April 10, 2005

Khartoum Still Fierce

Eric Reeves has the latest on genocide in Sudan, including evidence that the National Islamic Front in Khartoum hasn't been scared in the slightest by the recent ICC referral. Shocking, I know. Meanwhile, guest-blogger Joseph Britt thinks that Egypt should start taking the lead in intervening in Sudan. Um, ha. Good luck waiting for that. Just the other day Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, told reporters that Sudan's war criminals need not face trial in the Hague. Sounds like a lot of willpower there.

Britt also argues the U.S. would have a very hard time establishing a no-fly zone over Sudan, as many have recommended. To an extent, that's true: the Sudanese air force is really quite advanced, complete with Chinese F-7s and Russian gunships. Not to be trifled with. The intervention air force, meanwhile, would have to work out of French air bases in Chad, Djibouti, and probably an American aircraft carrier in the Red Sea. (Sen. Joe Biden recently claimed that NATO could do this immediately out of Chad, though he may be underestimating the difficulty here.) All in all, it could turn into a fairly fierce and difficult air battle, and in that case, would realistically involve an air attack on Sudan's airfields, control towers, etc. Combined with a more robust ground force securing humanitarian corridors and (if necessary) fighting the janjawid militias, we're essentially talking about an act of war here.

The U.S. doesn't do this because the administration is afraid of torpedoing the peace treaty between Khartoum and the Sudanese Christian South—a treaty that ended the country's other, 20-year, civil war, and a treaty largely popular with America's evangelical right. An intervention would also likely mean some American casualties in what would be essentially a purely humanitarian operation. There are also indications that Western intervention could push some of the janjawid commanders into the arms of al-Qaeda (See Reeves for this). Nevertheless, the price of not intervening is going to be very, very high—hundreds of thousands more Darfuris raped, murdered, dislocated, starving to death, and so on. It's too bad we don't have the sort of leaders that can make these tough choices; read this Condoleeza Rice interview for a some truly stomach-churning evasive action on the Sudan question.
-- Brad Plumer 11:19 PM || ||