Darfur: Necessary Knowledge for Effective Action
Tomorrow (May 30) I will be appearing at the National U.S. Holocaust Museum with John Prendergast to discuss strategies for resolving the Darfur crisis. John has posted his own position on the Enough! site: "A Plan B with Teeth for Darfur." What follows is my analysis of the crisis in Darfur and some recommendations for the way ahead.
In the spring of 2004, at the height of the brutal offensives by the Sudanese army and airforce and Janjawiid militia in Darfur, I wrote an article entitled "Counterinsurgency on the Cheap." In it, I wrote,
"this is not the genocidal campaign of a government at the height of its ideological hubris, as the 1992 jihad against the Nuba was, or coldly determined to secure natural resources, as when it sought to clear the oilfields of southern Sudan of their troublesome inhabitants. This is the routine cruelty of a security cabal, its humanity withered by years in power: it is genocide by force of habit."
My point was that the atrocities in Darfur had both similarities with, and differences from, the military campaigns with which we had become so wearily familiar over the previous twenty years of war in Sudan.
The motto of the Social Science Research Council is "necessary knowledge." What do we need to know about Darfur and what does this necessary knowledge tell us about what we should do?
I shall make five main points about what we know and three recommendations for immediate action.
- Darfur is the most recent instance of counterinsurgency in Sudan—a form of counterinsurgency that at its extreme moments crosses the line to become genocidal.
- Darfur today is a shattered society in the aftermath of a genocidal counterinsurgency facing continued war and anarchy. To portray the situation as ongoing genocidal atrocity by the Sudan Government and Janjaweed against African civilians may have been more-or-less correct three years ago. Today, we need to depict Darfur differently.
- What’s driving Sudan’s crisis is the combination of an extreme disparity in wealth and power between a central ruling elite and the provinces, combined with persisting instability within this ruling elite. It’s essential to understand both these realities because this understanding will determine how we deal with Sudan, both tactically and strategically. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement gives us a mechanism for tackling both of these core problems.
- The human rights and humanitarian response has been effective but is not a solution. The relief response has kept many people alive.
- Making progress towards peace and protection demands an international policy that is consistent, consensual and clear. Threats of military action are dangerous and counterproductive.
This analysis leads to three immediate actions. I do not promise a quick fix because no quick fix exists. But these steps can, I believe, make it possible to work fast towards peace and security for the people of Darfur.
- Put the A team on the peace process. A real investment of effort in the peace process will make a vast difference.
- Develop a security plan based on the realities of Darfur. The centerpiece of this should be integrating protection and local peacemaking.
- Take coercive military operations off the agenda. Bellicose rhetoric is an obstacle to progress.
If these are done, we can revive a realistic peace process, we can plan for a protection force that will actually do a useful job, and we can apply sanctions and similar measures as required in pursuit of a set of solutions that are actually feasible. Those solutions must be today’s solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s problems.
Read the argument in full detail:
Darfur: Necessary Knowledge for Effective Action (PDF).