Sunday, December 12, 2004
"Inaction's Consequence" [editorial]
Thursday, December 9, 2004; Page A32
LAST MONTH the United States and its allies signaled a change in Sudan policy.
Rather than pressuring Sudan's government to halt its genocidal attacks against
civilians in the western province of Darfur, they switched to pushing for a
peace deal between the government and southern rebels. This change in priorities
was a mistake. Although the north-south war has killed an estimated 2 million
people over the past two decades, it is now in abeyance; by contrast, Darfur's
conflict, pitting the government against three semi-organized rebel factions, is
fueling malnutrition, disease and violence that are claiming thousands of lives
each month. By emphasizing north-south talks, the United States risked sending
a signal that the genocide in Darfur might be tolerated.
Sure enough, the violence in Darfur has worsened. According to the latest U.N.
assessment, government attacks on civilians continue; the number of people
affected by the conflict has risen to about 2.3 million; Western aid workers are
being blocked from helping civilians, and the head of Oxfam International's Sudan
operations was recently kicked out of the country. On Sunday Sudan's foreign
minister brazenly declared that his government was not conducting aerial attacks
on civilians, despite evidence to the contrary collected by African Union
monitors. The foreign minister also told The Post's Emily Wax that he looked forward
to U.S. sanctions being lifted once the north-south deal was completed, as
though the atrocities in Darfur would pose no obstacle.
The State Department hastened to respond that Darfur's crisis must be
"addressed" before relations can be normalized. But it's not clear what this means, if
anything, since the international community's pronouncements on Darfur are
increasingly prone to criticizing rebel violence as well as official aggression.
Darfur's rebels have indeed carried out attacks, perhaps in the hope of provoking
government retaliation and, hence, outside intervention. But however bad the
rebel violence, it pales next to the government's policy of systematically
destroying ethnic African villages, then impeding humanitarian access to displaced
civilians so that they die by the thousands. The moral equivalence of some
official statements is counterproductive. By blurring the question of responsibility,
it encourages the government in its calculation that genocide will go
If the Bush administration really does want Darfur's crisis to be "addressed,"
it needs to upset that calculation. It could revert to its earlier strategy of
pressing for U.N. sanctions on Darfur, which would require a willingness that's
so far been lacking to go to the mat with opponents such as China. Or it could
push for a much-expanded foreign troop presence, building on the African Union
force of some 3,000 that is being deployed. Neither course would be easy. But
the alternative to difficult action is to live with the consequences of
inaction. On the best estimates available, about a third of a million people have died
so far in Darfur, and unless the violence can be brought under control soon,
there will be no spring planting next year and no fall harvest. More than 2
million people will continue to depend on Western food aid, and the lands of the
displaced people may be taken by the perpetrators of the genocide. Thousands of
dispossessed and desperate victims will sign up to join the rebels, perpetuating
the cycle of violence and starvation.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
from The Washington Post
"Darfur: Where Is Europe?" [op/ed]
By Christian W.D. Bock and Leland R. Miller
Thursday, December 9, 2004; Page A33
On Nov. 8, a U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry arrived in the Darfur region
of western Sudan, to determine whether the slaughter of close to 100,000 people
over the past six months constitutes genocide. While this three-month mission
slowly goes about its business, Darfur continues to disintegrate into a horror
zone of killing fields, mass rapes and ethnic cleansing.
For a few brief moments on Sept. 16, the European Union seemed to draw a line
in the sand. On that day the European Parliament declared that the actions of
the Sudanese government in Darfur were "tantamount to genocide," and E.U.
ministers threatened sanctions "if no tangible progress is achieved" in meeting U.N.
demands to halt the killings. Yet nearly three months later, two things remain
clear: First, Khartoum has done nothing constructive to end the slaughter and,
second, neither has the European Union.
Tragically, "never again" is happening again. The World Health Organization's
latest report states that more than 70,000 displaced people have died since
March and that an estimated 10,000 people per month will continue to die if
adequate relief does not reach those affected. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, more have
been victims of brutal, often organized, gang rapes, and almost a million
people have been driven from their homes.
Yet on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the world community has
again chosen to watch, wait and, so far, do nothing.
Unsurprisingly, the United Nations has epitomized this paralysis. Although it
issued two resolutions ordering Khartoum to disband the Janjaweed militias and
halt the killings, the Security Council's demands have been roundly ignored,
because they fail to include any penalty for noncompliance. The African Union has
played a more active role and has had troops in Darfur since August. But both
their numbers (800-plus so far) and their mandate (which does not include the
protection of civilians) are glaringly inadequate to stop a genocide.
The United States, which in July was the first nation to invoke the term
"genocide," has also taken a pass on Darfur. Fresh from its second invasion of a
Muslim country in three years, and with little chance of mustering the political
capital for leading an intervention into a third, Washington has been
distressingly mute in its calls to arms. But with its tarnished image in the Muslim world,
and with the Pentagon strained from deploying more than a quarter-million
troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout Asia, a bogged-down America is
ill-equipped to lead the charge into eastern Africa anyway.
Enter the European Union.
While the United States is hamstrung militarily and politically by its current
global commitments, the same cannot be said for the E.U. nations. Moreover,
many have maintained a strong presence in Africa for centuries.
Yet Europe's "real commitment" to Africa appears to be a facade. The truth is
that not one soldier saluting an E.U. flag is being readied for a trip to the
Sudanese desert. With the assets of 25 member states, 450 million people and a
quarter of the world's gross national product (over $8 trillion), the European
Union does not lack resources, manpower or motive. Rather, the reasons why the
European Union has not intervened in Darfur can be boiled down to two.
First, because the United Nations has not authorized an intervention, the
European Union has not felt inclined to go in "unilaterally." But, ignoring the fact
that E.U. support would almost certainly induce a U.N. about-face, military
intervention to confront a serious humanitarian crisis -- even without U.N.
authorization -- has traditionally been viewed as lawful by most European
The second reason the European Union has not intervened is even more
inexcusable, precisely because it is of its own making. In 1993 the European Union
consolidated its disparate foreign policy arms into a Common Foreign and Security
Policy (CFSP), pledging to finally "speak with one voice" for a united Europe. But
"speaking" appears to be all this body is capable of. Under the Maastricht
Treaty, CFSP actions require the unanimity of all E.U. member states, an
uber-majority that all but eliminates the possibility of collective armed intervention.
By defect or design, this allows member states to voice their concerns -- and
then excuse their inaction as bowing to the judgment of the whole.
In effect the European Union has fashioned a foreign policy mechanism by which
inaction is virtually automatic -- even in the face of genocide.
Christian W.D. Bock is a former legal adviser to the United Nations Economic
Commission for Europe. Leland R. Miller, a New York lawyer, is a member of the
International Institute of Strategic Studies.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company