One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

When to bomb Khartoum…

Nick Kristof proposes a series of seriously tough measures that President Obama can take vis-à-vis the recalcitrant and stubbornly unrepentent survivalists running the Sudanese government.

The United States could target Sudanese military aircraft that defy a United Nations ban on offensive military flights in Darfur. The first step would be to destroy a helicopter gunship on the ground at night. A tougher approach would be to warn Sudan that unless it complies with international demands (by handing over suspects indicted by the International Criminal Court, for example), it will lose its air force — and then if it does not comply, to destroy all its military aircraft on the ground.

Thumbs up to bombing

Thumbs up to bombing

I’ve tended to agree with these relatively low-hanging aggressive actions, such as openly planning a mission to bomb Khartoum with enough seriousness to give Omar al-Bashir the willies, as was suggested, I believe, by Susan Rice, Tony Lake, and Don Payne in a Time article about two and a half years ago.  The problem is, what would be the immediate impetus for such an aggressive response?  To destroy a country’s air force for failing to reign in the chaos of a genocide that it unleashed nearly six years ago is hardly the most clear-cut or reflexively legitimate course of action.  This isn’t to say it isn’t warranted — just that such decisive action would have proved a lot more effective years ago (or, say, had Iraq not happened).

The situation now requires announcing some sort of ultimatum for the Sudanese authorities; and this is not nearly as neat a deal as it may seem on its face.  The génocidaires in Khartoum have survived this long not only because of the international community’s inability to commit to such game-changing steps, but also precisely because of their ability to fudge their way out of agreements and to baldly proclaim they are making concessions when they are in fact doing no such thing.  The tricky part for the Obama administration will be both to call this bluff, and, perhaps more importantly, to identify it at the appropriate time as a bluff.

(image of U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Rich Williamson from flickr user talkradionews under a Creative Commons license)


December 28, 2008 - Posted by | Darfur, Sudan, U.S. Foreign policy | , , ,

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