If President Bush had any foresight at all, he’d intervene in the Darfur mayhem just to slice a wedge in the antiwar movement. President Nixon attempted to do such a thing in the early 1970s when his administration helped establish the Environmental Protection Agency.
Nixon thought the antiwar movement at the time was largely made of up radical environmentalists, so he figured why not divide the movement by appeasing a few of the enviros’ wishes. Fortunately for those who wanted U.S. armed forces out of Vietnam, Nixon’s ploy didn’t work. Today, the Save Darfur campaign is the cause du jour for the liberal wing of the antiwar movement. And unlike Nixon and the EPA in the ’70s, if Bush gets involved in Darfur he may well derail the mounting opposition to the war in Iraq.
George Clooney and a handful of other Hollywood big shots, along with over 164 humanitarian and religious groups, are now calling on the United States to hustle troops over to stop the ethnic conflict. Bin Laden, in his latest radio hit (if it was really him), claimed the Darfur region of the Sudan, which is largely Muslim, would be the next stop for the U.S. imperial armies. Let’s hope he’s wrong, even if Clooney and Amnesty International desire it. The United States, if troops were deployed, would most likely only escalate the deaths, not end them. There is absolutely no reason to believe that shipping young Americans off to the Horn of Africa to die would result in anything tangible or worthwhile. Sadly, the bloody conflict would likely continue regardless.
Some little-known facts about the Darfur situation: Both sides in the conflict are black, and both sides are Muslim. So, despite what the major news media may say, this isn’t an Arab-on-black or Muslim-on-Christian nightmare. And perhaps worst of all, there isn’t a good side to be on. Both have committed horrible atrocities, and both want to slaughter the other. Not to mention that entering the region militarily would only feed right into bin Laden’s rhetoric — much like we did when we shocked and awed Baghdad. So I think it’s safe to say that hatred of the U.S. would only increase among closet jihadists in the Middle East and elsewhere if we invaded Darfur. That doesn’t make us, or them, any safer.
You may recall that President Clinton did his part to end the violence in the Sudan when he fired a few missiles at a pharmaceutical plant in 1998. It didn’t do much good; it led to countless deaths and probably prompted al-Qaeda to attack the United States quicker. There is no reason to believe that an intervention by Bush would result in anything different. And never mind that the United States is all that great at "humanitarian interventions."
1992 saw the invasion of Somali, which by most accounts was an utter failure. Thousands of innocent Somalians died while others were brutally raped by UN peacekeeping forces. And for all those who claim that the late 90s Kosovo war a just conflict, don’t forget that thousands of ordinary people were killed because of our intervention. Oh yeah, NATO is still occupying the place.
There are other reasons we ought not act on all of our humanitarian impulses, however well intentioned they may seem. Unlike Darfur, we’ve got wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan that actually involve us. In fact, we are responsible for them. Want to help bring peace to the Middle East? Why not pressure the U.S. government to halt all funding to Israel? That’d be a heck of a start.
There are atrocities for which the U.S. government is culpable, but Darfur isn’t one of them. So don’t jump on the Save Darfur bandwagon — it may only lead to more devastation.
Joshua Frank [send him mail] is the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, just published by Common Courage Press. You can order a copy at a discount through Josh’s blog.