Rwanda Redux?

Bush says Darfur situation dire

President Bush on Friday pressed for international action to address a “dire” situation in Darfur region of Sudan where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced by fighting.

If Rwanda is any model, Sudan can probably rest easy, at least until the number of dead approaches 800,000 or so.

Countries need “to work with the Sudanese government to enable a peacekeeping force into that country to facilitate aid and save lives,” Bush said after a meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki. “He shares my concerns that the situation is dire, and now is the time for action,” Bush said. The United States has called the killings there genocide, a charge the Sudanese government has rejected.

I’m not sure how you “work” with a government that says genocide within its borders is all fine and dandy.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has rejected any U.N. troops in Darfur or a proposed hybrid force that includes U.N. and African Union troops. There are already some 7,000 African troops in Darfur but the U.N. Security Council has authorized up to 22,500 troops and police on the condition that Sudan agreed. The African troops are considered underfunded and lacking equipment.

“It’s very urgent, very necessary, and we’ll absolutely do everything to make sure that from the African side we remove any obstacles there might be to such bigger deployment in Darfur,” Mbeki said.

I’m not sure that there is a national interest in intervening in Sudan, and yet what is happening in Darfur is clearly awful, so I don’t have a much better proposal than the administration. But there’s no more pathetic sight than chest-thumping scolding, the equivalent of speaking loudly and carrying no stick. Reminds me of all the instances in US history, written about so beautifully in Kissinger’s _Diplomacy_, when preaching about idealist goals outside the realm of realism weakened the nation.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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19 Responses to Rwanda Redux?

  1. “If Rwanda is any model, Sudan can probably rest easy, at least until the number of dead approaches 800 million or so.”

    I always like to savor a fine burst of well-aimed, Curzonian, sarcasm.

  2. I just wish it wasn’t true.

  3. Eddie says:

    Our leaders have never cared less, Africa’s leaders are flush with Chinese cash and imagination in these matters runs rather dry (something I have been overwhelmingly guilty of the past 2 1/2 years this has been ongoing).

    Our best bet now: let’s train some rebel groups and exact a price from the Sudanese for destablizing the region. Force the regime to the negotiating table, one rebel victory at a time. Hell, China funds the Sudanese government, Hezbollah and other groups get recruits from Sudan with the permission of the Sudanese government. Its about time we start supporting somebody in this instead of just wagging our finger and moaning ethnic rape and slaughter.

  4. Aceface says:

    Let’s think about 2.5million displaced Sudanese first,since they are fleeing to Chad.I’ve talked to the director of Japanese NGO Midori no Sahel no Kai and he was telling me that they could cause some
    trouble there with local government.

  5. jomama says:

    This intervention would be paid for with what?

  6. jon says:

    We aren’t going to do anything in the Sudan, I don’t know whether long term that is good or bad, for the United States, that is, not the Darfurians, of course that is bad if they continue to be murdered and driven out of the country and into Chad.

    Unfortunately Europe and America are constrained by a number of factors. Some legit and some not.
    Legitimately, the US and Europe are worried about what happens in the South, a civil war was just ended after, what 20 years or so. They are worried about that breaking out anew.
    Also, for the “realists” in government that would like to do something, they don’ see a compelling strategic interest that the AMerican people can unite behind, if things go badly, ala Somalia.
    They know that if there is a similar incident it could serve to prevent a future intervention when there is serious direct strategic ramifications for doing nothing. The Balkans is what I’m thinking about.
    As for other concerns that aren’t legitimate policy concerns, it is Africa. TRaditionally, we in America don’t care all that much for what happens there. The weekend that the genocide in Rwanda really started, I think there were something like 50,000 people killed over those two or three days. On Monday morning, almost no one in thegeneral population knew anything about it. I believe there was a major incident with some celebrity that weekend, I can’t remember if it was OJ Simpson, or Kurt Cobain, but that was the focus of news coverage over the weekend. A famous person killing his ex-wife and someone else, or troubled rock star killing himself.

    Imagine if Rwanda happened with speed and brutality it did, but somewhere in Europe, it would be front page news, and we would have had at least one division in the country by the end of that week. If only to create a safe haven for refugees.

  7. Careful, Lord Curzon – 800 thousand, not 800 million…. “The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda estimates that “some 800,000 Rwandans were killed” between April and July 1994.” .

  8. The United States cannot be the cop showing up to prevent domestic violence in other people’s houses. It is beyond our power. If we did, we would immediately be treated as aggressors and the entire world would treat it as an opportunity to get in a shot at the US and its military, literally and figuratively. There is absolutely no up-side for us.

    We have to get used to watching millions of people die on TV and realize that it is none of our business, and that the sad fact of their misery is not our fault and not our responsibility to fix. Changet the channel if you don’t like looking at it. Or volunteer to go there as a personal, charitable exercise.

    I would like to hear a politician say that the Rwandan genocide, as bad as it was, has nothing to do with the USA and we are not obliged to expend a nickel or a drop of blood to make it better. Similarly, Darfur is a genocide, and we deplore it verbally, but we are not going to do anything to stop it because it does not impact us and it is none of our business. We intervene in foreign locales when it serves some interest of the USA to do so. Darfur would be an expensive and open-ended commitment that would drain lives and treasure for no end that benefitted the USA. Our military exists to defend and advance the interests and the wellbeing of the people of the United States. When foreigners murder each other, that is their business unless it implicates us in some articulable and concrete way.

    The reconfiguration of the invasion of Iraq invasion into primarily a nation-building exercise — a mistake — has not added to clarity on all this.

    Bismarck had it right. When the Turks were murdering the Bulgarians, there was an outcry to “do something”. His sane and mature response: “I may remember them in my prayers but I may not make them the object of German policy.” He would have said the same about Darfur.

  9. Flagg says:

    It has been mentioned a bit, but what shocks me is that no one seems to be talking about arming those refugees.

    Why in the world aren’t either regional governments or angry private groups (think a Christian Al Qaeda) sending guns, ammo and technical advisors in to the refugee camps. It would stand to reason from the many horror stories coming out of Darfur that one might find a few motivated individuals willing to pop a cap in a few people for revenge.

    What am I missing?

  10. Curzon says:

    Dr. Wallace: thank you, corrected.


    I would like to hear a politician say that the Rwandan genocide, as bad as it was, has nothing to do with the USA and we are not obliged to expend a nickel or a drop of blood to make it better.

    I think Pat Buchanan said something to that effect. And while, in accordance with the motto of this blog, I share many of your sentiments, that kind of blunt talk by a politician would violate “speak Victorian.”

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  12. subadei says:

    Curzon, Lex: I think your (and the mentioned Buchanan) take would be personally palpable in the case of a foreign civil war or a martial scrimmage between states (India/Pakistan for example.)

    However, the “we’re not the global cops” approach delves a bit too far into the “realist” approach to global events in the case of Darfur or any mass genocide. This isn’t a case of stepping into a neighbors house to settle a domestic dispute. Rather it’s a case of watching the systematic execution of an entire buildings worth of neighbors, none of whom asked for or expected their landlord.

    I’m not much for “nation building” or the exportation of democracy to societies wholly incapable of grasping it’s concept much less incorporating it as a governmental vehicle. However, I’m also not much for standing by and watching and knowing that millions are being slaughtered not because they’ve revolted or covet the aggressors land or have even dared challenge the authority of the aggressors dogma, but simply because they’re both “in the way” and don’t “fit the mold” of the despicable regime authoring their demise.
    There are global events and difficulties that require a degree of Kissingerian detachement. How this can be one of them is well beyond be, without regard to the “national interest” slant (a look at Chinese interests in this region may unravel that comfort for some.)
    My take, anyway.

  13. Lexington Green says:

    Curzon says I sound like Buchanan. I think I sound like Bismarck. I like my version better.

    Subadei, even if your analogy is better, the USA simply does not have the capacity to squander its resources trying to prevent awful events occurring. We are not a “hyperpower” or “unipolar” or any of that stuff. We are wealthy, relatively well-armed commercial, middle-class democracy. The world is vast, it’s evils equally vast. It is foolish to think that our military power is sufficient to do much about this reality. It is barely sufficient to do things we need it to do. What happened in Rwanda was very sad. We were not resonsible for it. We did the right thing staying out of it. We should stay out of Darfur for the same reasons.

  14. Curzon says:

    Lex: No no, you asked for a US politician to say “we shouldn’t spend a nickel” on Sudan, and I said the only person saying such was Buchanan. (Of course, Pat is no longer a politician, but I’m just trying to say how removed this is from the public dialogue.)

    Eddie: regarding your post in response to this, I wouldn’t advocate ignoring ethnic cleansing. I just think the balance of democratic politics, national interest, moral imperative, and realism makes it very, very difficult. As soon as soldiers start dying, as in Somalia, the leaders had better be prepared to answer an angry public who will demand to know that military action is directly related to the national interest. _Black Hawk Down_ has many lessons for today’s politicians.

  15. Eddie says:


    Again, no US troops required for most of the options. Its inherently not difficult, except when the response comes from the establishment as constructed and populated today. I agree the public will not support such open-ended missions as implemented in Somalia. However, politicians, generals and pundits offer this as an excuse to do nothing, when in fact there are a wealth of options available to us. We just require the imagination and courage to consider them.
    Otherwise, between China and the various Islamist groups making headway in Africa (from Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda to homegrown varieties with their own agendas and proxies who only share a common interest in chaos and conflict), we might as well just give up and bring everybody home and prepare for Armageddon. We simply cannot give up on Africa, especially with so many variables arguably in our favor.

  16. …let’s train some rebel groups and exact a price from the Sudanese for destablizing the region.
    Really? The Darfur crisis started after the JEM and SLM rebel groups attacked the government in a previously stable (if oppressed) province.

    not the Darfurians
    Dar meaning land in Arabic, the main ethnic group are the Fur. Hence Darfur : Land of the Fur.

    Why in the world aren’t either regional governments or angry private groups (think a Christian Al Qaeda) sending guns, ammo and technical advisors in to the refugee camps.
    The tribes of darfur (west Sudan) are mostly Muslim themselves. unlike the south of Sudan, which is largely Christian.

    And as for intervening, intervening in Darfur almost certainly means intervening in all Sudan, and that is a non-starter.

  17. Eddie says:


    The fact that rebel groups took up arms after political means failed does not remove the majority of blame from the Sudanese government.
    Perhaps you don’t understand that for decades China, Iran and the Soviet Union have specialized in destabilizing African countries by funding, training and supplying rebel groups and terrorists on the continent.
    The US got into it half-heartedly, but it never took the value of the flip side of the coin seriously. We should fund, train and arm the Christians and animists in the South of Nigeria and Sudan, they share our values and interests and their countries will not be together much longer with the violent and oppressive manner in which their majority Northern Muslim populations and governments rule them.

  18. “…and their countries will not be together much longer with the violent and oppressive manner …”

    The only way those countries can be kept together appears to be violence and oppression. Sudan sucks, but when all is said and done it still has the rudimentary apparatus of a state left over from British colonial rule. If that is broken (by a period of anarchy following, for instance, a bungled “regime change” or civil war) there is no reason to suppose that it will reconstitute itself. Is a new Zaire really going to make things better?

    And is feeding anarchy and breakdown really in our interests?

  19. Eddie says:

    Sudan’s regime is itself decomposing the country with its violent responses to what are essentially political, economic and environmental disputes that could be resolved by peaceful means. The fact that we stop standing on the sidelines and pick a side does not mean we are feeding anarchy and breakdowns so much as investing time and effort into people who could be our allies.