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TNR: Fire Gration

11:32 AM, Nov 5, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The New Republic has kept up a steady drum beat against President Obama's disgrace of an envoy to Sudan, General Scott Gration. Gration has embarrassed himself and the United States repeatedly with statements on the situation in Darfur that range from the delusional to the merely naive. Now the magazine is calling for the administration to fire Gration:

Scott Gration is an embarrassment. As Barack Obama's special envoy to Sudan, Gration has a dual mission: to help win justice and peace for the nearly three million Darfuris who currently live in camps after being subjected to genocide by Sudan's government; and to prevent that same odious government from initiating another slaughter in southern Sudan, where a 2005 peace agreement is looking more tenuous by the day.

How is he doing? Since taking the job in March, Gration has gone about ingratiating himself to the Sudanese government--an odd choice given that the government is a genocidal one. He seems interested only in offering Khartoum incentives, even though it has provided him basically nothing in return. He has pressed Congress to ease sanctions on Sudan. He has met with an American lobbyist for the Sudanese government. He has endorsed an absurd demand issued by Khartoum concerning an upcoming vote on South Sudanese independence. He has lamented to The Washington Post that many Darfuris distrust the government because of "psychological stuff." Explaining to the Post how he wants to deal with Sudan's rulers, he said: "We've got to think about giving out cookies. Kids, countries--they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement." This is both astonishingly offensive (why would one give "cookies" to a government that has recently killed hundreds of thousands of its own people?) and strikingly impractical: Most observers of Sudan agree that Khartoum has historically responded to sticks, while viewing carrots as an invitation to continue orchestrating violence....

The consequences of Gration's approach go beyond Sudan. As Daniel Jonah Goldhagen argued recently in these pages ("Ending Our Age Of Suffering," October 21), the coddling of genocidal dictators sends a message around the world to other leaders contemplating crimes against their own people. The message is clear-cut: As far as the United States is concerned, you can commit genocide--and still get a smiley face.

The New Republic is right. Gration has become the poster boy for the worst tendencies of this administration's foreign policy -- the appeasement and coddling of tyrants who ought to be indicted for war crimes and, in the case of Sudanese strong-man Omar al-Bashir, have been indicted for war crimes. If Gration is allowed to stay on and keep handing out gold stars and smiley faces to a man who murders his own people by the tens of thousands, it will be the surest evidence of this administration's complete indifference to human rights.