Why We Shouldn’t Support Intervention in Darfur

Darfur, it seems, has become the ‘genocide’ of choice for luvvies and liberals anxious to advertise their humanitarian credentials to the world. However, by adopting the cause of the Darfurians and calling for UN or NATO military intervention in Sudan, such people may be prolonging the conflict longer than it need be. As Alan Kuperman wrote recently in The New York Times:

THOUSANDS of Americans who wear green wristbands and demand military intervention to stop Sudan’s Arab government from perpetrating genocide against black tribes in Darfur must be perplexed by recent developments.Without such intervention, Sudan’s government last month agreed to a peace accord pledging to disarm Arab janjaweed militias and resettle displaced civilians. By contrast, Darfur’s black rebels, who are touted by the wristband crowd as freedom fighters, rejected the deal because it did not give them full regional control. Put simply, the rebels were willing to let genocide continue against their own people rather than compromise their demand for power.

In other words, the Darfurian rebels refused the peace deal because they believed that, given growing calls in the West for intervention, the longer they could resist reaching a deal with Khartoum, the better the eventual outcome for them. More killing equals more sympathy; and more international sympathy means more bargaining power with the obviously better armed and more powerful Sudanese government.

The Darfur conflict has, most often, been cast in the Western media as a struggle between black Africans (good) and brown Arabs (bad); or between Christians and animists (good) and Muslims (bad). However, as the same New York Times article reminds us, the Darfurians had long excluded Arab nomads from access to their grazing areas and had, in 2003, initiated the conflict by attacking police and military. As is often the case with internecine conflicts of this type, the truth is rarely as black and white as it is often portrayed.

Darfur was never the simplistic morality tale purveyed by the news media and humanitarian organizations. The region’s blacks, painted as long-suffering victims, actually were the oppressors less than two decades ago — denying Arab nomads access to grazing areas essential to their survival. Violence was initiated not by Arab militias but by the black rebels who in 2003 attacked police and military installations. The most extreme Islamists are not in the government but in a faction of the rebels sponsored by former Deputy Prime Minister Hassan al-Turabi, after he was expelled from the regime. Cease-fires often have been violated first by the rebels, not the government, which has pledged repeatedly to admit international peacekeepers if the rebels halt their attacks.

Writing in Spiked Online, Brendan O’Neill addresses the issue in some depth before concluding, quite rightly in my humble opinion, that:

The consequence of Western liberal campaigning over humanitarian crises is all too often more war, more bloodshed, deeper divisions and less democracy at the end of it. Turning civil wars into international spectacles prolongs them and makes them even more horrendously violent. No doubt those who wear ‘Save Darfur’ ribbons, attend Day for Darfur marches and sign pro-Darfur letters to the Guardian will feel warm and moist and superior in the belief that they are standing up for victims against Evil; but in fact, the people of Darfur and Sudan, like the people of Bosnia before them, will likely pay a heavy price indeed for such Western flattery. You can call me part of the ‘do nothing’ brigade, if you like. I prefer a different motto: first, do no harm.

6 comments ↓

#1 Thersites on 09.29.06 at 5:32 am

As Sudan is one of the last colonial empires left in Africa and the present government has no authority beyond its weaponry it has less legitmacy than the rebels/independence fighters- who could no survive without popular support- as far as Darfur is concerned. Given the past record of the Sudanese government the only way to make sure it won’t keep intervening murderously in Darfur is by making it withdraw lock, stock and militia.

#2 Umar on 09.29.06 at 3:25 pm

It is hard for me to belive, after all the work that brothers like Abdur-Rahman Idris and Ismail Kemal have done, that there are any serious Muslims who support an “intervention” in Sudan.

#3 Amir on 09.30.06 at 11:00 am

It is hard for me to belive, after all the work that brothers like Abdur-Rahman Idris and Ismail Kemal have done, that there are any serious Muslims who support an “intervention” in Sudan.

I haven’t read anything from Abdur-Rahman Idris and would be interested in seeing anything that is available online. I’ve read some pieces by Ismail Kemal in response to the calls for USC (I think) to divest from Sudan and he makes some compelling arguments against it.

As an aside, I wonder whether the Palestinian issue might have reached some sort of peaceful conclusion if the conflict hadn’t assumed such symbolic importance (on both sides) in the West. i.e. if Jews and Arabs were left to their own devices to sort out a solution between themselves.

#4 Umar on 09.30.06 at 4:12 pm

Abdur-Rahman founded an organization called the Sudanesse American Society and has an email list where he regualry sends out messages on this issue and Ismail Kemal is in the process of trying to put together a Sudanesse Task Force, with almost no help from from any major Muslim organization who are scared to touch the issue. I cant find a website for them though. Also Imam Muhammad Majid in the DC-area has engaged in a variety of public debates and Sheikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah, former president of ISNA, also has spoken on the issue many times.

#5 Steve Edwards on 10.02.06 at 12:03 pm

I agree that there is no case for going in whatsoever, and that putting our boys on the front line for someone else’s independence is a very stupid idea, but I should point out that the Darfuris aren’t Christian (notice the women in the picture?), just in case certain parties thought that worshipping Christ somehow accorded them an enhanced right to life. On the other hand:

“However, as the same New York Times article reminds us, the Darfurians had long excluded Arab nomads from access to their grazing areas and had, in 2003, initiated the conflict by attacking police and military.”

So they wanted to exclude a bunch of interlopers from their property, and to secede from the national government for good measure. Perfect and good luck to them! I’ll be cheering at their victory parade.

PS – I take great exception to certain parties who, while insisting that the entire world bleed for “Palestine”, show an striking indifference to other conflicts that have killed an order of magnitude more people. Just as particular lobby groups might value the life of a Christian more than a Muslim, I cannot help but notice that the same is true of Arabs vis-a-vis Blacks.

#6 Amir on 10.04.06 at 6:06 am

I take great exception to certain parties who, while insisting that the entire world bleed for “Palestine”, show an striking indifference to other conflicts that have killed an order of magnitude more people. Just as particular lobby groups might value the life of a Christian more than a Muslim, I cannot help but notice that the same is true of Arabs vis-a-vis Blacks.

I suppose it is only natural that groups feel a certain empathy with those that are like them. Christians, for example, will naturally concern themselves with the plight of Christians around the world; and Muslims will likewise focus their attentions more on the suffering of other Muslims. Likewise, people of similar political or sexual persuasion will feel some concern for the suffering of those with whom they share some common sense of identity. I don’t think this is the problem but rather what I find troublesome is when a conflict is given more symbolic value than it deserves (relative to other conflicts) and demands are then made for intervention which, in turn, ends up prolonging a conflict rather than allowing the respective sides to reach a peaceful settlement of their own accord.

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