disinclination to halt the genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Next Sunday, they and like-minded people around the United States will convene for a massive rally in the nation's capital.

But the marchers will have to contend with an unwelcome guest: the specter of Iraq....

Then again, the use of unilateral U.S. military power isn't the solution most Darfur activists have in mind. Even as western Sudan burns, Darfur advocates such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi argue that the United States must employ its military power only on behalf of--and, more important, in concert with--international organizations such as the United Nations. The Save Darfur Coalition, a leading umbrella group for organizations bent on action, intends to save Darfur not by urging the Bush administration to launch air strikes against Sudan's murderous militias but by petitioning the White House to bolster funding for African Union peacekeepers and to lobby the United Nations.

But will the African Union put a halt to the killings in Darfur? Absolutely not. Its Arab members have stymied the force at every turn. Will the United Nations solve the crisis? That seems extremely unlikely as well. The organization amounts first and foremost to a collection of sovereign states, many of them adamantly opposed to violating Sudan's own sovereignty. Can NATO save the day? Not really, given the fears of entanglement expressed by its European members. As in Bosnia before it, the victims of Darfur can be saved by one thing and one thing alone: American power.

Unfortunately for the victims of Darfur, too many of their advocates have come to view that power as tainted, marred by self-interest and by its misapplication in Iraq. Hence, the contradiction at the heart of the Darfur debate, which pits the imperative to halt the persecution of innocents (Darfur activists have enshrined as their motto the biblical admonition not to "stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor") against a reflexive opposition to the only power that can actually do so.

With the latter sentiment in vogue as a result of the Iraq war, it is as if nothing has been learned and nothing remembered from the decade that went before. Never mind Bosnia. Never mind Kosovo. And, as long as Darfur activists like number two Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois cling to the mantra that the United States must be what he calls a "defensive nation," well, never mind Darfur either.

Interestingly, former Clinton official Richard Holbrooke has separated himself from Democrats like Durbin, who have adopted the language of foreign policy "realists." Too bad Durbin and company aren't listening.