Sudan: U.S. Policy May Be Coming Into Focus
A narrative in the U.S. media seems to be coming into focus. A narrative which I believe is intended to justify an “American Intervention” into the oil rich Southern Sudan in not too many years distant.
The U.S. unflinchingly urged that the elections take place in April despite a multitude of signals that the process would contain numerous discrepancies. And just as surely as there would be discrepancies in the election process, it was a certainty that President Bashir would win handedly.
It seemed curious that in the weeks prior to the election mainstream media in the U.S. began to concede Bashir’s probable win and to publicly state that the win would be legitimate “de-facto” if not “de-jure.” The prevalent argument was: “Bashir will most certainly cheat in the election, but he would probably win without cheating.” This argument establishes Bashir as a “bad leader” while at the same time acknowledging that he is the people’s choice and nothing should be done in order to try to improve the fairness of the elections.
Now that Bashir has won, the New York Times and other leaders among the Western media are announcing that his win has paved the way for a North / South split in Sudan. The argument has been spun in such a way as to declare: “Who can blame the Southern Sudanese for wanting their own country, the April elections were not fair.” A simple Google of the words “Bashir” and “split” will bring up several articles written in this tone.
It is nothing new that U.S. foreign policy favors an independent South Sudan, despite its objections to the contrary. South Sudan will vote to separate from the North while the issue of resource (oil revenue) sharing remains unresolved.
The Northern remnant of Sudan will articulate its right to a share of the oil revenues derived from the resources in the South; and that will be characterized as a “hostile act” by the North and even as a threat of aggression. The stage will be set for the United States to step in to “protect” the newly independent nation of South Sudan and its oil riches.
But there is another whisper of a breeze rustling through the leaves of the American news papers. Very quietly it is being said while President Bashir made sure that the national elections were not fair, Salva Kiir did the same in the South to win 93% of the vote there.
The New York Times is saying: “Analysts are already sketching the outlines of the two post-referendum Sudans, where democracy will probably be the loser and uncompetitive, predictable election results the norm. The net result, they argue, could essentially be two one-party states with even less democratic space than under the flawed coalition government that rules today.”
It is not at all unlikely that the U.S. will step in to protect South Sudan and its oil from the North. And it is not at all unlikely that the U.S. will then step in to protect South Sudan and its oil from Mr. Kiir and the leaders of South Sudan
* South Sudan is not going to secede because of a Western media narrative.
Southerners will vote to leave Sudan because they want to, and because their history has shown Khartoum incapable of viewing them as equals. (And then there’s the 2 million dead people. And the century of slavery. And the forced Islamization. Etc.)
* I cannot think of a place that would make a less attractive target for military intervention than Sudan. The author’s prediction that we may one day see Marines on the ground in Bentiu or Paloich is inconceivable.
* The oil fields currently in operation are in the hands of companies like Total, ONGC and of course the Chinese and Malaysians. And there is no reason to think American companies will be favored in future development.
The votes (real and fraudulent) show that al-Bashir won more than 80% in the north, but only 10% in the south and if there had been no boycott he would have probably not reached the 50% plus 1 needed to win on the first round! So the plan to divide Sudan is taking the country diametrically away from democracy and leaving the Sudanese in the hands of a dictator like Saddam Hussein or Hafiz Assad.
One of the peculiar syndromes that arises from prolonged alienation from power is an inability to calibrate the material interests of others. Among our colleagues on the left it is often highly pronounced and, unable to ascertain objectively the forces driving events, they are quick to infer that the course of events is determined by American conspiracy. In reality, U.S. material interests in Sudan are marginal, certainly so in comparison to several of its neighbours including Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia, Kenya and DRC. Between the 1998 terrorist strikes in Kenya and Tanzania and the invasion of Iraq, with the September 11 terrorist strike on the U.S. mainland falling inbetween, there were clear U.S. national interests in Sudan, manifest in fears of state sponsorship of terrorism. Were there to be a major U.S. oil company in Sudan there might be economic interests too but this is not the case. What has happened is that that those objective interests generated a subjective interest in Sudan among diverse domestic groups such as Christian fundamentalists and liberal internationalists. Even after the U.S. material interest in Sudan faded these subjective interests, and interest groups, maintained an afterlife of their own, driving U.S. policy, increasingly at cross-purposes with the actual objective U.S. policy, which is disengagement and disinterest. General Gration is the messenger of this new policy which is that the Sudanese need to resolve their own national problems because the U.S. has no intention of doing it on their behalf. This is an unwelcome message to the opposition and to the SPLM which are therefore doing their best to undermine him, rather than assessing the implications of U.S. strategic disinterest.
Dear Oscar Blayton,
You are most accurate in your assessment. US interests, however marginal, are not truly in support of any democratic transformation for any nation (one or two Sudans).
In response to the following quote:
“It is not at all unlikely that the U.S. will step in to protect South Sudan and its oil from the North. And it is not at all unlikely that the U.S. will then step in to protect South Sudan and its oil from Mr. Kiir and the leaders of South Sudan.”
I agree with the former statement. In the later statement, I would have to disagree. If we neglect the likelihood for a minute, I don’t believe an intervention by the US to protect southern Sudan from Kiir or Southern leaders would be necessary. Kiir and his cronies are all for the US. They know very well their political platform stems from US independent Christian group support. Kiir would probably escalate confrontation with Khartoum and beckon for US support for full control of oil extraction. Everybody wins except Southern Sudan.
I think the amnesia-afflicted media are focusing their myopic lenses on the issue at hand: Khartoum, while giving a near-free pass to Juba. I observed a seemingly objective CNN journalist ask Salva Kiir about the SPLM/A’s withdrawal from the national presidential elections and if that act may be considered irresponsible. It was probably the most unconventional tone I have ever seen from CNN’s part on the subject of Sudan. At any rate, the question was met with a caught off-guard, bleeding-edge, squinty-eyed Kiir who curtly replied “Call it what you want.” Needless to say, the journalist yielded.
The SPLM’s display of authoritarianism in the elections has been muddied by journalistic equivocations that the SPLM is trying to correct the security deficiencies and overabundance of weapons in the South (allegedly smuggled from the North). And, even on this forum, we have seen Non-Sudanese observers suggest that the excitement and optimistic political atmosphere of Southern Sudan is suggestive of a bright future for Southern Sudan. If Southern Sudanese are not careful, its people will be cast out and left to dry by the very people who support their cause right now.
All observers who envisage a bright future for Southern Sudan are either blind or mad.
“Even after the U.S. material interest in Sudan faded these subjective interests, and interest groups, maintained an afterlife of their own, driving U.S. policy, increasingly at cross-purposes with the actual objective U.S. policy, which is disengagement and disinterest. General Gration is the messenger of this new policy which is that the Sudanese need to resolve their own national problems because the U.S. has no intention of doing it on their behalf. This is an unwelcome message to the opposition and to the SPLM which are therefore doing their best to undermine him, rather than assessing the implications of U.S. strategic disinterest.”
Well said, Abd al-Wahab Abdalla.
I donâ€™t think US media or administration should be blamed for pushing southern Sudanese to vote for separation. The issue of western conspiracy to divide Sudan as that will serve their interest is being circulated in Khartoum those days and linked to a deal between the NCP and the Americans , for the Americans to accept any election which gives NCP the mandate and legitimacy they are looking for and the NCP allow the secession to go smoothly. That deal includes, it is supposed, recognising the result of the referendum , and also the others controversial issues like , border demarcation and oil. All Sudanese opposition politicians from the right, left and the centre believe that, while many of them recognise that there are other factors contributing to that.
But what I believe the case here is that our brothers and sisters in the south just had enough. They will not waste this golden opportunity to go their own way , and I think they are right. This is not because I believe in separation because I am strong believer of unity. I have been campaigning for that since 1985, but I donâ€™t think we have strong case to to south Sudanese to convince them that unity is their best option. How long do we want them to wait for the elites in north recognise them as equal and have the same rights? Do they have to wait for another 54 years or more? The way Sudanese politics is moving now will not bring any hope but only drive some other Sudanese region to go the way our brothers and sisters in the south will choose in January 2011. It is sad we are watching our country disintegrating and we will not be able to do anything to stop that. The whole episode of election rigging, intimidation and mal-practices, only contributes into driving many of moderate democrats to the extreme and makes them believe, that the only way to bring changes is through military means and not peaceful democratic struggle and that is step backward when most of western diplomats are saying the election is step forward.
My suggestion is to start a debate on this blog putting the cases for Unity/ Separation; I think that will might bring something positive.
Justice Africa and Inter Africa Group are starting their Unity / Secession Programme this month that also can create a platform for such discussion.
I omitted to add the economic dimension to American material interest in Sudanese oil which does not seem to be well understood by many of my colleagues. There are both general and specific interests, and material and ideological ones, which are often in contradiction.
The United States has a general interest in any oil anywhere in the world coming to the market, even if it is extracted by countries such as Iran, Venezuela or Sudan, because that will help meet global demand for oil in an integrated world market. Even if not one drop of Sudanese oil reaches the American market that oil is satisfying global demand and keeping prices down. This is a general U.S. interest in a global petroleum market that keeps prices low. If American oil companies were involved then there would be a specific economic interest also, as profits would be repatriated to the United States as well, but it does not give the U.S. “access” to Sudanese oil as it might have done in mercantilist days.
If there were a U.S. oil major in Sudan, (for example if Chevron had not sold its stake in the 1980s) then that corporation with its private interests would shape American policy to be favourable to its business. It would also be subject to U.S. regulations on commercial practices and the environment as well and I am sure the activists in Washington would scrutinize its labour relations, payment of compensation to local people, and its financial transactions especially with the government. In objective terms this would give America more leverage, but it would also constrain the range of options that the activists consider. For example, blockading Port Sudan or imposing financial sanctions on Sudan would be impossible. In this context it is evident that the policy of commercial isolation of Sudan serves an ideological or rhetorical interest of the activists (reflecting the isolationist impulse of the years when U.S. policy towards Sudan was determined by counter-terrorism) and not the wider interest of promoting peace, wellbeing of the Sudanese or national unity.
In fact the policy of economic and commercial isolation serves the ideological interest of being seen to punish a rogue regime in preference to the material interest of achieving democracy and peace.
In the interim the financial sanctions policy has the entirely predictable effect of criminalizing the Sudanese economy and creating incentives for all kinds of shady and illicit activities at all levels. If western corporations and financial systems can not access the Sudanese economy then the Sudan government will find other mechanisms and will extract immense policy rent from its ability to regulate necessarily illicit financial transactions. In my analysis this is directly linked to what Hafiz Mohammed calls the dollarization of patronage and the corruption of the country’s entire political life. These phenomena can be traced back to the 1970s but are sustained by these misguided U.S. policies.
The objective outcome is that the ideological agenda is served at the expense of the progressive forces in Sudan, which are forced to participate at a disadvantage in a criminalized political economy. Another casualty is U.S. leverage. The final outcome is likely to be the reduction of U.S. engagement in Sudan to rhetoric and humanitarian action. Consequently the scenario that Mr Blayton envisages is improbable indeed.
“All observers who envisage a bright future for Southern Sudan are either blind or mad.”
I would like to tell the prophets of doom like Jamaledin that it does not matter at all what the outside observers envisage about the future of South Sudan.People of South Sudan will do their best to make their future better as they have been doing sign 1955.
Despite what the analysts who come from their heaven-like cities says about the remote villages of South Sudan,the people of South Sudan are seeing their villages connected to towns by roads for the first time since the world was created. They see their children going to schools. They see modern clinics replacing herbal medicine. All these may not be enough to our people’s expecting after many decades of oppression.
It may be true there is American interest in South Sudan, but if that interest does not undermine the very interest of the South Sudanese,then the people of South Sudan do not have anything to worry about.So far the position of the current American Administration is positive. Gen Gration has said in many occassions that he does not see a shared future between the North and South Sudan. That is a very realistic conclusion that is shared by Southern majority.
What I expect people who are interested in the future of the whole Sudan to discuss is how the North and the South will live in peace as separate states.
Dear Dan, I agree with your comment that South Sudan is not going to secede because of a Western media narrative. The Western media narrative is directed at a Western audience for the purpose of laying the foundations of an argument for why the U.S. military (or its proxies) should interfer with Sudan.
I also agree with Danâ€™s assessment that Sudan is not an easy target [Dan used the word â€œattractiveâ€] but U.S. policy makers have shown that they do not always make the most accurate military assessments prior to engagement. It is my belief that the U.S. policy makers envision a scenario where they will be welcomed by the people of South Sudan, just as they deluded themselves into believing that Americans would be welcomed by the people of Iraq in 2003. But I believe that this is the scenario that they will attempt to sell to the American public in order to get support for military action.
Regarding access to the oil fields of Sudan, it is my belief that U.S. policy makers believe that they can somehow acquire access to Sudanese oil if they create an â€œAmerican presenceâ€ in South Sudan.
Dear Abd al-Wahab Abdalla your comments are very insightful, and I believe they should be given a great deal of weight. I may be too quick to see a potential conspiracy by U. S. interests to intervene in the affairs of Sudan. And it may be that U.S. material interests in Sudan are marginal, but they were also marginal in Vietnam and the DRC in the 1960s. And while there is no longer a cold war element in todayâ€™s global politics I believe that the major players continue to seek to enhance their power. I believe that your statement about the afterlife of the interests of groups such as the Christian fundamentalists is â€œspot on.â€ But I believe that those interests may be revived and â€œpumped upâ€ by the U. S. Government and used as â€œoneâ€ justification for military intervention in Sudan because I am not convinced that there is a genuine â€œU.S. strategic disinterestâ€ at this time. But I could be wrong.
Dear Jamaledin, I agree with almost all of what you say. But just because Mr. Kiir and others currently in power in Southern Sudan are â€œall for the U.S.â€ it may not be the case that the U.S. sees Mr. Kiir as its most attractive potential â€œpartnerâ€ in the South. I believe that the current characterization of Mr. Kiir in the U.S. press as a corrupt leader is a method of hedging bets on him in case he proves to be less useful than the U.S. would like. And I truly apologize for sounding like a conspiracy theorist; but 20th Century history has shown that the U.S. can be a faithless friend when it comes to geo-politics.
Dear Hafiz Mohamed, I agree with you that it is not the US media or administration that is pushing the southern Sudanese to vote for separation, and I did not mean to give that impression. The people of Southern Sudan will vote for separation or unity for their own well informed reasons. What I was trying to say is that the U.S. is seeking to take advantage of this situation by giving the impression to the leadership in the South that the U.S. will be supportive of an independent South, therefore making those leaders feel more secure about their decision.
Abd al-Wahab Abdalla makes a brilliant case for why it is improbable that the U.S. will intervene in the affairs of Sudan out of a desire for oil. But while it is true that a greater supply of oil will keep prices down, maintaining a low price for oil in the global market is not necessarily the aim of U.S. commercial interests. A brief review of the recent stock prices of major American oil companies will illustrate that when the price of oil goes up the value of the shares of American oil companies increases as well, thereby increasing the wealth of the investors. Also, we should keep in mind that there is value in being able to CONTROL THE FLOW of oil to global markets [or to significantly impact upon that flow] â€“ the Saudi Arabia vs. Aranco case illustrates that. But I believe that because the U.S. does not want its engagement in Sudan reduced to â€œrhetoric and humanitarian actionâ€ it is seeking ways to have a stronger influence there. Having an oil rich partner such as Southern Sudan may be seen by certain U.S. foreign policy decision makers as a way to gain that influence.
If indeed U.S. media is building a narrative designed to persuade the American public of the wisdom of intervention on behalf of Southern Sudan, then the overall conspiracy is so slow-moving and precarious as to beggar belief.
The number of Americans aware of the problems of Sudan is very small. It is covered only rarely in American newspapers; even less frequently in news magazines and on television. The majority of reporting appears in the New York Times. It is irregular. The attention paid by policy-makers is negligible. Darfur captured the attention of several key personalities in the Obama Administration: NSC staffer Samantha Power, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and Vice President Joe Biden. Nonetheless, the congressional hearings were few and far between. The Christian Right, that segment of the American population most aware of, and most interested in, the fate of South Sudan, is unlikely to make common cause with as liberal a Democrat as Barack Obama. If there is a plan to shape public opinion so as to favor intervention, where are its outlines? Why is more not being made of the ICC warrant? Why is almost nothing said about Salva Kiir in the United States?
There is also the question of what happens if the dog that barks does not also bite. What if al-Bashir chooses to pursue an incremental strategy of attrition against South Sudan, or none at all? In the absence of imminent military threat, what incentive — indeed, what leverage — will Kiir have to invite American peacekeepers (and peacekeepers they would have to be)? What argument could Obama put before Congress to validate a proposed deployment of American fighting men and women to Sudan when the nation tires of much less abstract commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan?
It is true that American interests were marginal in IndoChina and sub-Saharan Africa during the Cold War, but that conclusion is only evident in retrospect. In the two decades that followed the Second World War, the United States still held the view that Europe’s colonies were essential to its economic recovery — hence its extensive material aid to the French Union. In Zaire and later Angola, American policymakers believed that they were required to check the expansion of Communism in the global south in order to make more credible the overall structure of European deterrence. Close examination of Kissinger’s recorded thought on Angola reveals an obsession with reputation.
I am troubled by the simplicity of an argument that presumes the United States today expects to remake South Sudan at a whim by somehow seizing it from the SPLM on the basis of particularistic thinking about opportunities for nation-building in Iraq. The United States Congress and public accepted that the war in Iraq was necessary on grounds that Saddam Hussein was concealing weapons of mass destruction. This perception, while flawed, was shared by key allies in Europe and elsewhere. They differed on the advisability of military action versus containment. It is also worth recognizing that Iraq was an established adversary, well known to Americans, whereas Sudan, and indeed nearly all of Africa, remains sadly under-acknowledged.
If the United States did indeed intend to control the flow of oil — and you have not proved that they intend to do so in Sudan, or that the Obama Administration sees the world as you allege that the Bush Administration did — why could they not accomplish this objective in large part by working the levers of economic and military assistance, rather than through de facto occupation? Remember, the benefit of influence is constrained by cost.
I think that I understand your incredulity based upon what you perceive to be a slow-moving and precarious effort to gain support among U.S. citizens for a military involvement in Sudan. But to help put things into perspective I would like to point out that the first U.S. military forces were sent into Vietnam in 1950 when President Harry Truman authorized U.S. military advisors and $15 million aid to help the French. This was eleven years before President Kennedy sent in the Green Beret advisors and 15 years before Lyndon Johnson landed the 3,500 hundred combat Marines in 1965 to protect the American air base at Da Nang and the 23,000 American advisors that were already in Vietnam. For 15 years the U.S. had been exerting military influence in Vietnam with very little awareness of the American people.
I disagree with your statement that the attention being paid to Sudan by U.S. policy makers is negligible. There may not be a great deal of public comment about Sudan by policy makers, but that does not mean that it is not on the radar screen.
I think that the Christian Right now believes (as the CIA World Factbook states) that the percentage of Christians in Sudan does not exceed 5% and even in the South it is estimated to approximate 15%. [But I am certainly willing to be corrected on these figures by anyone with reliable data.] I believe this has curbed their enthusiasm for now and that the Christian Right will have less influence on the direction of U.S. policy towards Sudan than U.S. commercial interests. And in my initial post on this thread you will find what I believe to be the â€œoutlineâ€ of the plan to shape public opinion.
An attempted U.S. military intervention (by proxy or otherwise) in Sudan is not out of the question. There have previously been calls from within the U.S. for military intervention in Sudan. Some people called for the establishment of a â€œNo Fly Zoneâ€ over Darfur, to be enforced by the U.S.; others have even called for U.S. boots on the ground. Still others have called for the use of mercenaries such as Blackwater. All this was in the face of strong disapproval of such tactics by members of the UN, the EU and the AU. And abstractions have rarely constrained U.S. military adventurism. Most U.S. citizens are hard pressed to explain the actual reasoning for the invasions of Haiti, Santa Domingo, Panama and Grenada by U.S. military forces. But money was to be made on each of those excursions. And it could well be that the military intervention by the U.S. in Sudan may well be in the form of military assistance through weaponry and training.
It is true that the Cold War is over, but this Islamophobic driven crusade against terrorism by the U.S. is just as intense. And just as U.S. foreign policy was guided by the perceived threats of the Cold War in decades past, so too will it continue to be driven by misguided perceptions of threats of terrorism from the Muslim world.
Just as the American public was sold on the existence of weapons of mass destruction, they can be sold on some other particular threat from Sudan. As you may recall, there was barely a peep of protest in the U.S. media when the harmless Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory was obliterated by a missile fired from a U.S. naval vessel in what was supposed to have been a justified response to the bombing of two U.S. embassies in other countries. And by the way, if Iraq was such an â€œestablished adversaryâ€ as you contend, why did we provide them with some of the chemical weapons that they used against the Iranians in the 1980s?
Matthew, you are absolutely correct in your statement that I have not proved that the U.S. has a strong desire to control the flow of oil. But I will point to the oil and gas pipeline through Afghanistan being proposed by the U.S. oil company Unocal and the hugely expensive oil pipeline being proposed across Kazakhstan by the Chinese to illustrate why I believe controlling the flow of oil is deemed to be important in geo-politics.
I think Oscar is right about American designs for the Sudan.
First the involvement of the Christian Right and indeed Christian Missionaries in the South dates back to the pre-independence era. Christian missioanries or rather some of them, see it as a barrier to check the spread of Islam and the Arabic language south-wards into Africa. The British Colonial Authorities went to the extent of banning the Maronite Church and the Egptian Orthodox Church of Alexandria from operating in the South, though they are Christians because they use Arabic Language, this is recorded history.
Indeed I think I drew attention, in this blog,to recent writings in the New York Times, about Sudan and Nigeria, as battle lines between Christianity and Islam in Africa.
Just a look at the BBC website will show you that the war in the South, is invariably described as the war between the Arab Moslem North and the Christian South.
I am in no position to deny or confirm the figures Oscar cites about the percentage of Christians in the South Sudan, but can certainly confirm that there Moslems, Christians and Animists in the South.
I myself was surprised when i visited Juba, that the lingua-franca in the town is what is known as Juba-Arabic, and even the Dr.John garang used to address his troops in arabic, not to mention VP Salavatore Kiir, in his campaign.
For those who seems to always play the tune of Arab and African, I have on several occasions,referred them to the Old Testament, Genesis,hoping that they could know the truth of the relation between Arab and African,at the risk of repeating myself and may be bore you i quote:
“So Hagar bore Abram a son,and Abram named his son whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.”
Hagar is the Nubian slave woman of Sarah, wife of Abram,and second wife of Abram (Hajir in Arabic and Abram is Ibrahim in Arabic).
Ishmael or Ismail in Arabic is the ancestor of the Arabs.
As for America’s interest in Sudan,the obvious is that the US as the Super Power of the world has interests all over the world,Africa not an exception, and raw materials in general, not only oil, is the main factor behind such interests. And it was this search for raw materials that led to the intervention in the Congo in the sixties, Angola in the seventies. With the emergence of new powers like China and India and their need for oil and other raw materials one expects this competition to grow fiercer over potential areas of raw materials,recent reports about the illegal mining and exploitation of natural rescources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are a case in point.
In the Sudan, it is no seceret that major American Oil Companies have interests, remember Chevron was there first, before the Chinese companies, and an independent South Sudan, which is indebted to the West, notably US support may change the situation and favour Western Companies,which are so far banned from doing business with the Sudan, in consonance with the US imposed Sanctions.
As to whether that may entail a military intervention or not, the future will tell,but one cannot ignore that the US is already funding the American Command in Africa, and that Scot Gration, President Obama’s Special Envoy to Sudan, is an Ex-Airforce General, and he was quoted as saying, “the elections imperfect as they are, are the prelude to the Independence of South Sudan”, South Sudan is not a colony as far as I know and i really hope that the General was misqouted. The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, who i think is hawkish about secesion of the South, was Assistant Secreatary of State for African Affairs during the Clinton Adminstration, and Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who was the First Secretary of State to openly meet with the Late Dr.John Garang and deal with him openly, amidst a declared US Policy seeking regime change in the Sudan.
I by no means seek to exonerate the Sudanes parties and politics, from their responsibilities, but i call attention to the dangers of others exploiting this situation to serve their own interests, and if any thing, the latest American Policy towards the Sudan, starting with the elections (which we are told are not up to international standards yet acceptable), raise many doubts.
You would remember how Zimbabwe and President Mugabe were treated,following the elections,which were not( up to international standards,according to the US,UK and the EU). President Mugabe was condemned from all corners of the civilized world, Zimbabawe was dragged to the Security Councli for sanctions,had it not been for Russia and China.
I wish I could really believe that President Obama can withstand the pressures of both, the extreme Christian Right and the Oil Industry.
To my brothers and sisters in the South who favour secession, I wish to say that the story of the small bird that Oscar told, is full of wisdom.
You are free to vote and you will vote, come January, but don’t vote to simply condemn the past.
The Vietnam War is a good example of “conflict creep.” Consider, however, the alternative case of Angola, in which the United States launched a costly covert intervention that, because the nation was weary of blood sacrifice and boogeymen, was struck down by Congress. This, despite the prior investments of South Africa and Zaire, both of which were considered valuable bulwarks of anti-Communism in sub-Saharan Africa, and the reputed private urging of leaders in both Zambia and Tanzania that something be done to neutralize the MPLA. Henry Kissinger and the Congressional hawks got no traction. You refer to a number of interventions in the Caribbean and Central America to bolster an argument that the United States intervenes on a whim, ignoring the unique relationship between the United States and its immediate neighbors. In Haiti, for example, our intervention was almost certainly in response to the large numbers of immigrants produced by the upheaval on that island. In invading Grenada, the United States perceived that it was preventing entrenchment of a proto-Cuban regime within its presumed sphere-of-influence. Earlier interventions in the Caribbean, as during the early decades of the twentieth century, occurred under a vastly different strategic paradigm than is at work today.)
Could I ask you to validate your position that Sudan is “on the radar screen” of top U.S. politicians? You mention summons to military intervention, but those are now years old, and were often incredible, or even irresponsible. While many came from individuals who are now freshly-minted Obama appointees, those same leaders have been overwhelmingly quiet on the subject since arriving in office. Absent the Christian Right, who else is there to make a case for intervention in South Sudan? One doesn’t hear the oil companies raising a fuss. That leaves activists within the administration. Americans have had little stomach for intervention on the African continent. The Middle East, as a clear source of “problems” and oil both, is at least understood as an epicenter — somewhere that important things are happening. If commercial interests are really so powerful, why did we let Mobutu wither and die on the vine?
I don’t doubt that, in the event of saber-rattling in 2011, the government in Juba will lobby for, and receive, military assistance in the form of weaponry and training. I do, however, strongly doubt that the United States will send either large numbers of non-combat advisors or combat troops to South Sudan. I find it interesting that you cite calls for intervention in Darfur as evidence that something might be done in South Sudan when none of those calls was heeded. Indeed, Samantha Power has built a reputation as a voice in the wilderness, hounding administrations that are callously indifferent to slaughter in “unimportant” Africa.
Once again, if the American public is about to witness a sudden surge of troops in South Sudan in less than a year, the public relations groundwork is strangely absent. All of the key players and interests are yet obscure. The country is exhausted by commitments elsewhere in the world, and deeply cynical. Obama has a mandate to bring troops home, not commit them to new imbroglios in what has long been a strategic backwater. As for my comments on Iraq, I was referring to the post-1991 situation: Hussein had been a clear adversary for more than a decade by 2003, and had fired at American and British aircraft enforcing the No-Fly Zone. There had been numerous flare-ups during the Clinton administration. The situation was understood to be festering.
Proving that American oil companies are interested in taking advantage of business opportunities in Afghanistan is merely validation of the theory of capitalism. It does not suggest that we invaded that country in order to reshape it economically.
Dear Yong Deng,
The South has much right to be aggrieved with the North, and Southern Sudanese have fought very hard to achieve some semblance of political dignity and economic independence. While I still believe Southern Sudan’s longterm success would be better tied to the greater Sudan, I cannot accept an environment of bitterness and animosity towards the North. Especially unfair and misdirected animosity. Having said that, we must honor the Southern Sudanese people’s grievances, sufferings, decisions, and aspirations. Additionally, as a measure of safeguarding both states’ futures, I am absolutely interested in two states, living side-by-side, in peace, with no shared future as one political entity. While I hate to say this, I believe that the North has much to gain from a separate South, and needless to say, the South does too. There is an opportunity on the horizon for such a context.
Mr. Blayton has brought up his observations on the media’s stance on political developments in Sudan and I am pointing out the lack of critical observations on the South’s political developments. Not much attention has been devoted to the intimidation tactics of the SPLM or the 93% voting figures that Salva Kiir acquired, whether through freedom and fairness or not. I personally believe that Southern Sudan is preparing itself for a one-party state and I fear it shall suffer the same consequences as the NCP’s Sudan did. The lack of media focus on this makes it all too easy for the SPLM. Everyone seems to be so fixated on a separation-ensured referendum that they’re dropping their eyes from the ball.
Also, I’d have to disagree with you on the matter of U.S self-interest not being mutually exclusive to the South’s well-being. This remains to be seen. In the mean time, excuse me while I defer to the side of skepticism.
You are very well entitled to your interests. And so am I. What I am interested in is the counter-views and counter-arguments that are sorely lacking, on this forum, or in the media. We need a healthy discussion that reflect the realities on the ground for Southern Sudan’s political future. I am pointing out that all observers have to be wary of a false sense of optimism and should not substitute the marginal progress and substantial popular hope for absolute and resolute achievement. Despite the tremendous gains that Southern Sudanese are now enjoying, Souther Sudan has a long way to go and we should all remain vigilant with respect to this objective in order to keep the momentum going. I apologize if it sounds negative, but I believe things are highly precarious in Southern Sudan and no one seems to be acknowledging it. It is in the interest of the North to ensure that Southern Sudanese do not suffer in any capacity under a different political arrangement. Very soon Southern Sudan’s problems will be classified as an internal problem from the North’s perspective and South Sudan shall not enjoy any checks from the NCP or any future Sudanese government, however little these checks may currently be.
Whether we have a shared future or not, Southern Sudan’s well-being is connected to the North’s well-being. The sun’s not going to come out on the count of a referendum and its certainly not going to work out only if we “discuss…how the North and the South will live in peace as separate states”.
Dear Oscar and colleagues,
Many thanks for this stimulating debate. In considering the interventions of imperialists and neo-imperialists we should not overlook the fact that invasion by the forces of the metropolitian powers themselves is the exception rather than the rule. Most of the military expeditions of the “British” army in Africa and Asia were in reality conducted by Egyptian, Indian and other troops including African auxillaries commanded by British officers. The French used “Senegalese” to conquer large areas of Sahelian and Equatorial Africa. In modern times the Americans, British and French have preferred to use local proxies and/or mercenaries and have only committed their own forces as a last resort. The question we should be asking ourselves for South Sudan is, which proxies and which mercenaries should we be on the look out for?
My reference to the long history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam prior to widespread American awareness was in response to you your statement regarding â€œslow-movingâ€ events speaking against a significant level of interest in the U.S. I fail to see how your reference to U.S. involvement in Angola is relevant to that issue. If you are saying that the U.S. becomes more invested in some countries than in others, I will grant you that, but that still does not negate the fact that the U.S. does become invested in some countries.
I may have confused you with my reference of the U.S. invasion of Haiti. I was referring to the 1915 invasion that led to a 19 year occupation of that nation. That invasion was prompted by U.S. commercial interests, particularly the Hatian American Sugar Company (HASC). (See: Weinstein, Brian and Aaron Segal (in ENGLISH). Haiti; Political Failures. Cultural Successes (February 15, 1984 ed.). Praeger Publishers. pp. 175. ISBN 0275912914.
As regards Grenada, an island the size of Marthaâ€™s Vineyard [a very small resort island off the coast of Massachusetts] and with a population that â€œcould barely fill the Rose Bowlâ€ [a football stadium in Los Angeles County, California] the official reason for the invasion given by the U.S. was to protect the lives of U.S. medical students at St. George’s University on Grenada [90% of whom when polled said that the did not want to be evacuated] and a non existent Cuban military threat. The invasion of Grenada was a pretext to display U.S. military might. As early as 1981, the U.S. military had staged a mock invasion of Grenada at Viequas Island a U.S. territory near Puerto Rico. [See: Ronald H. Cole, 1997, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada 12 October – 2 November 1983 Joint History Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Washington, DC.] The same paradigm fits all of the instances of invasion that I cited, as they were all designed to serve U.S. economic interests.
With the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post [just to name a few media outlets] giving significant coverage to the recent elections in Sudan I feel fairly confident that Sudan is on the radar screen. By comparison, do we hear as much about the upcoming Rwanda elections? One will not hear the U.S. oil companies raise a fuss about Sudan, but that does not mean that they are not at work promoting their own interests. Hamid Karzai was a top adviser to the El Segundo, California-based UNOCAL Corporation which was negotiating with the Taliban to construct a Central Asia Gas (CentGas) pipeline from Turkmenistan through western Afghanistan to Pakistan prior to the invasion. These types of efforts are kept as quiet as possible. U.S. commercial interests helped to keep Mobutu in power for a very long time, but eventually his image was beyond redemption.
Even though you doubt that the U.S. will engage in South Sudan, the fact that Africom is in existence, makes it clear that it is not infeasible that one of its possible future missions could be to engage in some intervention designed to allegedly â€œhelpâ€ South Sudan.
Finally, as I stated earlier, we may not necessarily witness a â€œsurge of troops in South Sudan.â€ We may instead witness the shipment of military arms and the insertion of military or mercenary advisors. But if Americans are so exhausted of military commitments why does the U.S. have combat troops [receiving combat pay] in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, part of the Arabian Sea Gulf of Aden, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan?
The South is receiving help from the US at the moment. USAID is cofinancing comprehensive infrastructure projects (roads tec.) in the South linking towns and markets in the South with a Southern outlets, i.e. orientation toward Uganda and Kenya. There are plans for an oil pipeline through Kenya. The North has only implemented the restructuring of the railroad to Wau, which was inaugurated recently. But at the same time considerable all weather roads are connecting the North and the Southern oil fields. So, US present investments in the development of the South has a “southern” pull towards black African states and towards independence.
If one looks at the history of foreign support for a Southern military power (the Anyanya and the SPLA) one sees Israel as the possible proxy for US involvement in the South although other actors are possible. There has been some mentioning of Kenyan support.
My conclusion is that the struggle for an independent South has started long time ago and is ongoing.
The main strategic interest for the US could be American control of the main oil riches of the present Sudan which is now mainly under Chinese control and placed in the South. An independent South could help tilt the strategic competition between the US and China over the African oil resources in favour of US interests.
I would caution against explaining American policy toward Sudan today as an evolution of British imperial objectives during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Most Americans, including most American Christians whose churches may be involved in charity work in sub-Saharan Africa, could not identify Sudan on a map. Almost none are aware of Sudan’s particular experience of colonialism. The same is true of most American policymakers, including virtually all of Congress.
In fact, American policymakers are notoriously poor students of African history or politics. The records of the Nixon/Ford-era NSC meetings on Africa are a case-in-point. They reveal abundant racism, ignorance, and over-simplification, but virtually no knowledge of the continent or its past. The few American policymakers to actually plumb the fund of knowledge found in American academia were usually opposed to American intervention in Africa. Iowa Congressman Dick Clark jumps to mind. More on him later.
The New York Times and other media outlets reporting on the Nigerian and Sudanese conflicts do so infrequently, and often irresponsibly. They draw attention to religious cleavages either to sell copy, or else because they can’t be bothered with deeper analysis. Neither you nor Mr. Blayton have provided any evidence, convincing or otherwise, that those stories are the product of a coordinated effort — conspiracy? — to produce specific policy outcomes. I welcome any information you might have to this effect.
The American interest in Sudan is not as obvious as you suggest. While our interests are global, they have not always been determined by “this search for raw materials.” Washington’s intervention in Angola’s civil war was simply intended to avert an MPLA victory in order to send a message that expansion of Soviet influence would not be tolerated in any corner of the globe. To put it bluntly, Angola was important precisely because it wasn’t important. In fact, American oil companies were vocal critics of our policies there.
Illegal mining in the Congo is undertaken primarily by warlords of African origin. You have not proven that their use of the international market confirms, or even suggests, the participation of Western governments.
As for oil interests in the Sudan, Chevron sold its stake in the 1980s. It is possible that the United States will attempt to leverage economic and security assistance to secure favorable treatment for American oil companies after 2011, but the cost of such efforts would be miniscule compared to deployment of armed forces of any kind. The mere existence of AFRICOM is not confirmation that the United States intends to invade Sudan.
The United States is unabashedly supportive of South Sudanese independence, and has a vested interest in bringing the CPA to fruition. Once again, you have not furnished any evidence that either of these facts speaks to an ultimate plan to invade South Sudan.
Frankly, the world has given up on Zimbabwe. There is not perceived to be any benefit to the mollification of Robert Mugabe, whereas the United States may still regard Bashir as a leader willing to toe the line on counter-terrorism, and clearly considers him a stakeholder in the CPA process.
President Obama is not beholden to the Christian Right: they can have little effect on his politics.
I understood your reference to Vietnam. I pose two counter-arguments: (1) that there were geopolitical factors justifying American involvement in Vietnam that are not at work with respect to Sudan; (2) that the United States Government has not always been able to drum up support for interventions that it considers worthwhile.
I take your reference to Haiti, but deny that it has value in the present day. I invite you to present evidence that the United States has recently invaded or occupied any nation to serve corporate objectives. While American businesses may benefit from American military operations overseas, the stimulus for military operations in Afghanistan was clearly 9/11, and the impetus for military action in Iraq, our long experience of Containment and a perception that a special opportunity had arisen to mobilize support for a reshaping of the political composition of the Middle East.
I have heard it said many times that the invasion of Grenada was a political stunt. I have heard it said that the American government indulged in a doctrinaire exercise of ideological aggression against a nation that was not actually a threat to our national security interests, but professed “the wrong type of political thought.” Certainly, the invasion was a unique outcome of the Cold War. I have never seen the slightest evidence that it was perpetrated to fulfill economic objectives. With all respect, you have provided none yourself.
The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post have given limited coverage to the recent Sudanese elections. By comparison, Rwanda is even less important than Sudan: it is smaller, and there is not immediate saga of potential national dissolution. The case for American oil companies’ interest in Sudan, if it exists, is not convincingly made with reference to Hamid Karzai or the fact that oil companies will seek opportunities wherever they can get them. Your observations about Mobutu suggest limits to, not the overriding influence of, “U.S. commercial interests” with respect to even something so obtuse as African policy.
We will probably witness a surge of security assistance to South Sudan in 2011, especially if the result is skirmishing or all-out war. If mercenaries are involved, they will likely be predominately Kenyan. However, these are not necessarily jackbooted agents of empire. It remains to be seen if the United States will be able to parley any such influence into oil contracts.
Americans are exhausted of commitments in general; the presence of troops in bases through the Middle East testify to the importance of that region, not U.S. willingness to engage in further intervention willy-nilly.
The calls for US or Nato military intervention in Sudan did not succeed during G. W. Bush’s presidency. Some high profile Democrats who supported it then are now among president Obama’s team; but ,significantly, he has not made one of them his full- time envoy.
The President is looking for an exit strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an intellectual who will not be easily swayed by prendergastisms or the simplifications of Mia Farrow who accused Gen Gration of being naive! He ( and fair-minded US Jews like those in J Street) seem to realise that the values of the Likud are not necessarily the values of the USA.
We know that the call to divest from Sudan was a directive which was openly made by Netanyahu when he addressed AIPAC as leader of the Is Opposition in 07 .Anti-Sudanism is one of the direct results .
Now there is an increased activity ,because Gen Gration has scored many successes in his mission. The death toll in Darfur (according to the UN) is less than that in the South. Elections were organised all over Darfur. Jem is now caged in Jebel moon with no military supply line -as an IC Group analyst has written- because of good relations between Sudan and Chad. Jem has already signed a framework agreement that includes a cease-fire. Two days ago Jem decared the “freezing” of Doha negotiations. But the momentum for peace will ensure resumption soon. Another far more important Group is now negotiating. It is headed by a former governor of Darfur (and former university professor)who is highly respected and has the support of his own ethnic group-the FUR- as well as others.
To call for an adventurous US policy now is most unusual because it runs against the situation in Darfur; which even Susan Rice agrees has improved.
The new campaign resorts to “weapons -of – mass -destruction” falsifications. For example , the NBC interviewer said to Secretary of State H. Clinton (2 May) that president Bashir has actually said” Even America is becoming an NCP member, no one is against our will” . President Bashir never said that.
Congressman Wolf is a very effective man . He is the new front of the anti-Sudanism crusade; but even a man of his stature cannot turn the clock back, ignore the real situation and persuade the President to escalate tension with Sudan and open a new war front He will probably succeed in delaying the return of a US ambassador to Khartoum ;or in keeping the sanctions and not deleting Sudan from the list of terror sponsors .
It is important to remember that President Bashir has more than once declared that Sudan is open for US companies and businesses and that Sudan can be a good ivestment partner.We have free market economy and a presidential system . We have a mixture of proportional representation and first-past- the- post in our electoral system. Women have secured 25% of the seats in our elected parliament . We- like the USA- accept a two state solution to the Middle East conflict. Any policy that calls for animosity towards us is not based on facts or on US interests.
It does not follow that because most Americans are ignorant about Sudan that U. S. decision makers could not have economic objectives directed at Sudan. By analogy I would say that just because most Americans do not know that Coca Cola gets a significant amount of gum Arabic from Sudan does not mean that it does not come from there.
With regard to Western media and Sudan, the use of language is a deliberate act. The tone and content of the current stories relative to Sudan seem to be intended to give effect to the perception that the leadership in both North and South Sudan is corrupt.
Regarding Angola: In the late 1960s Gulf Oil signed a contract giving Gulf exclusive rights to Angolaâ€™s oil. After independence, Gulf signed a deal with the communist MPLA government and its offshore rigs were protected by MPLA and Cuban troops while the U.S. government was funding the UNITA rebels opposed to the MPLA. It would be disingenuous to assert that a major U.S. oil company [Gulf later became Chevron and then merged with Texaco] could be allied with a Communist government and guarded by Cuban troops from potential attacks by US-funded rebels and there not be some economic gain to U.S. interests involved.
While neither the existence of Africom nor U.S. support for the CPA prove a U.S. intent to invade South Sudan, both indicate a strong interest in South Sudan by the U.S. And given the history of the willingness of the U.S. in interfere in the affairs of other nations to satisfy its own economic needs, such interference with South Sudan can not be ruled out; contrary to your assertions.
Regarding your speculation that the U.S. might normalize relations with Bashir: It is not inconceivable that the U.S. would partner with Khartoum if Bashir were willing to â€œtoe the lineâ€ as you put it, but I believe that require assistance in economic matters as well as anything else.
Regarding your implication that Vietnam is not a good comparison to Sudan: Geopolitical factors to which you refer were cited to justify U.S. involvement in Vietnam, but they proved to be largely fictitious. The domino theory was debunked long before Saigon fell and the domino theory withered to nothingness.
Regarding Haiti: Do you think that 1915 is so far in the past as to be irrelevant? U.S. economic expansionism is as strong today as it was then.
Regarding Grenada: In the larger context of asserting hemispherical hegemony for the purpose of economic aims the invasion of Granada did serve the purpose of U.S. economic interests.
I will leave your response to the comparison of U.S. media coverage of Rwanda to be judged by the readers of this blog. I believe you asserted earlier that Sudan was not on the radar, but you now say that Rwanda is [even] less important than Sudan.
I will also leave your comment about Hamid Zarzai to be judged by the readers as to whether it adequately addresses my point or not.
I would very much like to know upon what facts you base your assertion that: â€œIf mercenaries are involved [in Sudan], they will likely be predominately Kenyan.â€ I am completely unfamiliar with such a claim.
My reference to U.S. combat troops in various areas of the Middle East was in response to your statement that there was little U.S. interest in placing combat troops beyond Afghanistan and Iraq.
To sum up this important discussion of possible American involvement in South Sudan:
1. There are several American interest in the South: they are mainly economic (oil) and strategic (weakening the Islamic fundamentalist regime of Omar ElBeshir as a possible supporter of Islamic terrorism).
2. The US has several tools to play with in the South: peaceful support for a Southern orientation (towards Kenya and Uganda) of Southern infrastructure + institutional support for the GOSS ; military support through proxies (Israel and Kenya for example) as well as military direct intervention with â€œboots on the groundâ€. The first two are being implemented and has been for several years supporting the movement for independence of the South. It is very unlikely that US will interfere directly in Sudan militarily, especially with president Obama at the rudder.
3. The present US policy towards Sudan is aiming at putting pressure at the Omar El Beshir government in order for it to behave along US policy lines for the region. But this strategy has not yet worked and It seems as if the move for an independent South is inevitable, a fact that in the medium term will create political turmoil in the North as the South will be asking for a growing percentage of Southern oil and the economy in the North will contract accordingly.
4. There is a good chance that we now have a picture of Omar El Beshir winning the election in the North but losing the war. The Omar El Beshir regime is being cornered by US policy in Sudan. It could be betting for time when the South as expected will chose independence.
If you look at the map of the world after Wordl War 11,you would clearly see that the US has replaced or at times helped end the influence of the British Empire in the world,the Suez Fiasco of 1956 is a case in point.
As for the Sudan,which is my main concern,the US has always been interested in the Sudan.Under normal circumstances we can go into this in details.The US according to Henry Kissinger(1974)considers the Sudan as part of it’e startegic defence line.The USAID to Sudan dates back to pre-independence era.IN 1963 the Kennedy Administration hosted General Ibrahim Abboud,the Head of the ruiling Supreme Military Council in the Sudan then,i mention this in particular because if you go back to history of the Sudan,it was the Abboud Regime that set for a military solution to the problem of the South.People in the North opposed this and this lead to the famous October 1964 uprising that overthrew the Military Dictatorship of Abboud regime.People on the North have never been oblivious to the problems of their compatriots in the South,just as they,people of the North supported the SPLM/A in it’s struggle against the Islamist Regime of General Bashir,though of course things have changed to-day,for the SPLM/A has opted to be a (Regional Movement concerned with the South only).
The position of the US Administration and it’s Special Envoy,Scot Gration,is indeed questionable.It endorses elections,that are at best (not up to International Standards),because,as Gration says they are necessary for the (referandum to the independence of the South),while and i repeat the South is not a colony.
The US clearly turned a blind eye to all the excesses of the ruling parties in both th North and the South,during these elections.And it is only natural that one asks why?
The history of empires all along teaches us that more often than not,empires are run by interests and not the wish of the people,through out the ages,people were mobilized by all sorts of slogans,and motives,that are hardly reperesentative of the true motives,best described as (Manufacturing Cinsent).American people are no exception.May be you remember Herny Kissinger was in the UNOCAL team negotiating the Pipeline ,through Afghanistan with a delegation from Taliban,yet he was at the forefront defending the overthrow of Taliban,and was the first to welcome Hamid Karazai,who was once an employee of some oil firms in the US.
To-day the US is clearly in support of the secession of the South,and according to Sudan Tribune,May 5th,the US is intending to help the South Sudan in intiatives to improve secuity in South Sudan.Can you explain this?
We have had a long experience with mercenaries in Africa,but Kenya hardly featuered.However we know of Blackwater and its ties to the extreme christian right.History also tells us that business and religon may at times be allies for the common good,as the Late President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya once said(the White Man brought to us the bible and took the land) or as some Sudanese said(the NCP pushed us into the mosques and they went into our shops).
Whatever the case may be,I think the question we should seriously ask is in whose interst do we divide the Sudan and what will be the consequences of the secession of South Sudan,or is it a tactic to squeeze more concessions from the Government in the North,if you take into account that despite his election and although the US accepts the result,General Bashir remains wanted by the ICC?????
I dont hide nor shy away from my strong conviction that it is in the interst of the Sudanese,and indeed Africa and the world for the Sudan to remain united,under new dispensations,in this I am not alone,Dear Matthew,many other Sudanese and African Leaders feel the same,but what a pity we dont have John Garang now.
With all due respect,you seem to have missed the point or else you already accept the secssion of the South,for this is not about Dar Fur,or about General Bashir,this about the fragemntation of the whole country,and just to referesh your memory,what General Bashir said,and he says many things,harmful and otherwise,was and i quote(they went to their masters there,the Americans,asking them to stop the elections,and the Americans told them no,is America ,national congress party?).
All your political harranguing,Dear Khalid,all your panegyrics and songs of praise,are of no avail,if the country is really falling apart,and this is the real issue we are dealing with here.
How can your position about the Middleast Conflict affect the voters in South Sudan in January 2011?Please let us deal with our problem.Tell us how do you want to keep this Sudan united?And remember history will never forgive whoever is responsible for the demise of a country known as the Sudan?Histroy will never forgive those who for the sake of transient power and wealth,destroyed and pillaged and murdered the dream.
As for the Obama Administration,dear Khalid,please remember that it is facing a mid-term election ,if this rings a bell.
Dear Van Sparre-Ulrich
I hope the US would seek to influence a united Sudan.
I wish to observe that I am afraid an orientation towards Uganda and Kenya will hardly work, there will certainly be a Uganda-Kenya competition over South Sudan.
Remember in 1974, Uganda claimed parts of South Sudan and North Kenya, and that brought Uganda and Sudan to the verge of war.
There are also the transborder tribes, between Sudan and Kenya, Uganda, DRC and Ethiopia.
I sincerely believe the situation needs more indepth analysis by the US and the neighbouring states.
It does not follow that because most Americans are ignorant about Sudan that U.S. decision makers could not have economic objectives there. However, it also does not follow that because you suspect U.S. policymakers of pursuing economic interests elsewhere in the past, correctly or incorrectly, they must therefore also be about to do so in Sudan.
The use of language is a deliberate act. However, you seem to believe that when the New York Times prints an article, it is a deliberate act of somebody other than the New York Times. The tone and content of current stories relative to Sudan, of which I remind you there have been relatively few, are intended to give effect to the perception that the leadership in both North and South Sudan is corrupt because that is where the facts ultimately lead us.
Regarding Angola, you have missed the point completely. The Ford Administration undertook a highly expensive covert intervention, ostensibly to (1) uphold the principles of detente; (2) reassure European allies skeptical of our commitment to deterrence in the wake of defeat in Vietnam; (3) bolster allies in Kinshasha and Lusaka that had requested American action. In the end, tired of war, neither Congress nor the American public were willing to back the policy. Funding was cut. Operation IA FEATURE withered on the vine. This takes us back to the very first paragraph: interests are a necessary, but not sufficient, basis for action.
Given the history of the willingness of every nation on earth to intervene in the affairs of other nations to satisfy their own objectives, one could build as strong a case for intervention in Sudan as you have here. Interference requires investments of some kind. Security assistance, perhaps. Pressure, perhaps. Invasion? Deployment of combat forces? There is no basis for assuming so. You have provided none.
I don’t speculate that the U.S. might normalize relations with Bashir. I point out that Khartoum is considered, in Washington, to be “toeing the line” when it comes to closing the door on Islamic terrorism and sharing intelligence.
Whether or not the geopolitical factors that brought us to Vietnam were fictitious, they were nonetheless held in high regard by members of the U.S. Government. They ultimately led us to Africa after we left Southeast Asia. In Sudan’s case, no such considerations of similar strength apply.
Regarding Haiti, I think that the context of the 1915 invasion and occupation is so different from that which pertains in Sudan as to be irrelevant.
Regarding Grenada, assertion of hemispherical hegemony is only related to economic interest in the most tangential sense.
I asserted that Rwanda is less important to the United States than Sudan. It appears to be true. It does not mean that Sudan is much more important. While 4 is greater than 3, neither begin to approach 100.
My assertion regarding Kenyan mercenaries is based on reporting by Jane’s correspondent Simon Nicol (Simon Nicol, â€œContractors recruiting Kenyan troops for eventual operations in South Sudan,â€ Jane’s Defense Weekly, 26 March 2009.)
Insofar as one talks about American combat troops in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world, the major deployments are as follows: Germany, the Middle East, and Korea. It is unsurprising to see American troops in the Middle East, particularly after articulation of the Carter Doctrine during the 1970s. However, to see them in Africa would constitute a major shift in American strategic policy.
To be clear, it would not be surprising if the United States attempted to leverage its role in the expected post-independence period in order to gain preferential considerations for American oil companies. However, it would be surprising if the United States deployed combat troops to bases in South Sudan.
Though I am more concerned with the Sudan now, I would like to refresh your memory about Angola.
The US capitalized on the FLN of Roberto Holden, which was backed by Zaire and the South African UNITA, but mainly the FLN, money was paid ,but the FLN sort of fizzled out days before the declaration of Independence of Angola.
UNITA had a problem even among those African countires that seemed favourable to it, because of the backing of the then Racist regime of South Africa, I refer you to a what i think is a good book about that: IN SEARCH OF ENEMIES by DAVID STOCKWELL (1984).
I’m not sure why you believe that I need my memory refreshed.
I’ve read Stockwell, who is entertaining as well as informative, and own a copy of his book. Probably the finest book on the subject to date, however, is Piero Gleijeses’ work, “Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington and Africa, 1959-1976” (2002).
The particulars of the Angolan Civil War, including our long association with Holden Roberto, the brother-in-law of Mobutu Sese-Seko, the FNLA’s collapse at Quifangondo, and South Africa’s role, are well known to me. I am also well-versed in the general history of South Africa.
My reference to Angola in the context of this particular discussion was intended to underscore the point that intervention in other countries depends in part on the will of Congress and the wider public, who must acquiesce to, if not understand, the investment. In 1976, they did not acquiesce. The Congress, believing that previous administrations had misled them with respect to Vietnam, unable to believe that the MPLA was a menace, and critical of any affiliation with the apartheid regime in South Africa, refused to continue funding for IA FEATURE, which eventually collapsed in early 1976. This, despite the very strong belief among key members of President Ford’s national security policy team that Angola was an important battleground.
U.S. troops in Germany and Korea do not currently receive â€œCombat Payâ€ as they currently do in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, part of the Arabian Sea Gulf of Aden, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan. My initial reference was to “combat troops receiving combat pay.” I did, however place “combat pay” in brackets “[ ]” and that may have confused you. Not all U.S. combat troops received combat pay. It takes an executive order to do that, and it is only done when the level of danger to the troops (because of the mission or the location) is sufficient to warrant it.
My point with regard to combat troops receiving combat pay was to illustrate the presence of U.S. troops in areas deemed dangerous enough to receive â€œcombat pay.â€ The distinction is significant and also important in understanding the use of U.S. military personnel in furtherance of U.S. foreign policy.
Also with regard to you cite of Janeâ€™s Defense Weekly, since there was no March 26, 2009 issue, I looked in both the March 25, 2009 issue and the March 18, 2009 issues and found no articles written by Simon Nicol. In the March 25, 2009 issue the Middle East/Africa section carried the following articles:
â€œMoscow plays political chess with Iran S-300 saleâ€
â€œIslamists continue pre-poll attacks in eastern Algeriaâ€
â€œSA forces ‘on downward spiral”
And in the Mar 18-09 issue the Middle East/Africa section carried only one article:
â€œEU ends mission in Chad/CAR with handover to UNâ€
I did not find the story that you referenced in the â€œHeadlinesâ€ sections or the â€œForces Updateâ€ sections either.
I would very much appreciate it if you could check your cite and re-post your reference cite again regarding Kenyan mercenaries.
As regards the other points of your comment, I believe that enough has been said on both points of view for the readers to be able come to informed opinions.
I hope you dont take it that I am questioning your knowledge of African history,I never intended that.
I only say that the US Allies, Mobutu and the FLNA of Roberto Holden lost the war ,and I am sure you know the fate of the money paid to finance the FNLA.
Again, as regards intervention or otherwise in South Sudan, I wish to refer you to Sudan Tribune of May, 9, 2010 and what Steve Paterno says, I would appreciate your comments.
Although I originally found the article using an electronic subscription service while at university, which explains the date of 26 March, a friend was kind enough to pull the print edition, which appears as:
Simon Nicol, “Kenyan troops recruited for service in South Sudan,” Middle East/Africa, Jane’s Defense Weekly, vol. 46, issue no. 13, 1 April 2009, p. 20.
Thank you for the cite to the JDW article about the recruitment of Kenyan soldiers to serve in South Sudan.
According to the article, the agencies doing the recruiting are staffed by [among others] Americans with past [and possibly present] affiliations with the CIA, FBI, U.S. Marines and Navy Seals.
The article also says that the Kenyan recruits are being sent to Iraq for 12 months to gain combat experience before being re-deployed to South Sudan.
I find it more than mildly curious that in South Sudan, with its thousands of combat experienced veterans, would be seen as being in need of Kenyan soldiers who need to be sent to Iraq [an American war] in order to gain combat experience. If the article is accurate, this appears to me to be a U.S. effort to introduce non-Sudanese fighters into South Sudan for reasons which at this time we can only speculate.
I would be very interested in hearing the thoughts of anyone else that would care to comment on the contents of this article. Matthew has cited it correctly as: Simon Nicol, â€œKenyan troops recruited for service in South Sudan,â€ Middle East/Africa, Janeâ€™s Defense Weekly, vol. 46, issue no. 13, 1 April 2009, p. 20. The article can be found online by going to the following link:
and then scrolling through the back issues to search for the April 1, 2009 issue and then to page 20 of that issue.
One can only guess who is financing this “humanitarian” operation of solidarity with just another upcoming African nation.
As a medical researcher in Southern Sudan during the period 1979 through 1984 I had the opportunity of talking to geologists working for Parker Drilling and Chevron. The oil reserves left (following an aggressive extraction over the last few years) would not excite any major oil importer. Sudan’s future, especially in the North, is with the great rich plains between the White and Blue Nile. The British figured this out 100 years ago.
It is unsurprising to find that these private military companies — I am happy to call them “mercenaries” if you like — are staffed by Americans with past and present affiliation with the United States military, law enforcement, and intelligence communities. The barriers-to-entry for other entrepreneurs are unusually high. There are three staple products in this field: tactical service (i.e., combat), operational services (i.e., training and logistics), and strategic services (i.e., analysis). You’re looking at skill sets that can usually be obtained only through armed service or by one with a security clearance. As in defense manufacturing consultancy, past military and governmental experience are highly valued because they impart unique training and cultural outlooks useful in the industry.
Although most modern militaries employ civilian contractors, the most infamous of which are those that provide armed security services and military training (Blackwater, Triple Canopy, DynCorp, MPRI), they are not necessarily cut-outs for American policy. Mobutu was left to hire his own mercenaries before his ignominious flight of 1997; he received no assistance, covert or otherwise, from the United States. In 1994, President Clinton applied considerable pressures to have Executive Outcomes relieved of its contract obligations in Sierra Leone, believing that their use heaped shame on any government that might be associated with them.
While the United States Government is almost certainly aware of what Mr. Nicol reported (I can’t but assume that members of the intelligence community read Jane’s regularly, or would have received corroborating communications from the military attachÃ© in Nairboi), I challenge you to sustain your assertion that this is “a U.S. effort to introduce non-Sudanese fighters into South Sudan,” if by “U.S.,” you mean the United States Government. I think you could productively ask yourself this question: could a for-profit organization that sells military capability find value in preparing ahead of time to service the needs of a major contractor? The analysis stacks up rather well: (1) most observers believe that South Sudanese will vote for independence by an overwhelming margin in January 2011; (2) most observers believe that even if another war does not result, the border between what might become Sudan (Khartoum) and South Sudan (Juba) will be “hot;” (3) the South Sudanese are already building up their conventional fighting forces with purchases of heavy equipment on the international market — equipment that, despite their long experience of low-intensity infantry warfare, they have had little experience in operating or maintaining on a large scale. Mr. Nicol indicated that recruits with particular specialties command special interest.
In conclusion, private military providers have ample reason to pay attention to, and pursue contracts with, South Sudan, quite independent of the U.S. Government.
I find it difficult to believe that private contractors could insert Kenyans into Iraq for combat experience without the approval of the U.S. Government. And given that it is reported that these Kenyans are gaining combat experience in order to better perform in South Sudan, I will go out on a limb and and say that I believe that the U.S. Government approves of this as well.
I would very much like to hear from any South Sudanese reading this blog as to whether they believe that the GOSS is contracting for Kenyan mercenaries independently of the complicity of the U.S. Government.
Of course, nobody has caught anybody red handed yet apart from the companies involved. This is a stealth program which fits nicely with the USAID program for the South. But the extend of the “Kenyan” operation is sizable as the Kenyan army is facing problems of lacking skilled soldiers in certain fields, according to Nicols. And the companies are operating officially in Kenya with the knowledge of Kenyan military officials. And…nobody knew about the huge US involvement in Afghanistan (in terms of funding and training) before in the aftermathof the “Russian” war.
I visited the oil fields of Chevron in late 70s and beginning of 80s. At that time the oil fields had not been developed as they are today.
In what way would the Kenyan contractors be different from the Chilean, Israeli, South African, or other foreign nationals often employed by other private military companies?
Failure to block this entity’s actions cannot be construed as evidence of conspiracy. Buying up the supply of Kenyans willing to sell their military expertise is a business decision. It is possible that the U.S. is both aware and supportive, but that could be true even if it was not the originator or initiator of this trend.
Why wouldn’t the Government of South Sudan contract for security assistance once it is independent? It’s clear that they have military requirements that cannot be met by the current resources of the SPLA — namely, a demand for technical specialties.
The fact that the U.S. intervened in Afghanistan decades ago in order to frustrate what was perceived as expansionism toward a warm-water port by its greatest adversary is hardly compelling evidence that it has also launched a covert operation to build up the SPLA.
The smell of US proxy involvement is substantial. Nobody has access to the accounts of these “innocent” US based business activities involving Kenyan military personnel; and the US involvement cannot be proved by hardcore facts at the moment. But several indicators point in this direction based on the historic experience of US covert activities around the globe over the years. This is a fact!