Thursday, August 31, 2006

Do The Right Thing

I know the cause in Darfur has been previously championed here at TPS. So I thought it was appropriate to note today's latest development.

The Security Council voted to create a peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region, despite the Khartoum government's strong opposition. But the troops will not be deployed until Sudan consents. The U.N. wants to replace and absorb an African Union force in Darfur, which has only enough money to exist until its mandate expires on September 30. It has been unable to halt the humanitarian crisis in the lawless west of the country, which the U.S. describes as genocide.

The resolution calls for up to 22,500 U.N. troops and police officers and an immediate injection of air, engineering and communications support for the 7,000-member African force. The measure, drafted by Britain and the United States, is designed to allow planning and recruitment of troops for an eventual handover. The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003, when non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government. In response, the government mobilized Arab militias known as Janjaweed, who have been accused of murder, rape and looting.

Fighting, disease, and hunger have killed some 200,000 people driven some 2.5 million into squalid camps. Rebel groups have splintered and are now conducting similar atrocities against civilians. Bloodshed has only increased since the government signed a peace agreement with one rebel group in May and Sudan is planning to send some 10,500 troops into Darfur, which the West fears will lead to full-scale war.

I think most would agree this is a worthy use of the UN's ability to coordinate foreign aid and international peacekeeping. These processes are never easy. And lately the UN's reputation in this department has become greatly tarnished. However, if we are going to continue to support the United Nations (including leaning on that body heavily with regards to Iran), then what better opportunity to get it back on track by using its diplomatic resources to do something about genocide?

Hopefully, the hands of this international force will not be tied because surely potential forces will encounter some resistence in various forms. However, unlike the situation in Iraq, I believe these troops would be empowered by a clear awareness of their mission, and by always knowing the good guys from the bad. Those who have seen the film Hotel Rwanda will recall the frustration experienced by peacekeepers who witnessed genocide but were powerless to stop it. And despite the fears of some, I think involvement in Darfur carries only a limited risk of broad escalation. Even the Arab world hasn't shown much desire to defend the Sudanese government, which once gave safe harbor to Osama Bin Laden.

So I give Ambassador Bolton credit for getting this resolution to a favorable vote. Only the condition that Sudan consent to the mission before it may start gives me pause for concern. A test for this contraversial diplomat. We shall see.

N.B. - I'll give much credit to the ex-Regian on this blog who can spot the infamous Regis reference in this post.


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