This Time, It's Sudan


GOP Sens. Mike DeWine (Ohio) and John McCain (Ariz.) have an op-ed in today's Wash Post about the unfolding situation in Sudan, where "some 1.1 million people have been driven from their homes and as many as 30,000 are already dead" due to an unholy alliance between "the largely Arab Sudanese government" and "the Janjaweed, a group of allied Arab militias."

The government is seeking to contain an "insurgency" in Darfur, a "Texas-size region in western Sudan." DeWine and McCain, who note that under "optimal conditions" some 320,000 people may die by year's end, call for U.S. and U.N. sanctions against the Sudan government and they say the U.S. "should provide financial and logistical support to countries willing to provide peacekeeping forces."

Whole piece here.

The senators tap dance around whether the U.S. should send troops to Sudan, which is really the question most Americans would ask in the wake of such reports.

The senators also reference events 10 years ago in Rwanda. In the November 2002 issue of Reason, Charles Pena reflected on Rwanda, Camodia, and Samantha Power's A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. His essay concludes that if the U.S. is going to be effective in stopping genocide, it needs to tailor its national security interests much more narrowly than it has traditionally. It's online here.

Update: Nicholas D. Kristof in the NY Times has a column about Sudan today too, in which he graphically depicts what's going on there. Read it here.

These sorts of genocidal and/or tyrannical situations--Rwanda, Sudan, Saddam's Iraq, and countless other examples--raise serious problems for those (including myself) who are non-interventionist and who believe that the U.S. government has few if any responsibilities beyond providing for common defense. I fully understand that many genocidal situations are themselves the products (sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly) of past interventions by outside forces. I'm also extremely slow to suggest that American soldiers die in foreign lands.

Yet there's something appalling about idly sitting by while mass slaughter, torture, and more go on, especially without any form of sanction, censure, or diplomatic, economic, or cultural engagement. I didn't support the invasion of Iraq because I felt the U.S. had contained the threat posed by Saddam and I assumed (probably wrongly) that we were applying diplomatic and other pressures and backing insurgents that would have effectively ended his regime. It's folly to believe that the U.S. can drop in and fix longstanding problems anywhere in the world. But it's not a particularly comforting thought to be a spectator to the worst sort of atrocity, either.