What Does Darfur Need?

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Mark Goldberg has one of the best takes on Darfur I’ve read in quite a while. There may not be a perfect solution for the region, as many have long argued. Indeed, stopping the genocide altogether might well take more troops and manpower than is either operationally feasible or politically realistic. But that said, there are a lot of good intermediate steps that could be taken to ease the catastrophe there—and the Bush administration is far, far from exhausting those possibilities.

Meanwhile, much has been made of Bush’s recent decision to call what’s going on in Darfur by its true name: genocide. But calling the crisis in Sudan “genocide” and then failing to act does nothing but cheapen the term, and ensures that future dictators will have reason to believe that they too can get away with massacring entire populations in the name of putting down a few rebel groups. Honestly, I never thought I’d pine for the days when conservatives were obsessed with the deterrent value of punishment.

UPDATE: See also Eugene Oregon, who argues that the mere credible threat of intervention in Darfur could force Khartoum to reign in its janjaweed militias. I don’t know if that’s true in this specific instance, but the general point is quite sound. If the international community was credibly committed to stopping genocide in all its forms, and never tolerated regimes that massacre civilians, then you’d be less likely to see the sort of thing that’s happening in Sudan from even starting up. Likewise, a committed response to Darfur would not only stop the current genocide, but could deter genocides of the future. But that’s not the international community we have, or the response we’re getting, and so now there’s little reason for any dictator to think twice about starting up genocide if need be.

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