Autonomous Source

August 05, 2004

Intervene in the Sudan

The Economist had a good piece last week (unavailable online except to subscribers) on the growing horror in Sudan.

How bad are things in Darfur? Ask the villagers who saw their neighbours trussed with chains and burned alive. Ask the 1.2m people who have been terrorised into fleeing the embers of their huts. Ask the aid workers who estimate that 1,000 people are dying each day in this remote region of western Sudan, mostly of hunger-related diseases, and that hundreds of thousands will die if not helped.
There are some signs that people are starting to take this seriously and there is even the talk of a possible intervention. The US government has declared what is happening a 'genocide' and the British have prepared troops to be dispatched immediately if the political will is found. But of course this is the problem, there is faint political will. Especially in the UN Security Council:
An arms embargo would be a start, but Russia, which is selling fighter jets to Khartoum, is likely to oppose it. The threat of an oil embargo would be more potent. Unless the Sudanese government makes a serious and immediate effort to rein in its killers, its main source of hard currency should be shut off. The French and Chinese governments may not like this idea, however, as their oil firms have interests in Sudan.
Meanwhile, there are other forces gearing up to oppose a rescue -- those of the left who are rallying to claim that any military intervention is all about the oil:
The absence of anti-war scepticism about the prospect of sending troops into Sudan is especially odd in view of the fact that Darfur has oil. For two years, campaigners have chanted that there should be "no blood for oil" in Iraq, yet they seem not to have noticed that there are huge untapped reserves in both southern Sudan and southern Darfur. As oil pipelines continue to be blown up in Iraq, the west not only has a clear motive for establishing control over alternative sources of energy, it has also officially adopted the policy that our armies should be used to do precisely this. Oddly enough, the oil concession in southern Darfur is currently in the hands of the China National Petroleum Company. China is Sudan's biggest foreign investor.

We ought, therefore, to treat with scepticism the US Congress declaration of genocide in the region.

Yes, the writer asks us to believe that US wants to steal the Chinese oil. Expect more conspiracy theories of a similar nature to be constructed if a 'coalition of the willing' moves in to provide security in Darfur. But they were wrong about Iraq and Afghanistan, and they're wrong here too. There's a lot of risk in moving into Sudan, but the risk in ignoring it is far worse. Unfortunately, it's much easier in politics to regret something you haven't done, than something you have.

Posted by Bruce Gottfred at August 5, 2004 04:32 PM | TrackBack

I finally got a chance to read that article this morning. Rwanda all over and hesitation and then blame, one way or another. General Dallaire should go, someone who knows the danger of not doing anything, and feels it instead of intellectualizing over the issues of sovereignty...ah well he was too traumatized by the bureaucratic paralysis last time. What a nightmare .

Posted by: michelle at August 8, 2004 11:04 AM

In a funny sort of way it really is about the oil. The government, and I use the term loosely, in Khartoum, wants the oil bearing regions cleared of dusky natives so as to get on with selling the oil concessions. The militias are in the business of clearing the regions. Without the oil it is very unlikely Khartoum would care less about the South - other than as a source of merchandise for the lucrative slave trade which has been flourishing in the Sudan for decades.

Posted by: Jay Currie at August 11, 2004 02:43 AM
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