WHAT TO DO ABOUT DARFUR?….I had lunch with Ezra Klein yesterday and he urged me to write more about the genocide in Darfur. I haven’t done so since last summer, and unfortunately there’s a reason for that: I don’t really know what to say.

Like any geopolitical crisis, Darfur is complex. But at the risk of simplifying to the point of incoherence, there are really only two options on the table:

  1. Allow the African Union to take the military lead and provide them with money and logistical support. As far as I can tell, this is just wishful thinking. The AU has never been effective at much of anything, it’s riven by internal politics, and all the money and materiel in the world won’t change that in the short term. There may be some pressure points here that I’m missing, but relying on the AU strikes me as little more than an excuse to sound virtuous while doing nothing.

  2. Send in western troops. But whose? Both America and Britain are tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan. NATO’s deployable troops are largely committed to Afghanistan. France, which has both bases and (a small number of) troops in central Africa, has shown little interest in using them.

    This is not a trivial problem. “Troops” and “deployable troops” are not the same thing, and very few countries aside from the U.S. and (to a smaller extent) Britain have troops in any significant numbers that they can deploy overseas. This year-old article by David Englin outlines the military situation, and although military intervention is indeed doable, my guess is that a successful intervention would require a serious commitment to local air superiority plus a minimum of three or four divisions of combat troops with rules of engagement sufficiently robust to allow them to stop the Janjaweed slaughter. Make no mistake: this would basically be a declaration of war against Sudan.

I’m open to arguments that I’m wrong. Maybe there’s some way the AU can be made effective. (Their recent decison to expand their peacekeeping force is encouraging, but unless they’re also willing to start fighting and stop “monitoring,” it probably doesn’t mean much.) Maybe a small scale Western intervention could be effective ? although our experience in Iraq doesn’t make me hopeful on that score. Maybe the Sudanese government would back down if it ever became clear that the West was serious about intervening.

But hope is not a plan, and right now it strikes me that the only realistic option for stopping the genocide is to be prepared for a full-scale invasion and long-term occupation of Sudan. I could probably be talked into that if someone presented a serious military plan showing where the troops would come from and how they’d get there, but I haven’t seen it yet.

In the meantime, the Darfur Accountability Act is worthy of support, and it’s to President Bush’s shame that he’s quietly tried to kill it ? especially if it’s because he’s already decided that stopping genocide is less important than a short term intelligence partnership with Khartoum. It’s not likely that the DAA would stop the slaughter, but it would probably slow it down. That’s worthwhile all by itself.