The Case for Intervention

For awhile now, all sorts of liberals, conservatives, and other concerned parties have been calling for the United States and Europe to “do something” about the ongoing genocide in Darfur. It’s an understandable plea. But I’m somewhat sympathetic to the counterargument that intervening in Darfur would be extremely difficult.

For one, it’s doubtful that the United States has the troops to intervene, what with our quagmire in Iraq and this recent news about sending more reserves into Anbar Province to fight a never-ending war against a bottomless supply of Sunni insurgents.

For two, it’s possible that a Western intervention could make things worse. How many troops would need to be sent in? Would NATO—or whoever—simply end up siding with the Darfur rebel groups in a war against the central government? Would it get bogged down in yet another drawn-out and bloody war that killed more people than it saved? Would yet another invasion of a predominantly Muslim country cause problems around the world? Aren’t there practical considerations here?

Anyway, Eric Reeves, who knows more about Darfur than most observers, has an essay today taking on these objections in detail. His reading of Sudan politics suggests that the Khartoum government would stop the genocide in the face of a robust Western intervention rather than engage in a war, and that an intervention, while difficult, has a better chance of stopping the genocide than creating another Iraq-like situation, although better intelligence and analysis—on the part of the West—is obviously a necessary precursor to any sort of military action.

I obviously can’t judge if he’s right—although historically, most interventions tend to prove much bloodier and more problematic than their most sanguine proponents predict—but the long essay is certainly worth reading in full. I’d also like to hear a reply to the argument that there are a variety of measures short of military intervention that could potentially pressure the Khartoum government into stopping the genocide.