Thursday, October 22, 2009

The New Obama-Biden Darfur Policy: Is It Hope Wrapped in Danger or Danger Wrapped in Hope?

Rebel and Sudan government forces have been massing in Sudan's Darfur region, raising fears of new violence, peacekeepers said a day after the United States demanded concrete moves towards peace in the territory. Reuters, 10-20-09

More than 70 shoeless students - some in socks, others in pedicure flip-flops, and about two dozen flaunting nothing but the soles of their feet - walked through the halls of Solomon Schechter High School of Long Island Wednesday to help raise awareness about genocide and displacement in Darfur. Newsday, 10-21-09

The New Obama-Biden Darfur Policy: Is It Hope Wrapped in Danger or Danger Wrapped in Hope?

By Richard Power

So what do I have to say about the new policy of the Obama-Biden administration as announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this week?

Honestly, it is difficult for me to get past the invasion and occupation of Iraq when listening to Hillary Clinton.

She voted for that foolish military adventure without equivocation. She has not shown the least repentance, nor has she experienced any real accountability.

I knew better, and said so, prior to the invasion, and I was operating entirely on open source intelligence. And think about the ability to discern truth-telling and grasp of reality in others? Paul Wolfowitz is telling you one thing, and Hans Blix is telling you the opposite; whose side of that argument do you end up on? Seriously? And that was the sum of it all prior to the invasion.

To say she was deceived or somehow simply mistaken is to insult her intelligence. To say she voted for it for as political cover (at that time, it was the safe vote) is to insult her character. I do not want to insult either. I am for her, and I want to see her in a different light. But it is going to take something spectacular to bring me to that place.

So having her present this new policy does not give me a good feeling. I would have been more comfortable hearing it from Susan Rice or Samantha Power. (Or were either one or both of them on the losing side of the reportedly intense internal debate that led to the new policy's formulation?)

And then there is Special Envoy Scott Gration. (See Darfur Crisis: Why has the Obama-Biden Administration Put Pollyana in Charge of US Policy on Darfur?) I have no doubt he has excellent credentials, but his public utterances in recent weeks have been, well, buffoonish; and I have no idea why someone who appears to be a Pollyana has been appointed to this vital position.

But putting my lack of confidence in these two personalities aside, what about the new policy itself?

I will hold my tongue -- for now. I want to be proven wrong.

I will defer to those whose work I respect, and who have direct experience and hands-on expertise.

Mia Farrow is currently posting from Gaza on that humanitarian crisis, and has yet to comment personally.

Eric Reeves has not weighed in yet.

But John Prendergast of the Enough Project has offered his insights, and like Farrow and Reeves, I value his practical view and trust his comprehension of the challenge that the Darfur Crisis epitomizes.

So here is the summary of his commentary, with a link to the full text:

The Principal Danger
Crafting a sensible policy approach on paper is a necessary but insufficient step. The conduct of the administration’s Sudan policy has been deeply troubled to date. The day-to-day diplomacy has often been ill-disciplined and created considerable confusion among key actors as pressing timeliness loom and major components of core agreements remain largely unimplemented. At best, the completed policy review is a chance to start anew, and get the policy and diplomacy back on track. At worst, it is an effort to rhetorically paper over an issue that has been treated as a fairly low foreign policy priority by the administration.
Allowing the status quo in Sudan to continue is a recipe for a return to war between the North and the South. If the Obama administration doesn’t build a multilateral coalition around this policy, doesn’t recognize the dangers of the increasing attacks in the South and the NCP’s hidden hand in sowing instability in the South in advance of the referendum, and is not willing to utilize multilateral and unilateral pressures (which have a history of working) early enough to make a difference, nation-wide war will be inevitable. U.S. policy objectives, so sensible on paper, will go up in smoke as Sudan burns again.
THE NEW U.S. POLICY IN SUDAN, Enough Project, 10-19-09

As always, I encourage you to follow events in Darfur on Mia Farrow's site, it is the real-time journal of a humanitarian at work; the content is compelling, insightful and fiercely independent.

For an archive of Words of Power posts on the Crisis in Darfur, click here.

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

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