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A plan for Darfur?

Over at There is No Plan, Simon Gornick has, well, a “plan” for addressing the Darfur crisis. He writes:

As the State Department looks to recalibrate our relationship with China – and stop them loading the dice in their favor, this Al-Bashir moment might just give us the focus we need. As mentioned on this blog a number of times, China is our number one adversary, and we need a much more forthright policy that emphasizes what America needs out of the relationship rather than merely what China can offer us. A big part of the problem we face with Beijing is China’s virtual invasion of Africa which has gone on uncontested for far too long. It’s time to shine some light on it, challenge it, and most importantly do what should have been done years ago – use US military forces to stop the genocide in Darfur.

The first thing that many people will say is that US forces are overextended, but if we had a draw-down of 100,000 troops from Iraq, we could spare at least a couple of light combat brigades for deployment to Darfur as the core of an international coalition strike force. As for US air support, we have a major base in Djibouti, and could easily augment its contribution with at least one aircraft carrier. The Janjaweed on their horses and Toyota pickups would either be smart and bail, or would be foolish and get wiped out in a few serious confrontations, then get smart and bail. We’d impose a cordon which in a matter of months would be handed over to a strong and committed OAS and UN combined force (under the watchful eye of a remaining US and coalition contingent).

Of course, China won’t like the idea of all this one bit, which is a damn good reason to consider it. Now is the time to go to the Security Council and build a coalition to end the Darfur nightmare for once and for all. Of course America would appeal to China to join such a mission and that would put Beijing in an intolerable position. Do they veto a humanitarian mission or join it? Do they abstain and reduce their influence? Or do they aggressively seek to protect their resource grab in Sudan, even as a force is being put together purely for humanitarian reasons.

At the same time as the Chinese fret, the US would boost intellligent and targeted aid to key African countries, mainly in the form of microloans and other support for local private enterprise. We’ll engage with nations that so far have seen very little of us, and way too much of the Chinese, and earn their loyalty and respect as part of a worldwide push to rebuild American power through friendship and largesse. With the help of a President whose father was Kenyan, we have the leader we need to help make that a reality.

In many respects, a push on Darfur would be an aggressive move by the US. But there’s a genuine humanitarian reason to move forward which provides the moral basis and the political cover, as well an opportunity to act in the shape of the ICC indictment of Bashir. Not only that, but the US draw-down in Iraq would free up forces for a Darfur mission. French and British support would be almost guaranteed, Russian support would be likely too. After all, there’s little love lost between Moscow and Beijing, and the US is working on a stronger, more symbiotic relationship with the Russians. That would leave China in a jam, and turn a great big Kleig light on their under the table African colonialism.

It just might be different enough to work– recruit the Chinese to join a UN operation in Sudan.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.