A no-fly zone for Darfur should be Bush and Blair’s last act

Final_bushblair
A few days ago Tony Blair and George W Bush held their last official meeting as Prime Minister and President.  It was a pretty uneventful occasion.  George W Bush was more inarticulate than usual.  A war-weary President and an outgoing Prime Minister had no new insights into Iraq.  A once great partnership was being drained of power before the eyes of the international press.  In the few weeks that Blair has left at 10 Downing Street there seemed nothing that they could offer the world.  But is there one last great deed that they could perform?

About a month ago George W Bush said that Sudan’s regime had one last chance before the international community would finally act to protect Darfur.  A powerful editorial in today’s Washington Post reminds us what is still going on in this deeply troubled part of Africa:

  • For ten days after President Bush’s ‘last chance warning’ helicopter gunships attacked defenceless villages;
  • Government aircraft were painted white so as to be confused with the UN’s humanitarian operations;
  • More people are being added daily to the sad total of more than two million refugees;
  • Serious efforts to deploy a substantial African Union peacekeeping force remain stalled;
  • The UN continues to prevaricate.

A stretched US military and a threadbare UK military cannot do all that liberal interventionists would hope but a no-fly zone should be possible.  In the last days of the Bush-Blair partnership this last great act should be delivered – ideally with the UN’s approval but, if necessary, without.

Related link:
Will the world act now in Darfur? and The world has failed Darfur for four years

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23 Responses to A no-fly zone for Darfur should be Bush and Blair’s last act

  1. Andrew says:

    Couldn’t agree more. With French co-operation Chad would be amenable to Incirlik-style hosting – they’re hacked off with Sudan anyway, and the French already have small bases nearby.

  2. Tim Montgomerie says:

    You may be right Patrick and let’s return to the subject of Sri Lanka soon but intervening in Darfur should not not happen because other peoples are facing grave difficulties.

  3. Umbrella man says:

    Better to intervene in Darfur and not Congo than to intervene nowhere, James.

  4. webstar says:

    We cant police the whole world. Some of these nations need to start acting like countries and stop acting like rouge gang members.

  5. TomTom says:

    This is how we acquired an empire, do we really want another ?

    Even in our imperial heyday Sudan was run through the Khedive of Egypt, not really our business to pretend this is Tracy Island and we run International Rescue

  6. John says:

    To those of you who think there are more important issues than Darfur, if you really want so much done, do you then support substantially increasing the military budget in the western countries?
    If military intervention helps in all the places you seem to express concern for, then it’s really just a question of priorities, isn’t it? What do we want to spend our money on? Military or iPods?
    The question is whether a Western intervention in Darfur would help more than it would hurt.
    The same goes for Congo and Zimbabwe as far as I’m concerned.

  7. James says:

    Yes, I do support increasing the military budget – from 2.2% of GDP (a historic low) to about 3% or more. The question isn’t so much would western intervention help more than hinder, but what should guide us as a nation when deciding on intervening. If it’s not national interest, and it’s not that Darfur is even the worst case of civil war/ethnic slaughter in Africa (hence the Congo example) then what is it? Is it just whatever happens to be the current wristband cause of the moment? Is it just me, or is this not a very satisfying way of making such important decisions?

  8. Rachel Joyce says:

    The only way to deal with Darfur and other conflicts and internal strife is to have a concerted world-wide effort to end tyranny and bring democracy in every country. We need (as suggested by John McCain) a league of democracies and a programme/strategy to get rid of dictatorships and bring freedom to every country (as laid out in the book: Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025, by Ambassador Mark Palmer).

  9. Steevo says:

    Well Rachel if we could have a dependable group of nations who are democracies and who’s citizens posses a genuine conviction of freedom and basic human rights, we would have a reasonable starting point. Its a good thought and I respect you for bringing up McCain’s suggestion but, frankly I think its a pipe dream. Even if there was agreement amongst leaders I think in general most citizens living in freedom become self-centered and materialist and would give at best token approval satisfying a need to compensate for their own guilt. Once the sacrifice of soldiers and resources begin to take a toll, and with Left-wing media dictating the approval ratings, it would be an iffy proposition at best to try to ‘save’ any country from its own evil. National self-interest like it or not will be a primary motivating force for some time to come.

  10. Dennis says:

    A no-fly zone would be a start, however if I remember correctly for the Janja weed militias, a camel is the vehicle of choice.

    An idea would be to boycott Chinese goods until they take a cohesive approach alongside the international community in aiming to solve the crisis.
    However the cynic in me does not consider the US/UK as having the moral fortitude in our political classes to take tough decisions as that.

    They may eulogise & vilify the Sudanese governments actions, yet they shy away from the decisions that may cause economic disruption and jeopardise their partys chances of being re-elected by the apathetic majority of our respective electorates.
    US/UK companies continue to trade in Sudan without adequate sanction and our treasuries continue to extract their share of the revenues generated.

  11. John says:

    James: “The question isn’t so much would western intervention help more than hinder, but what should guide us as a nation when deciding on intervening.”

    Me: You seem to see a contradiction between on the one hand doing good in the world and on the other hand to do what is in a nation’s interest.
    Can you explain that for me? I tend to see it as identical things.

  12. James says:

    John, there is not always a contradiction between our national interest and helping others. But I think the argument: “we’d do more help than hinder” is not only naive in a lot of situations, but fails to answer the point I made at the top of this comments page: who says intervening in Darfur – even if it would undoubtedly improve the situation that country – is more important than intervening in Congo or Zimbabwe? Nobody on this blog has been able to explain to me why intervening in Darfur is a higher priority than Congo, where millions have died and people continue to be ravaged by war; or why Mugabe’s murder, torture, and politically targeted famines are less of a liberal priority. Thanks entirely to him, Zimbabwe now has the lowest life expectancy in the world.

    What as a nation guides us in making these costly decisions? It’s all very well proclaming in an airy utopian manner that there’s no contradiction between whats good for Britain and America, and whats good for Sudan – all manner of countries could lay claim to our help and military assistance on these grounds. We can’t be the world’s policeman, but nor do I say intervening is always wrong. So I ask again: how do we prioritise?

  13. Simon Chapman says:

    I wonder when Blair is going to collect his congressional medal?

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=3166279

  14. John says:

    James:
    “It’s all very well proclaming in an airy utopian manner that there’s no contradiction between whats good for Britain and America, and whats good for Sudan – all manner of countries could lay claim to our help and military assistance on these grounds. We can’t be the world’s policeman,…”

    Can you come up with an example where Britain and America don’t share the same interests as Sudan? I can’t. I recognize that we (even myself) sometimes differentiate between the interests of different countries. You might say that it’s in the interest of Iran to support terrorists in Iraq. But I think we can both agree that it’s not in their “real” national interest which is to support democracy and western capitalism. What’s in any country’s “real” national interest is doing good. I fail to see what’s utopian about that.

    What might be utopian is to suggest (as you seem to when you write: “all manner of countries could lay claim to our help”) that Britain and America could alone intervene in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Congo and Sri Lanka tomorrow with positive results. The people of Europe would probably rather die (after having declared atomic war on the US) than witness to see that.
    That brings us to the conclusion that we have to prioritize and here you have a perfectly legitimate question, however insincere it might be (I don’t see you arguing very stongly for intervention in any of the other countries): Why Sudan? As with Iraq, supporters of intervention have probably lots of different reasons, some, I’m sure, more noble than others. Personally, I’d say it’s primarily a combination of 2 things:
    1) There’s a certain urgency to the problem (bad govenment, daily ethnic cleansing on a huge scale, that sort of thing).
    2) Like Iraq it’s closer to the center of the world. What happens in Sudan will have all other things equal a bigger impact on the rest of the world than, say, what happens in Sri Lanka.

    By the way, didn’t some UN social workers and UN soldiers get caught having sex with minors in Congo a couple of years ago (according to Human Rights Watch and/or Amnesty International and Doctors without Borders)? I think the UN is already doing what it can in Congo. Why would we need the help of Britain and America there?

  15. James says:

    John: “Can you come up with an example where Britain and America don’t share the same interests as Sudan? I can’t.”

    Me: How about our armed forces being asked to police yet another country? What about our troops being shot at, maimed, and killed? How about British and American tax-payers having to fund the whole enterprise? What about the fact that the Sudanese government would regard it as an incursion into their sovereign territory and (presumeably) fight back? That Britain and or America have different interests to the government in Khartoum should be bloody obvious.

    John: “You might say that it’s in the interest of Iran to support terrorists in Iraq. But I think we can both agree that it’s not in their “real” national interest which is to support democracy and western capitalism. What’s in any country’s “real” national interest is doing good.”

    Me: Yes, it’s in Iran and Sudan’s interests’ to be free-market democracies with the rule of law, but try telling that to the Mullahs in Tehran or the Islamist nutters in Khartoum. I think their conception of doing “good” around the world might be somewhat different to ours, no matter how much we wish it were otherwise. What matters is the world as it is, not how we wish it to be. And sadly, that means a world in which Iran does view it as in its national interest to support terrorists in Iraq. Your view is utopian because it takes no account of the different perspectives of non-westerners about what “doing good” in the world actually means.

    John: “What might be utopian is to suggest (as you seem to when you write: “all manner of countries could lay claim to our help”) that Britain and America could alone intervene in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Congo and Sri Lanka tomorrow with positive results. The people of Europe would probably rather die (after having declared atomic war on the US) than witness to see that.”

    Me: I think you misinterpret me; I’m not advocating that Britain and America intervene in all these places, and I don’t doubt the fuss that any such attempt would cause. I’m asking why Sudan gets preferential treatment over other, equally deserving trouble spots.

    John: “That brings us to the conclusion that we have to prioritize and here you have a perfectly legitimate question, however insincere it might be (I don’t see you arguing very stongly for intervention in any of the other countries): Why Sudan?”

    Me: Bizzare. If you read one of my earlier posts (the ninth from top) I think I make a fairly sincere case that Britain has a moral obligation to sort out the mess in Zimbabwe.

    John: “As with Iraq, supporters of intervention have probably lots of different reasons, some, I’m sure, more noble than others. Personally, I’d say it’s primarily a combination of 2 things:
    1) There’s a certain urgency to the problem (bad govenment, daily ethnic cleansing on a huge scale, that sort of thing).
    2) Like Iraq it’s closer to the center of the world. What happens in Sudan will have all other things equal a bigger impact on the rest of the world than, say, what happens in Sri Lanka.”

    Me: And there isn’t a certain urgency to the problem in Zimbabwe or Congo? In the latter, we’re looking at over 4.5 million dead in the last nine years. If that’s not urgent then what is?

    “Closer to the center of the world”?! So you mean the closer an event is to the Middle East (and the bulk of the worlds oil supplies) the more deserving it is of Western intervention? This seems a little cynical for someone I presume to be a liberal intervenetionist, so feel free to correct me on what you mean by this comment.

    John: “By the way, didn’t some UN social workers and UN soldiers get caught having sex with minors in Congo a couple of years ago (according to Human Rights Watch and/or Amnesty International and Doctors without Borders)? I think the UN is already doing what it can in Congo. Why would we need the help of Britain and America there?”

    Me: Think you just answered your own question there; either that or you’re being satirical. The UN is doing its own incompetent job in Congo, as judged by the continuing bloodshed there regardless of its presence. The UN was active in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, and were totally ineffective at curbing the violence in that country. U.S. military intervention was what bought the Serbs to heel. As a reader of this blog you’d probably agree that just because the UN is somewhere, that’s no guarantee of peace and goodwill breaking out anytime soon.

  16. James says:

    John: “Can you come up with an example where Britain and America don’t share the same interests as Sudan? I can’t.”

    Me: How about our armed forces being asked to police yet another country? What about our troops being shot at, maimed, and killed? How about British and American tax-payers having to fund the whole enterprise? What about the fact that the Sudanese government would regard it as an incursion into their sovereign territory and (presumeably) fight back? That Britain and or America have different interests to the government in Khartoum should be bloody obvious.

    John: “You might say that it’s in the interest of Iran to support terrorists in Iraq. But I think we can both agree that it’s not in their “real” national interest which is to support democracy and western capitalism. What’s in any country’s “real” national interest is doing good.”

    Me: Yes, it’s in Iran and Sudan’s interests’ to be free-market democracies with the rule of law, but try telling that to the Mullahs in Tehran or the Islamist nutters in Khartoum. I think their conception of doing “good” around the world might be somewhat different to ours, no matter how much we wish it were otherwise. What matters is the world as it is, not how we wish it to be. And sadly, that means a world in which Iran does view it as in its national interest to support terrorists in Iraq. Your view is utopian because it takes no account of the different perspectives of non-westerners about what “doing good” in the world actually means.

    John: “What might be utopian is to suggest (as you seem to when you write: “all manner of countries could lay claim to our help”) that Britain and America could alone intervene in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Congo and Sri Lanka tomorrow with positive results. The people of Europe would probably rather die (after having declared atomic war on the US) than witness to see that.”

    Me: I think you misinterpret me; I’m not advocating that Britain and America intervene in all these places, and I don’t doubt the fuss that any such attempt would cause. I’m asking why Sudan gets preferential treatment over other, equally deserving trouble spots.

    John: “That brings us to the conclusion that we have to prioritize and here you have a perfectly legitimate question, however insincere it might be (I don’t see you arguing very stongly for intervention in any of the other countries): Why Sudan?”

    Me: Bizzare. If you read one of my earlier posts (the ninth from top) I think I make a fairly sincere case that Britain has a moral obligation to sort out the mess in Zimbabwe.

    John: “As with Iraq, supporters of intervention have probably lots of different reasons, some, I’m sure, more noble than others. Personally, I’d say it’s primarily a combination of 2 things:
    1) There’s a certain urgency to the problem (bad govenment, daily ethnic cleansing on a huge scale, that sort of thing).
    2) Like Iraq it’s closer to the center of the world. What happens in Sudan will have all other things equal a bigger impact on the rest of the world than, say, what happens in Sri Lanka.”

    Me: And there isn’t a certain urgency to the problem in Zimbabwe or Congo? In the latter, we’re looking at over 4.5 million dead in the last nine years. If that’s not urgent then what is?

    “Closer to the center of the world”?! So you mean the closer an event is to the Middle East (and the bulk of the worlds oil supplies) the more deserving it is of Western intervention? This seems a little cynical for someone I presume to be a liberal intervenetionist, so feel free to correct me on what you mean by this comment.

    John: “By the way, didn’t some UN social workers and UN soldiers get caught having sex with minors in Congo a couple of years ago (according to Human Rights Watch and/or Amnesty International and Doctors without Borders)? I think the UN is already doing what it can in Congo. Why would we need the help of Britain and America there?”

    Me: Think you just answered your own question there; either that or you’re being satirical. The UN is doing its own incompetent job in Congo, as judged by the continuing bloodshed there regardless of its presence. The UN was active in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, and were totally ineffective at curbing the violence in that country. U.S. military intervention was what bought the Serbs to heel. As a reader of this blog you’d probably agree that just because the UN is somewhere, that’s no guarantee of peace and goodwill breaking out anytime soon.

  17. John says:

    James: ”
    “That Britain and or America have different interests to the government in Khartoum should be bloody obvious”

    and:
    “Yes, it’s in Iran and Sudan’s interests’ to be free-market democracies with the rule of law, but try telling that to the Mullahs in Tehran or the Islamist nutters in Khartoum.”

    Me: You seem to be contradictory here. As I wrote in my previous comment, one thing is what we normally regard to be in a nation’s interest, quite another is what’s in a nation’s “real” interest.
    When you write that “it’s in Iran and Sudan’s interests’ to be free-market democracies” you seem to agree with me that the US, Britain, Iran and Sudan all share the same “real” national interests.
    This is an important point when we want to define our moral values. Are/should our moral values be defined by our native land, tradition, the colour of our skin? or perhaps just what we “really” feel is right within ourselves (which is perhaps even the same thing for all human beings)?
    Now, do I want to “try telling that to the Mullahs”? Certainly, but I have no illusions about the effect of such an attempt. I fully recognize people’s need for national identity and tradition, however shallow I myself find such concepts as moral guidelines.

    James:
    “If you read one of my earlier posts (the ninth from top) I think I make a fairly sincere case that Britain has a moral obligation to sort out the mess in Zimbabwe.”

    Me: Granted, I guess your insincerety applies only to countries outside the British Empire.

    James:
    “”Closer to the center of the world”?! So you mean the closer an event is to the Middle East (and the bulk of the worlds oil supplies) the more deserving it is of Western intervention? This seems a little cynical for someone I presume to be a liberal intervenetionist …”

    Me: Did you just accuse me of being not only cynical but also not liberal? Well, thank you very much (and this time I’m not being satirical). If cynical means being willing to make cost-benefit analysis where many people’s lives are at stake, by all means, you can call me cynical. If cynical means coming to wrong/evil conclusions in such attempts, then I do not consider myself to be cynical.
    To me, the relevant questions are: Would intervention help more than hurt? And (if you have to pick your battles) where does it help the most?

    James:
    “As a reader of this blog you’d probably agree that just because the UN is somewhere, that’s no guarantee of peace and goodwill breaking out anytime soon.”

    Me: Sure, nor is the presence of the US and Britain a guarantee of anything.
    But as long as there’s a reasonable case that intervention might help, I think, at least, we should try.

  18. James says:

    John,

    Nope I’m not a moral relativist, and I expect we agree on that point. And like you, I’m under no illusion that the government in Khartoum shares “our” values. This seems the most telling point when considering the viability of Western armed intervention into Sudan.

    Your right – having friends from Zimbabwe, and being a subject of Her Majesty to boot, I guess you might say I’m somewhat biased. I expect Britain to pay closer attention to what goes on in Zimbabwe. Not only do we share a sliver of common history, but alas British governments past and present share a degree of the blame for the tragedy in that country. I expect Britain to take a greater interest in Zimbabwe than other nations would, just as I would expect the French to take a greater interest in the affairs of say, Senegal, than the British.

  19. James says:

    John,

    Nope I’m not a moral relativist, and I expect we agree on that point. And like you, I’m under no illusion that the government in Khartoum shares “our” values. This seems the most telling point when considering the viability of Western armed intervention into Sudan.

    Your right – having friends from Zimbabwe, and being a subject of Her Majesty to boot, I guess you might say I’m somewhat biased. I expect Britain to pay closer attention to what goes on in Zimbabwe. Not only do we share a sliver of common history, but alas British governments past and present share a degree of the blame for the tragedy in that country. I expect Britain to take a greater interest in Zimbabwe than other nations would, just as I would expect the French to take a greater interest in the affairs of say, Senegal, than the British.

  20. John says:

    James:
    “And like you, I’m under no illusion that the government in Khartoum shares “our” values.”

    Me: When you write that “it’s in Iran and Sudan’s interests’ to be free-market democracies”, what then did you mean by that?
    Muslim moderate people have proved that they can be just as capitalist as us. Why then should Iran and/or Sudan not eventually (maybe 200-300 years, maybe much later) become capitalist?

  21. James says:

    When I wrote that it’s in Iran and Sudan’s interests to be free market democracies, I meant that WE know it’s in their interests, and indeed many within those countries may know it as well. But that doesn’t mean their leaders do. The basis of the Islamic regime in Iran is a rejection of Western secular values; I don’t know much about the regime in Sudan, but given its Islamic flavour I’d be prepared to bet that freedom of speech and rational inquiry doesn’t enjoy great protection there either.

    The leaders of Iran and Sudan are backward and cruel; but my world view says that even if we know it’s in these countries best interests to be capitalist, secular societies, governed by an impartial rule of law, we have to work with the fact that our (correct) view is not unfortunantly shared by these nations current rulers. Who knows, maybe in 200-300 years time they will have fully embraced our Western notions of liberty. But right now, they won’t, and this is the root of their governments’ hostility towards us, and why regime change and intervening in these countries is so darn’ tricky.

  22. James says:

    When I wrote that it’s in Iran and Sudan’s interests to be free market democracies, I meant that WE know it’s in their interests, and indeed many within those countries may know it as well. But that doesn’t mean their leaders do. The basis of the Islamic regime in Iran is a rejection of Western secular values; I don’t know much about the regime in Sudan, but given its Islamic flavour I’d be prepared to bet that freedom of speech and rational inquiry doesn’t enjoy great protection there either.

    The leaders of Iran and Sudan are backward and cruel; but my world view says that even if we know it’s in these countries best interests to be capitalist, secular societies, governed by an impartial rule of law, we have to work with the fact that our (correct) view is not unfortunantly shared by these nations current rulers. Who knows, maybe in 200-300 years time they will have fully embraced our Western notions of liberty. But right now, they won’t, and this is the root of their governments’ hostility towards us, and why regime change and intervening in these countries is so darn’ tricky.

  23. John says:

    James:
    “Who knows, maybe in 200-300 years time they will have fully embraced our Western notions of liberty. But right now, they won’t, and this is the root of their governments’ hostility towards us, and why regime change and intervening in these countries is so darn’ tricky.”

    Me: This I agree with almost entirely. This part perhaps not:
    “But right now, they won’t,…”.

    On the one hand maybe you’re right, on the other hand maybe setting an example by ending ethnic cleansing would push Sudan in the right direction (especially if there were a big international coalition), and even if not, we would have still ended ethnic cleansing.

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