Action on Darfur? Not likely.

| Thu Feb. 23, 2006 3:22 PM EST

President Bush recently called for a "doubling" of peacekeeping forces in Darfur, as well as NATO intervention, to stop the ongoing genocide there. But it's not at all clear where the troops are going to come from—Bush administration officials have ruled out sending U.S. troops, and Europe has certainly shown no real interest in sending its people to fight in Africa. (Darfur isn't really an issue among civil society groups in most European countries, apart from Britain, sort of, and there's no real pressure to act.)

The guess is that nothing will come of Bush's proposal. When pressed for specifics, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack recently said: "It's really premature to speculate about what the needs would be in terms of logistics, in terms of airlift, in terms of actual troops. And certainly in that regard, premature to speculate on what the US contribution might be." Oh? Pray tell, when won't it be premature to speculate? A year from now? Two years? When everybody's dead?

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It's also not clear how serious the United States is about pushing the UN on Darfur. In February, when the U.S. took over the rotating presidency of the Security Council, Robert Zoellick promised that U.S. would press for the Security Council to take over the peacekeeping force in Darfur. But at the UN, Ambassador John Bolton has done little constructive this month besides berating Kofi Annan, rather than actually working to convince China and Russia—who both have oil interests in Sudan and are reluctant to act against Khartoum—to agree to a strong resolution along the lines recommended by the International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch, namely:

The Security Council authorize, on an urgent basis, a transition of the African Union force in Darfur to a UN mission under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Such a mission should have a strong and clear mandate that will allow it to protect itself and civilians by force if necessary, and to disarm and disband the government-sponsored Janjaweed forces that have confiscated land or pose a threat to the civilian population.

The mission should also be specifically empowered to provide appropriate assistance to the International Criminal Court's investigations in Darfur including the arrest of individuals indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes. [I]t should be a force large enough to provide security throughout Darfur---some 20,000 strong---with capabilities that, realistically, only countries with significant military assets and mobility will be able to provide.

That's what's needed. (And yes, as I've written before, there would be plenty of problems and risks involved in a more robust intervention; but stopping genocide, and preventing the Sudan conflict from spilling into Chad and beyond, is worth those risks.) But both the United States and Europe have dug in their heels, and haven't come around to supporting anything of the sort.

Under the circumstances, it's hard to see that Bush's proposal for a NATO role in Darfur will amount to anything significant. On the bright side, a Security Council list of names of those in the Khartoum government responsible for genocide was recently obtained and leaked by Mark Goldberg of the American Prospect, and there's some sign that now Sudan's leaders are getting nervous about targeted sanctions. That would be a decent, low-cost, first step. It's shocking that the Security Council can't even get around to imposing targeted sanctions, but it's not as if African genocide has ever received a quick response from the West.

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