Intervention in Dafur

The overall consensus on Darfur from the “international community” is that a massive deployment of UN troops is the only way to halt the genocide and move to real peace settlement. NGOs, humanitarian organisations, the EU, US, AU are all calling for an intervention policy. However, writing in the International Socialist Review, Avery Wear and David Whitehouse explain why Darfur needs to be saved from US intervention.

Wear and Whitehouse present a convincing argument against US intervention through by providing a historical and contemporary imperialistic and local context for the conflict. They sight the US failed interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and NATO’s failure in Kosovo alongside a potential struggle for resources such as oil between the established Chinese and the wannabe Americans.

The UN force, envisaged as a joint effort with NATO, would replace 7,000 lightly armed African Union (AU) monitors who were posted in Darfur after a now-forgotten 2004 ceasefire. The AU mandate is set to expire at the end of the year, and the U.S. is stepping up pressure on the Sudanese government of Omar al-Bashir to accept the UN/NATO force as a replacement.

Some may be attracted to the campaign to “save Darfur” out of genuine humanitarian concern, but U.S. interests in the region are anything but humanitarian. A “robust” intervention in Darfur, as George Bush demands, would need to bribe, kill, and intimidate the warring parties until they stop fighting. But the only forces with that kind of strength are controlled by people who don’t have Darfurians’ interests at heart. Even if no U.S. troops set foot in Sudan, U.S. support and guidance would be key to the force. U.S. involvement in Sudan is already considerable, and imperial planners will escalate it only if they see it as a way to further their prime objective in the region-to muscle out potential rivals such as China in a scramble for oil and other resources. If the U.S. is allowed to get deeper into Sudan, things could actually get worse for Darfurians-and for many other Africans.

The most convincing part of the argument against US intervention is the answer to what the US is really after which is to use Darfur “as an opportunity to control Sudan’s political future”. This is made more contentious when one looks at the amount of investment China has made in the Sudan and elsewhere in Africa to ensure supply of natural resources. China has already spent $8billion in oil infrastructure in Sudan in return for which they have supplied the government with a huge arsenal of heavy and small arms. The US has to a large extent found itself out in the cold in Sudan and other parts of Africa and is now needing to re-establish a power base in the region as well as access to the resources being eaten up by China. Nonetheless it already has a presence by way of proxy corporate contractors such as Dyncorp – described by CorpWatch as

the world’s premier rent-a-cop business runs the security show in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the US-Mexico border. They also run the coca crop-dusting business in Colombia, and occasional sex trafficking sorties in Bosnia. But what can you expect from a bunch of mercenaries?

In fact Dyncorp and Pacific Architects and Engineers have been in Darfur for the past two years – a contract worth $20 million to give support to the AU troops. Both contractors have operated in the DRC, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Bosnia and have been involved in a range of criminal activities from overcharging to sex trafficking of children and work closely with the CIA.

Where Wear and Whitehouse loose the argument against UN intervention is their failure to come up with any alternative that would protect the people of Darfur against further violence. Whilst I agree the US does not have Darfur’s interest at heart and there’s is yet another imperialist project the violence in Darfur and Chad is getting worse and surely at this moment the highest priority is to protect the lives of those who are suffering.

14 thoughts on “Intervention in Dafur”

  1. Interesting. I wrote an essay on the very same topic earlier today. You can read it in my blog. (http://blackstarjournal.blogspot.com/2006/12/something-must-be-done-about-darfur.html)

    Though there is a bit of a trap that isolationists here often point out to Africophiles like myself. And frankly, they have a point.

    The US government resisted pressure and did not intervene in the Rwanda genocide or in Liberia at the end of Taylor’s regime. We* were accused of racism for “letting” Africans be massacred.

    (*-And it wasn’t just the American government of the day who was so accused. I heard and read reports of many on the continent accusing Americans in general of insensitivity, of not caring that they were dying because they were black and in a far away land)

    But when the US government DOES talk about intervening itself to stop slaughter (and in this case, it’s not the US government itself offering such hypotheses for Darfur but outside actors), then it is accused of neo-colonialism. Of being willing to shed African blood for African resources.

    We Americans are bloodthirsty imperialists if our government intervenes. We’re callous racists if our government doesn’t intervene.

    It’s a catch-22 and I’d like your thoughts on it.

  2. One of the points made by the writers of the piece I refer to is that the US intervention takes place ONLY when their interests are affected which in the case of Darfur/Sudan they clearly explain and I agree with. The failure to intervene in Rwanda and Liberia for example was because their interests were not an issue. The criticism lies in the lack of consistency and the ulterior motives behind the decisions to intervene.

    With regards to who should intervene – I support the presence of AU troops and I cannot understand why the funds that would go to providing a UN intervention cannot be made available to provide an adequate AU force or even a mixture of AU and AL countries working together. I have read your piece yes the save darfur campaigns dont have solutions just something – well we know “something” must be done but at this stage and level the first step of the “something” is the deployment of a decent AU and possibly AL force to protect people and then from there all involved parties can begin to work towards a lasting and meaningful peace settlement but first people need protection NOW.

  3. First off, the US is not sending troops into Sudan. Nor is there any serious discussion of this (except by liberal activists groups, ironically enough). The US govt may want someone else to do the dirty work but if Darfur were an imperial question, like Iraq, then the US govt wouldn’t hesistate to send in its troops… like Iraq.

    This issue is: even if it were well funded and equiped, would an AU force be given the mandate to act authoritatively? Well-resourced passive observers are still passive observers.

    I’d love to see an Arab League force, since it would be the least likely to seen as a hostile force. But given that the current presidency of the Arab League is none other than Sudan, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  4. I agree that the powers that be will only step in when it serves their interests. That’s what sucks about desperation. SOMETHING must be done now…dare I say ANYTHING if it will save people’s lives?

    I’m however rather interested in the whole business of Afro-Sino relations. A good starting point would be the excellent interview on Pambazuka with Prof. Prah on his views and his new book on the situation. We’ve seen what great power and would be great power scrambles can do…slavery, colonisation, neo-colonisation…and we are just sitting there waiting to see what this one too will bring?

    My thoughts on this are not fully formed. Opinions are welcome (as always :-) ) and perhaps a post on this soon…as soon as I leave my SLOW dial-up connection in Ghana.

  5. Brian@ I know the US are not sending troops – one of the points of this piece which is that the US/UN are inseperable. If a UN force is deployed we all know that it will not include US troops but you cannot pretend that the US is an aside in the decision to send in troops. The AU has been ineffective not necessarily because it hasnt the mandate but rather it hasnt the manpower. I think a joint AU AL force is an ideal and once again the US influence comes into play regarding the mandate that these forces are given being that it is the international community that has to pay for the deployment of AU troops. As I said the priority is that the genoice stops now and the people of Darfur and Chad are protected. What is happening is that these players, AU/AL/ US/EU are all playing their power games while people are dying – that is the bottom line.

  6. Brian – You go in and do what is in your best interest – its about power,money and influence no? Thats the reality. I don’t know the answer. I stated that the problem with the article which is written from a Marxist perspective is that it doesn’t come up with any alternatives and solutions. If I were in a position to make a decision right now it is that I don’t feel one can compromise with peoples lives irrespective of where the interest of the “saviour” lies! The violence has to end.

  7. See… it’s easy to criticize and even get personal against someone you should know is not ill-intentioned. But you still can’t offer any solutions. You can say what you wouldn’t do, but when asked what you would do, you parry.

    Of course the violence has to end. That’s the easy part to say. Anyone can say that. Answering HOW is the hard part, but the only part that actually matters.

  8. One other thing. I don’t know who you think I am but I’d like to inform you that I have no political power (other than a meager vote), no influence on my federal government and little money. I have not personally benefited from the Iraq monstrosity (though I have had friends shipped off to the insanity) and I would not personally benefit from any intervention in Iraq. I am an active opponent of US militarism and have been for years. I’ve made it quite explicitly my opposition to the marriage between corporations and foreign policy. My interest, Sokari, is that the genocide stop. The question is how to achieve this goal. I’ve always enjoyed reading your blog even when I haven’t agreed but you’ve never before stooped to questioning my motives.

  9. “I would not personally benefit from any intervention in Iraq.”

    Obviously I meant that I wouldn’t benefit from any intervention in Darfur.

  10. Brian@ I am lost here. “…your motives”. I do not understand your response #9? I wasnt aware that I had attacked you in any personal way nor have I in any way questioned your motives. My comment was objective and referring to the original piece and my opinion on that piece.

    On the contrary it is you that have turned this into something personal for whatever reason and frankly I cannot be bothered to continue with this as it has sunk to some other level which is unfortuante as I believe we desire the same outcomes on this issue. I am really disappointed with your comments.

  11. Your comment in #7: “You go in and do what is in your best interest – its about power,money and influence no? ”

    This isn’t personal?! This doesn’t imply that my motives are based on power, money and influence?

    BTW-It was this that #9 was in reference to.

  12. i think there is a genuine misunderstanding here: i think by ‘you go in and do what is in your best interest….. , sokari meant ‘one goes in and does what is in one’s best interest….., at least thats how i would read it . i certainly did not understand her to mean you as in you brian. hope this helps to resolve the apparent mix up.

  13. Brian@ you really think I meant “you” personally? Bloody hell – like i am going to hold you responsible for the whole US foreign policy! gimme a break please

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