Posted by: sean | May 15, 2006

Intervention in Darfur

I just came across a piece by the New Republic’s Lawrence Kaplan in the Los Angeles Times entitled, If Iraq was wrong, is Darfur right?

The New Republic has recently come out with an issue on Darfur (only some of which is available to non-subscribers), and they come out as a whole for American intervention in Darfur. Kaplan’s piece, however, brings up the question of Iraq and asks why it is all right to intervene in Darfur but not in Iraq:

As their criticism of the particulars of the Iraq war has hardened into a broader indictment of U.S. foreign policy, the mostly progressive voices calling for action in Darfur have become caught in a bind of their own devising. Even as they demand intervention in Sudan, they excoriate Washington for employing U.S. military power without due respect to the opinion of the international community and against nations that pose no imminent threat to our own — which is to say, precisely the terms under which U.S. power would have to be employed in the name of saving Darfur.

He then goes on to argue that neither the African Union nor the UN will intervene or is capable of intervening, leaving the US as the only capable, if not willing, power equipped to intervene.

To my mind, the main reason why I am for intervention in Darfur but was against it in Iraq can be summed up in a single word: genocide. It’s happening in Darfur but wasn’t happening in Iraq. Now had the Anfal campaign of the late 1980s been continuing, I would have been for intervention in Iraq. This is not to say that genocide should be the threshold for international intervention, but it would at least be a good start. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) responds similarly to Kaplan’s jab against him:

Once President Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell used the word “genocide” to describe the carnage in Darfur, the United States and every other civilized nation had a moral imperative to act. Those who find it painful to explain the deception and misinformation preceding our invasion of Iraq should not hide behind the victims in Darfur.

As for whether or not the AU or UN could or would stop the genocide, the AU is already there but lacks a proper and muscular mandate that would allow their forces to protect civilians. As it is, they can only protect themselves. Likewise, when and if a UN force intervenes, it would be important for them to have a good mandate and be properly funded, because we know what happens to underfunded blue helmets without a real mandate. As it stands, there are 7,000 AU troops already in Darfur, which could be folded into a UN force; France has at least 1,000 troops in Chad already; and if the UK could be convinced to provide the 5,000 troops that they offered in 2004, then that would make a force of 13,000. Other nations like South Africa and Ghana could also donate more troops, and the US could help shoulder the financial and logistics costs of such an intervention.

While writing this, I’ve come across an interesting (and much more detailed) plan by the International Crisis Group To Save Darfur, which is similar to my idea:

Crisis Group has long contended that because AMIS has reached the outer limits of its competence, and a UN mission authorised today would not be fully ready to take over from it for some six months, a distinct and separate multinational force should be sent to Darfur to bridge that gap and help stabilise the immediate situation. We have argued, and continue to believe, that NATO would be best from a practical military point of view. Unfortunately, political opposition to this in Khartoum, within the AU and even perhaps within the Atlantic Alliance itself, means it is not achievable at this time.

What we now propose, therefore, is a compromise driven by the urgent need for a more robust force in Darfur. A militarily capable UN member state — France seems most promising since it already has troops and aircraft in the area — should offer to the Security Council to go now to Darfur, wearing blue helmets, as the lead nation in the first phase of the incoming UN mission. It could be joined from the outset by forces from one or two other militarily capable UN members (and would probably need to be if the desirable target of around 5,000 personnel for this force is to be achieved). This stabilisation force would be a self-contained, separately commanded UN mission with identified functional or geographic divisions of responsibility that would work beside AMIS and through a liaison unit at its headquarters until arrangements were in place for a 1 October transition to the full UN mission. That full mission would need to be recruited from the best AMIS elements as well as a wider circle of Asian and other member states — no easy task at a time when several large UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and elsewhere have exhausted the capabilities of many contribution candidates.

The U.S. and other NATO states should respond generously and quickly to requests from it or AMIS to provide logistical help as well as regular access to satellite imagery, air mobility and close air support, especially to deter or react to egregious movements of men or heavy weapons in the border area.

They finish by coming up with a list of recommendations for each of the major parties involved (with the exception of the belligerent parties):


To the African Union:

1. Request the immediate deployment of a UN-mandated stabilisation force to help bolster the AMIS troops and focus on the Chad-Sudan border and the Tawila-Graida corridor.

2. Seek quick negotiation of a single, enhanced ceasefire document to remove the ambiguities of the existing overlapping agreements.

3. Begin immediately to map the location of forces in Darfur so as to manage and enforce the ceasefire better.

4. Begin immediately identifying, defining and profiling the government-allied militias.

5. Improve the reporting mechanisms and procedures for monitoring ceasefire violations and urgently revive and upgrade the compliance and sanctions mechanisms of the ceasefire.

6. Negotiate a series of humanitarian ground rules, in collaboration with the UN, to help hold the parties accountable for the protection of humanitarian operations in their respective areas.

To the United Nations Security Council:

7. Authorise a two-phase intervention in Darfur under Chapter Seven of the Charter, with the following elements:

(a) for the first phase, to be accomplished within a month, a lead nation would serve as the advance element of the full UN mission by sending the bulk of an initial 5,000 troops to Darfur, with three main stabilisation tasks:

i. interdiction of military activities across the Chad-Darfur border;

ii. protection of civilians in Darfur, primarily in the Tawilla-Graida corridor; and

iii. rapid-reaction support of AMIS forces until the transition to a full-fledged UN peace support operation in October 2006.

(b) for the second phase, immediate planning for a peace support operation of some 15,000 troops — none of whom should be diverted from the mission of the existing UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) — with a mandate emphasising civilian protection, ceasefire enforcement and monitoring of the Chad-Sudan border, to take over from AMIS as of 1 October 2006.

8. Strengthen the existing sanctions regime by implementing the recommendations in the 30 January 2006 report of the Panel of Experts.

9. Authorise the Secretariat’s peacekeeping department (DPKO) to begin planning on an urgent basis and together with the AU both phases of this operation, with priority tasks to include:

(a) identifying areas for early cooperation in Darfur, such as immediate deployment of UN experts to help support the establishment of a functioning ceasefire commission secretariat and the deployment of human rights monitors and translators, including women, to help improve the reporting capacity of AMIS; and

(b) identifying the lead nation to deploy in the initial phase to support AMIS by performing the tasks set out in recommendation 7(a) above and serve as the advance element of the full UN mission.

To Donor Governments:

10. Convene an early pledging conference to ensure that AMIS is fully funded until the UN mission can take over in October 2006.

To the U.S., the EU and its member states and others with a strong interest in regional peace and stability:

11. Undertake major diplomatic efforts to:

(a) persuade Sudan to accept and the AU to confirm transition of AMIS into a strong UN peacekeeping mission as of 1 October 2006 and request in the interim dispatch of an advance force of some 5,000 blue-helmets to assist AMIS by performing essential stabilisation tasks;

(b) persuade the Security Council to authorise a mission of some 15,000, including the strongest AMIS elements and with a strong Chapter VII mandate focused on civilian protection; and

(c) identify the lead nation to contribute the bulk of the advance element to assist AMIS and perform essential stabilisation tasks immediately upon Security Council authorisation, and be prepared to help with all necessary material and logistical support.

12. Concurrently with efforts to strengthen international forces on the ground, pursue the other elements of a coordinated three-part strategy to resolve the Darfur conflict by:

(a) reinforcing AU efforts to negotiate an enhanced ceasefire and a political settlement at Abuja, including by naming special envoys; and

(b) seeking accountability and an end to impunity by enforcing the Security Council’s sanction regime and supporting human rights monitoring mechanisms and the work of the ICC.


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