Sunday, August 05, 2007

Mr. Bush, Here’s a Plan for Darfur

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Op-Ed Columnist
The New York Times
August 6, 2007

Frustrated by the genocide he is tolerating in Darfur, President Bush has suggested to aides on occasion that maybe the U.S. should just send troops there.

He alluded to that when he told a woman in Tennessee who asked him about Darfur: “The threshold question was: If there is a problem, why don’t you just go take care of it?” Mr. Bush was talked out of the idea by Condi Rice, who told him that the U.S. just couldn’t start another war in a Muslim country. So, as Mr. Bush told the questioner: “I made the decision not to send U.S. troops unilaterally into Darfur.”

That was the right decision. The Sudanese regime would use our invasion as a rallying cry against infidels and make the crisis harder to resolve.

But the upshot was that Mr. Bush, lacking a military option, hasn’t taken up other options. He seems genuinely appalled by the horrors of Darfur — he raises them regularly with foreign leaders, even when aides haven’t put them on his talking points — yet he has done little, apparently because he doesn’t know quite what to do. So here are some practical suggestions.

First, the administration should invest far more energy toward seeking a negotiated peace between rebels and government — the only long-term solution to the slaughter. Instead, the diplomatic focus has been on U.N. peacekeepers, and they are a terrific addition but not a solution in themselves.

The preliminary step is for the rebels to form a united negotiating front, and they are now meeting in Tanzania to do so. The U.S. desperately needs to assist that process to the hilt.

Second, we should back an international appeal for Sudan to release Suleiman Jamous, an elder who is one of the best hopes for uniting the rebel factions and leading them to peace.

Third, we need to work with other countries to insist that Sudan stop importing tens of thousands of Arabs from neighboring countries to repopulate those areas where it has slaughtered the local population. These new settlements seal the demographic consequences of genocide, outrage the survivors and make peace harder to achieve.

Fourth, we need to increase intelligence coverage over the area, and release occasional satellite photos so that Sudan knows it is being watched. Releasing a photo of the beleaguered Gereida camp, for example, would reduce the chance that Sudan will slaughter its 130,000 occupants.

Fifth, Mr. Bush can join Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown in the trip they have discussed to Chad. They should also publicly invite the leaders of China and Egypt, two countries that are critical to pressuring Sudan, to join them.

Sixth, the U.S. can quietly encourage Muslim leaders to push for peace. Malaysia’s prime minister, who is also the head of a group of Islamic countries, has prepared a peace proposal, and Saudi Arabia is interested in helping.

Seventh, Mr. Bush can use the bully pulpit. He can give a prime-time speech or bring Darfuri refugees to the White House for a photo-op.

Eighth, the U.S. should begin contingency planning in case Sudan starts mass slaughters of people in camps, or in case Sudan resumes its war against its south. If the former, we could secure camps and create a corridor to bring survivors to Chad; if the latter, we should arm South Sudan and perhaps blockade Port Sudan.

Ninth, we need to work much more with China, which has the most leverage over Sudan. The goal should be to get China to suspend arms transfers to Sudan until Khartoum makes a serious effort at peace.

Tenth, we can work with France to stabilize Chad and Central African Republic. President Sarkozy is pushing for European peacekeepers to rescue both countries after Sudanese-sponsored proxy invasions, and he deserves strong support.

Finally, we should work with Britain and France to enforce the U.N.’s ban on offensive military flights in Darfur. At a minimum, we should seek U.N. sanctions for Sudan’s violations. In addition, when Sudan bombs a village, we can afterward destroy one of its Chinese-made A-5 Fantan fighter bombers that it keeps in Darfur.

Many aid workers disagree with this suggestion, for fear that Sudan will retaliate by cutting off humanitarian access. But after four years, I think we need to show President Omar Hassan al-Bashir that he will pay a price for genocide. And he values his gunships and fighter bombers in a way he has never valued his people.

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