Today, the United Nations' military commander in Sudan declared
that the civil war there has ended and President Obama's special envoy to Sudan said
it is not a state sponsor of terror. The news comes in the midst of
what may be a turning point in the long-lasting debate over what role--if
any--America should play in Sudan's violent crisis. It also coincides
with one Sudan activist group's barrage of humanitarian ads
in major papers and on Martha's Vineyard, where Obama is vacationing.
- Should We Intervene? The New Republic's Richard Just tackled the debate over intervention head-on in a lengthy review of Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror by
Mahmood Mamdani, which Just called "a book dedicated to arguing that
the Darfur genocide was not really as bad as we think." While not
explicitly telling Obama to send in infrantry brigade to
Khartoum, Just argues passionately in the abstract on behalf of
intervention, especially in cases of human rights abuses such as those
in Sudan. Just compared Sudan to the Balkans, arguing that intervention
could be part of "changing Khartoum's
behavior." He wrote, "It is often
quite possible to stop the killing through diplomacy, threats, and
punitive military force against that government." He sympathetically
referenced "calls for U.N. troops or even the United
States to take action in Darfur," noting that he himself has made them.
- Obama's Darfur Record Just criticized
Obama's "glacial caution." He called out Obama's refusal to take a firm
position that intervention on behalf of human rights was a possibility.
"It would be important to hear a liberal American president say so,"
wrote Just. "It would be even more important to see him act on it." The
Atlantic's Chris Good noted, "Obama hasn't exactly done nothing." Good wrote,
"The administration has focused on getting humanitarian aid groups back
into Sudan, after they were kicked out by President Omar al-Bashir." Chuck Thies, a consultant to Sudan activist groups, told Ben Smith, "The organizations that lead the advocacy movement are divided on whether or not to hammer the Obama administration." Thies explained, "There are those who want to allow the administartion more time to
develop a detailed policy and plan of action, and there are others who
recall Obama's words as a Senator and on the campaign trail about the
need to take strong, immediate action to protect civillians from the
- What If It's Over? Just conceded much of the violence may be over. "There was a lag between what was happening on the ground and how
activists and journalists in America responded," he wrote. "By 2006, when the Save
Darfur movement began to gain some momentum, the bulk of the
destruction was largely complete." Thies argued that, with many still in camps, it's far from over. "Though the rate of death from violence in Darfur has been greatly
reduced in the past year, millions of people still live in unsafe
refugee and IDP camps, slowly starving to death," he wrote. "No one suggested the
Holocaust genocide ended until the death camps were liberated; the same
should be true for Darfur."
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