Monday, March 9, 2009

more de Waal

De Waal:
ON THE POSSIBILITY OF WAR: Anybody who has any familiarity, who has lived in Sudan, knows that what you do is you negotiate, you give [the Sudanese leaders] a soft landing, a place to land. And huge progress has been made in the last few years most notably in the north-south peace agreement in bringing down the levels of violence in Darfur by 90 percent by doing precisely that. If you put their backs against the wall as was done 15 years ago, when you isolate them internationally, turn them into pariahs, then they’re going to fight, and millions will die.”
I can't understand what he means by 15 years ago- 1993? The Khartoum regime was hosting Osama bin Laden, preparing for an assassination attempt on Hosni Mubarak, etc. etc. Oh yeah, using famine as a weapon in the South. Yet somehow it was the international community (Prendergast and Rice?) that "made them do it"?

Al-Bashir etc. came to power in 1989 with the very precise intent of becoming international pariahs. This was their aim- they were not forced into that, backs against the wall! They overthrew a (reasonably) democratic government of precisely the sort that De Waal now thinks cannot come into being because of the ICC arrest warrant. They summarily executed 19 army officers they thought might generate trouble later on. They scuttled the proposed peace move with the south, who were not even asking for what the NCP finally conceded after 16 more years of war.

I understand de Waal's point, but this is such an inartful way to say it. The point has nothing at all to do with Sudan. It isn't a special Sudanese quality to not want to be held accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity, as if it were some quaint cultural relic like exagerated hospitality. It is a general point that bargaining with dictators is always about choosing among bad options for the non-dictators and for those rules by the dictators. Bush/Cheney choose a very bad option in Iraq. One of the systems we have for avoiding being paralyzed by those bad options is to install automatic procedural institutions that structure the choices and enable actors to make choices without having to make impossible calculations. More importantly, we recognize that these procedural institutions embody important values in and of themselves. The ICC is one such institution. So is the Security Council. We know that many times these institutional processes will result in really bad outcomes, ones that seem worse than other plausible outcomes. We can be very saddened by that while still maintaining that this is the right thing to be doing.

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