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Enabling Genocide

A little while ago, David Anderson posted about the slaughter going on in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Muslim militias called “Janjaweed” are slaughtering non-Muslim blacks by the thousands. He was asking just when the U.S. would intervene.

I answered him, and I’m not proud of that answer. I’ve thought it over and over since I first answered him, and if anything, I believe in the accuracy of that answer more than ever. Reality can suck some times.

Let’s just work out just what would be needed for us to “stop the genocide” going on in Darfur. First, let’s look at the situation as it exists right now. You have armed, non-uniformed groups going into remote villages and committing mass mayhem, backed by the tacit assistance of the government. You have poorly-armed and unarmed villagers whose choices in responding to these attacks are “flee” and “die.” And you have neighbors who are unwilling to intervene, unwilling to intervene, or both. You also have a large contingent of other nations who share the oppressor’s Muslim religion and culture who are blocking any meaningful action at the United Nations.

(Yes, I know that last clause is an oxymoron. Bear with me; I’m trying to make some points.)

So we have a situation where we can pretty much forget about support from the United Nations, the local government, or neighboring countries while we act. That means we will have to deal with issues as accusations of unilateralism, a well-backed local “resistance,” and very long and vulnerable supply lines. Those are three major obstacles that must be addressed before we get one single troop on the ground.

Let’s presume we can overcome those issues. So far, rough estimates say that between 50,000 and 100,000 people have been killed in Darfur so far. I know very little about military logistics and deployments, but let me pull a number out of thin air and say it will take between 10,000 and 20,000 troops on the ground to have any meaningful effect towards stopping the slaughter. Between the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, Haiti, and God knows where else, I don’t know where we will find those troops. We’re already stretched razor-thin, and the repeated extensions on the tours of National Guard and Reserves is hurting morale tremendously.

But let’s presume we find them, without crippling our efforts in other places and driving a stake through the morale of our people in uniform. We send them in, and we find ways to keep them supplied with food, water, medicine, ammunition, equipment, reinforcements, and whatever else they will need. Here’s where it gets really ugly.

These troops will not be going in as “peacekeepers.” There is no peace to keep. They’re going in as peace MAKERS. Their mission will to be instantly assert that they are the baddest asses in the neighborhood, and things WILL be done their way or the wrath of God (or the wrath of the United States Armed Forces, the next closest thing) will come down. This will not be pretty. There will be many “skirmishes,” many “battles,” and many other things that translate into dead bodies. Piles of dead bodies. Piles of dead African bodies, killed by Americans.

And since the dead bodies will be belonging to African Muslims, if Iraq and Afghanistan are of any predictive value, the fighting will draw in other anti-American Muslims from surrounding nations. Sudan borders Egypt (with rising anti-American sentiment), Libya (who has recently “seen the light” and is trying to distance itself from it’s terrorist past, but still has a huge anti-American element), Chad (51% Muslim), Kenya (where Al Qaeda blew up our embassy), Eritrea (heavily Muslim), Ethiopia (45-50% Muslim), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (torn by civil war, which spills over into Chad, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, among others), and has access to the Red Sea.

And let’s not forget that we have no real interests in Sudan apart from humanitarian. I hate to sound so cold and mercenary, but we have no major economic, historic, or security ties to that region. It’s hard to get the American people involved in a cause that doesn’t hit them where they live, and western Sudan just doesn’t have any real relevance to the vast majority of Americans.

But let’s assume we get past all THAT. There’s still one last thing we need to successfully intervene and stop the genocide in Darfur, and it’s the most important of all.

We need the WILL to do so.

We need the determination to overcome all the above obstacles and persevere anyway. We need to be willing to stand up to these murderous, genocidal thugs and tell them to stop. And when they refuse, we need to back up our words with actions.

No, that’s too soft, too smooth, too bland. I can’t sugarcoat the reality of the situation. We need the willpower to back up our words with piles of dead bodies. We have to be ready to kill black and Arabic Sudanese by the dozens, the hundreds, by the thousands, by the tens of thousands if need be, if they will not stop killing and raping and terrorizing the people of the Darfur region. We need to pile on more and more death and destruction until they either finally realize that we will NOT let them continue their rampage, or there aren’t enough left of them to continue it.

It’s a huge price to pay. I can only imagine the toll it will take on the souls of our troops who will have to fill all those body bags. Such a campaign would quite likely make the post-traumatic stress syndrome our Vietnam veterans suffered look like a couple bad boogeyman dreams.

Genocide is never undertaken lightly. It takes great passion and determination to carry out. And it takes even greater will to stop it. We’ve only done it once, in World War II, and even then we had to be dragged into the fight. We did the right thing, but it was at a terrible cost. The only thing more damaging would have to have not done anything.

And that’s why I don’t think the United States will intervene in Darfur.

This is probably the ugliest and most difficult piece I’ve ever written. I wish to hell there was a way we would stop the slaughter in Darfur. But I just don’t think it’s going to happen through military intervention. And the United Nations is in no position to offer any other alternatives.

Like I told David, thoughts like these sometimes keep me from sleeping well at night. But I swore long ago that of all the mistakes I could make in life, I would do everything I could to avoid self-deception. That’s how I see the situation, and I can’t just wish it differently. The slaughter is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

I consider myself a “born-again agnostic,” but situations like the genocide in Darfur make me wonder. I think we’re making our own version of Hell right here on Earth.


(Author's note: Much of the information above about Sudan and it's neighbors was take from the excellent CIA World Factbook, and particulars about the genocide in Darfur was taken from the site David cited in his piece at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Enabling Genocide:

» Whatsakyer? Animal? Vegetable? Mineral? linked with Acknowledging genocide...& having the willpower...

» In Search of Utopia linked with Sabre Rattling, or Prelude to War?

» Acorns from an Okie linked with Never Again (part 38)

» Winds of Change.NET linked with Achilles Last Stand: The Primal Heroic Response

Comments (10)

Good piece JT. I will addre... (Below threshold)

Good piece JT. I will address it on my Blog latter, but I understand your points. For now I will just say that there are other actions besides military invasion, one may just be the THREAT of invasion. Believe me, the Sudanese government has watched what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to use an old ghetto term, "They dont want none." I believe that all it might take is the idea that America will invade to stop this. In the meantime, doing nothing is NOT the answer. And there is one part of your post that I dissagree strongly with. I believe there are a LOT of Americans, including the vast majority of Black and Jewish Americans who do feel strongly that something needs to be done. We swore after Rwanda that we would not let this happen again, and yet here we are allowing it to happen again.

Thanks for the kind words, ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Thanks for the kind words, David. (And all of you saying "get a room," shove it.) But I would be very concerned about using "the threat of invasion." Bluffing in international affairs is an incredibly dangerous thing. We should absolutely never threaten to do something unless we are damn ready to carry it out.
And as far as the vast numbers of Americans "who do feel strongly that something needs to be done," I agree. But I don't think strongly enough to overcome what I cited above. We swore those oaths after World War II, and that didn't do any good in Cambodia, Rwanda, and barely did anything in the Balkans.
Until we're ready and willing to serve as the world's policeman, the rest of the world's opinions be damned, it's gonna happen. And we're already getting tremendous amounts of flak from around the world for what little steps towards Globocop we've taken so far.


Two points, one in response... (Below threshold)

Two points, one in response to each of your comments:

1) David, I'm not sure I agree with your assertion that there are a significant number of Americans who think we should send troops to Sudan, or take any action other than diplomatic. I haven't run across any folks around where I live here in Virginia who spend even a tiny bit of time out of their day thinking about Sudan. I spent last week in my hometown in Texas, and I guarantee that folks there don't give a tinker's dam about Sudan. I'll admit that I don't have a contact with a significant percentage of almost 300 million Americans, but neither do you, David.

Bottom line for me: I don't see any desire among a significant percentage of Americans to send troops to Sudan.

2) Jay Tea (and David, since you're the one who actually brought it up), you're right on in your assertion that a threat is meaningless unless you're willing to follow through. Otherwise, the first time your threat doesn't yield the desired result, any future threats of force will be ignored.

This is why I feel that Senator Kerry further revealed his loyalty to nothing beyond himself when he stated that when he voted to authorize sending troops to Iraq, he was only voting to threaten to send troops. This is idiocy, but egotistical idiocy. And not very bright, I might add. While Kerry may be extremely intelligent, comments such as this reveal his loose association with the reality most of us deal with every day.

At any rate, Jay is right. The US isn't going to lift a finger to stop the genocide in Sudan.

Says a lot about the lie th... (Below threshold)

Says a lot about the lie that we went into Iraq to stop a madman who was murdering his own people doesnt it.

I don't see the demand fro... (Below threshold)

I don't see the demand from the majority, or even a significant minority, of Americans for a boots on the ground invasion. Invasion is not the only military option, though.
I would submit, however, that there are ways to make the genocide so expensive to Khartoum that they would themselves put a stop to it.
I understand that the Sudanese government spent a fortune on Mig 29s, fancy air defense radars and those Russian Hind Helos. How about cruise missile and steath bomber attacks on their airbases and radar sites?
We could then get some use out of those B-1 Bone bomber squadrons we have sitting around with no particular mission. How about a squadron of B-1s going over khartoum at about 500 feet over the highest point at about Mach 1.5? (Buy some stock in the glass companies the day before) Conventional bombs wouldn't be neccessary, fill the bomb bays with leaflets in whatever language they speak saying Don't make me come back here! Since leaflets don't take up a lot of space in a bomb bay, fill them up with stink bombs and itching powder. Have some more leaflets saying something to the effect of do you know what we could have dropped?
The next day, have Colin Powell call the Sudanese Ambassador to his office and explain that if the genocide doesn't stop, Khartoum will be a series of smoking holes.
It could work. If not, we've plenty of bombs.

Just a few problems with yo... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Just a few problems with your ideas, Peter. For one, we DON'T have plenty of bombs -- we used a LOT of them in Afghanistan and Iraq. Second, where will the planes stage out of, and who will give us permission to fly over their airspace to get there? Yeah, maybe we can fly out of Diego Garcia and stay over the ocean until we reach the Sudanese coast, but that's still a haul and a half.

Second, see above about threats. We better not do what you suggest until we're ready to actually come back with those bombs and drop them.

Third, there's a tactical problem with what you suggest. YOu talk about blowing up their high-tech military hardware to keep them from committing genocide. They aren't USING that hardware for htat purpose, and it isn't the government/military per se that's doing the killing. All you will be doing is causing problems for those who are supporting (or, at least, tacitly allowing) the killing to continue. That might eventually put a crimp in the killers' plans, but does nothing in the short term.

Finally, we've tried that approach before and it didn't work. When Al Qaeda blew up our embassies, when they nearly sank the Cole, Clinton fired off a bunch of cruise missiles and said nasty things. One September morning three years ago we saw just how intimidated they were by THAT show of force.

The only thing that has consistently worked has been troops on the ground, in their faces, heavily armed and ready to fight and kill. That's what is needed in Sudan, and that's what ain't gonna happen.


First of all, what is happe... (Below threshold)

First of all, what is happening in the Darfur region is not new. Many are in neighboring country Chad. Angelina Jolie, Doctors without Borders, Colin Powell and Kopi Annan have been there. Then they had an interview on TV with whomever is in charge over there and he said they did not need help, no one is welcome there, he wants no one in his country from another country, says genocide is not happening. Because he is in charge of that country and does not welcome anyone to come help, the UN, along with the US etc, put sanctions on the country and told them they had to meet this criteria by a certain time. They did not like this so are arming themselves even more and whatnot. The UN has asked the US if they would please take on this mission to stop the militia from wiping out these people, and do what the US does when a people are in need. But without the support of the leader, if we went in, it would be like a pre-emptive strike to help these people and the refugees that made it over to the border to Chad. So now the militia and the leader of that country are preparing themselves for war against the US if they should come in to help these people and get the militia who are killing them. Right now, they are working through political lines. How come it took so long for you guys to even notice this story?? I've known about it for months. Anybody ever watch the NEWS anymore on TV???

Jay, I never said they wer... (Below threshold)

Jay, I never said they were using their new high tech toys for the slaughter. I said that destroying those toys would make it too expensive to continue with the low tech slaughter. Nobody will stop anything in Darfur but the Sudanese themselves. The only way to get them to stop it is to make it too expensive for them to continue.
We can't fight the Janjaweed where they are. There's simply no good way to get supplies to the troops required. Therefore, if we are to do anything it's got to be against those ordering the killing. Those people aren't in Darfur, theyre in Khartoum, Port Sudan and Omdurman. We can reach them. Winnow out the impossible and we're left with the merely difficult. The only precision weaponry needed would be to take down the air defense. After that, dumb bombs would do just fine. We can build dumb bombs just as fast as we need to.
It might not work. If it didn't work at least we'd have the satisfaction of killing the SOBs giving the orders. Beats standing around with our dicks in our hands.

A small correction to your ... (Below threshold)

A small correction to your post, please:

The Janjaweed are going after Blacks, whether or not they're Muslim. Many of their targets are themselves Muslim. Many are Christian and animist.

This is plain old racism: "We don't like your skin color".

I think Jay pretty well sum... (Below threshold)

I think Jay pretty well sums up the options. Well written, Jay. And yeah - it does suck. And it does keep one awake at night.






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