A (Military) Plan for Darfur?

Darfur activists are getting more muscular in their prescriptions for ending the genocide in Sudan. In a March 13 column, Nicholas Kristof documented this new zeitgeist. Assuming that such activists are well represented among Kristof readers, and judging by the feedback he received, it seems the lack of progress toward peace in Sudan has made Darfur watchers downright hawkish:

Six weeks ago, I invited readers to send in their own suggestions for what we should do about Darfur, and the result was a deluge of proposals from all over the world.

The common thread was a far more muscular approach. Several readers suggested that we should dispatch a private force — supplied by a military contractor like Blackwater USA — to fight the janjaweed militia.

Many readers also recommended that we supply arms to Darfur refugees or rebel groups. Some people suggested that we blockade Port Sudan, through which Sudan exports oil.

Many also wanted a much tougher approach toward China, which has protected Sudan diplomatically. Some advocated a boycott of all Chinese products, while others favor a boycott of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Kristof himself was less than enthusiastic about the more hawkish of these approaches. But recent news and commentary on the crisis confirms the trend among Darfur activists toward entertaining hard-power solutions, or at least the more confrontational options among soft-power solutions, such as tough economic sanctions.

Even Angelina Jolie has written of Darfur that “Ending it may well require military action.” Tony Blair came out this week in support of a no-fly zone, backed up by the threat of bombing.

And today, the Enough Project, a joint initiative of the left-leaning Center for American Progress and the International Crisis Group, released what is billed as a “comprehensive strategy” for ending the genocide in Darfur.

The group’s six-point plan includes the following measures: 1. support rebel unity; 2. build an effective peace process; 3. secure full-time, high-level U.S. diplomacy; 4. accelerate military planning and action for protection; 5. impose punitive measures now; and 6. ramp up global citizen activism.

The Enough Project advocates bolstering UN and AU peacekeeping forces, but also tentatively endorses “coercive” military means (“with the understanding that any action would at least seek U.N. Security Council approval and only act in its absence if the situation deteriorated dramatically and all other avenues had been explored”). The two coercive measures the project’s report entertains are a no-fly zone and even “non-consensual force deployment.” Of the latter, the report says:

although few nations are likely to volunteer in the present context, if the situation dramatically deteriorates in Darfur (large-scale pullout of aid agencies, increasing attacks on camps or AU forces, etc.), the debate could shift quickly and credible plans need to be in place to move troops into the theater of war quickly with a primary focus on protecting vulnerable civilian populations.

In the report’s section on punitive measures, the Enough Project criticizes the Bush administration’s actions so far on Darfur in a tone that is more neocon than liberal internationalist:

without a clear strategy of rapidly escalating pressure through a variety of economic and legal measures (which aim cumulatively for a political impact in the form of policy change in Khartoum), the deadly status quo will no doubt prevail.

It is crucial that the existing policy of gentle persuasion using all carrots and no sticks be reversed and repudiated with the utmost clarity and haste. Until now, the international community spells out an objective and tells Khartoum (and the rebels) that if there is no compliance there will be “consequences.” It is time to clearly define and impose those “consequences,” and lift them only when there is full compliance with the objective. It is a simple but powerful paradigm shift that will finally provide the international community with the leverage it lacks to press forward with the peace and protection agenda.

We haven’t read the Center for American Progress’s position papers on Iran or North Korea, for example, or even on Iraq circa 2003. But it’s a good bet they reflect less confidence in the effectiveness and wisdom of using military power than the Enough Project’s report does.

On the flip side, we haven’t seen many of those who advocated the invasion of Iraq on humanitarian grounds calling for military intervention in Darfur (Christopher Hitchens excepted).

Tony Blair once called such Clinton-era military adventures as Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, and Yugoslavia “progressive” wars. Is the use of military power more justified when the purpose is a humanitarian one rather than the defense of selfish national interest? And how should the national interest be defined in this context?

As the United States and the world begins to think about foreign policy and international relations post-Bush, these are questions well worth pondering.