Friday, October 23, 2009

From a CSIS commentary on the new Obama policy....

Morrison and Cooke write:
Lack of consensus within the administration has confused potential partners who have for some time seen the United States policy as hostage to zealous domestic pressures.
I feel the need to resist this narrative of U.S. policy, although I note that Morrison and Cook are careful not to say that the policy actually is hostage, but rather than it is "seen" to be hostage.  I find it very hard to think of a single real policy action (other than words) of either Bush or Obama administration that was "zealous."  There was plenty of inaction and nonaction, but that's not really what I think of when I think of zealous.  Was there any single positive policy action pushed by Save Darfur that was actually implemented?  I can't think of anything more disingenuous than saying that my exaggerated characterization of the "policy":
Calling what happened in Darfur genocide, but being very clear this had absolutely no "real" policy implications other than insisting that Pakistani troops mount firewood patrols.
is an example of what it means to be captured by zealous hardliners.  If that is the correct characterization, then Iran, North Korea, etc. policy have all been captured by zealous hardliners (i.e. the Save Baha'i movement and the save Placard-Holding Brainwashed North Koreans movement).

It seems to me pretty clear that when dealing with what Morrison and Cook call "intractable" regimes, the only policy possible is one that swings from engagement to hardline back to engagement and so on, and that is exactly what the U.S. policy review says the administration will do, swing from harder line to engagement and if nothing happens go back to hard line.  Did Save Darfur "cause" that?

A quick look at the largely agreed upon timeline:
1989 Coup. NIF takes power illegitimately, kills good number of upper military brass, hard crackdown on domestic opposition.
1990-1996 Escalation of war against SPLA, scorched earth in oilfields areas and Nuba Mountains,  lots of arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings in Darfur etc. Assassination attempt against Hosni Mubarak, support for LRA. Riek Machar and John Garang split, SPLA seriously weakened, horrific SPLA in-fighting,
1996-1998 Intra-regime drift as oil fields look like will start producing; U.S. attacks al Shifa with cruise missiles. (still waiting for Clinton to fully explain), Massive famine in Bahr al-Ghazal, regime cares not a whit.  Regime uses Operation Lifeline for own purposes.
1999 Regime splits, al-Turabi imprisoned, abandon international Islamist agenda, try to use oil and weapons to win war in South.
2001 After 9/11 and failure to win war in South, al-Bashir decides to do to Garang what did to Riek... settle for a peace and hope that SPLA would split apart in internecine disarray.
2003 Outline of CPA agreed upon. Gosh, the same thing that SPLA wanted, basically, in 1989.  14 years of useless war.
2004 Displacement of 2.5 million in Darfur in order to defeat small disorganized rebel militia... tactic: deliberate attacks on civilian populations.
2005-08 Regime dithers over CPA, brooks little domestic opposition, works hard to obstruct assistance and repatriation of IDPs in Darfur, over-shares problems with Chad while trying to oust Deby.
2009 Regime says, "We're doing all we can, honestly, the problem is those shifty southerners and Darfuris who can't get their act together.  You should forgive the debt, really, so we won't have to divert oil money to purchasing more helicopter gunships."
Save Darfur served a useful purpose for presidents and Secretaries of State and Special Envoys who really didn't want to deal with Sudan.  They could say reasonably, to themselves, "I can't do anything or I'll get clobbered by a bunch of 18 year olds who are the new Cuba lobby." 

The thing to ask is how Sudan policy is different from Congo policy, exactly?  In other words, what are the measures of difference: aid? meetings? sanctions? investment? public sentiment? And if we think of US/Europe as a block, shouldn't "policy" be thought of as a block rather than one half in isolation of the other half?  If Europe does not have sanctions in one place, and U.S. does not in the other place, is that then the same "policy"?  Would ordinary Sudanese in the south or Darfur be better off with a Congo policy instead of the existing Sudan policy?  Would the U.S. be better off?  Any differences, please attribute to Save Darfur? 

There is one point in which I am full agreement with the so-called realists, and that is that the problems will evolve according to local dynamics, since everyone knows there is no real prospect of a big push/intervention from the outside in any of the likely scenarios.  But the realists interpret that to mean the outside powers may as well be constructive, and I interpret that to mean exactly what it means, that constructive or hardline, causality will not run from U.S. policy to Sudan outcomes.

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