February 12, 2008

The Tragedy that is Darfur. When Will the US Intervene?

By Matthew Herlihy. The following is an editorial for the general public. [Pol 301D, Spring 2008].

The War in Darfur, also known as the Darfur Genocide, is a battle that has been ravaging the western region of Sudan since 2003. Yet, for some reason, the citizens of the United States have not learned as much on this genocide as I think is necessary. It has been the habit of our government to engage in global endeavors to police our globe, to control genocidal acts in essence, but, still, the United States has no involvement in the growing problem that is plaguing the African continent. Civil wars are not uncommon to the continent; however genocide, considered a heinous war crime, is is an evil that must be tamed.

One side of this armed conflict is the Janjaweed, a group formed mostly of Sudanese military. The Janjaweed is a group based around the religion of Islam and shuns those who do not believe in the Islamic ways. Since 2003 they have been fighting with several rebel groups, primarily the Sudan Liberation Movement among others, all comprised of non-Arab persons. Statistics vary vastly on the number of deaths that have occurred from 2003 to now, but the majority of experts, including the United Nations, estimate that “as many as 200,000 are dead”(Q&A: Sudan’s Darfur Conflict, BBC News), and quite possibly many more. The United Nations however does not mark this conflict as genocide, whereas the United States has classified it as such.

How could this happen, some people will ask; how is it possible that such a terrible war can fly so easily under the American radar? Well, the United States still remains a part of the United Nations and therefore acts in compliance with the U.N. in efforts to relieve the situation of some of the tension. The roots of the War in Darfur though lie in the government. Rebel forces, in addition to enormous overpopulation and what is called “desertification”, or more simply put, the loss of serviceable crop land, have claimed that the government was favoring Arab Africans over black Africans. This type of sentiment led to various rebel groups forming, all with different leaders and different agendas, but all with the same general intent of overthrowing the government.

So what is the issue really, this is nothing more then a civil war it would seem on the surface, but in reality, it is the civilians of this region that are hurt the most. According to a November 15, 2007 article on bbc.com women have reported being held captive by the Janjaweed and used as sex slaves, citing the proclamation by the U.N. that war crimes are being committed with regularity inside Darfur. This however, is just the beginning of the vast troubles for the Darfur natives.

Refugees are what many Darfur natives have become, with millions displaced. In the same BBC article the author states, “millions have fled their destroyed villages, with some two million people in camps near Darfur’s main towns.”(Q&A: Sudan’s Darfur Conflict, BBC News). These camps though are hotspots for Janjaweed as they patrol the outskirts, and natives state that upon venturing too far from town “the men are killed and the women are raped,”(Q&A: Sudan’s Darfur Conflict, BBC News). Darfur remains an extremely hostile territory and at the present time it is difficult for aide groups to lend a helping hand, further disadvantaging the refugees from a stable form of life.

Unfortunately there is not much that can be done to stop such a large group of people who do not desire peace. If peace were something that most of these rebel parties thirsted for this conflict would have expired long ago, but this is not the case. The blood thirst that has become Darfur will continue until one of several things happen. First and foremost, all parties involved need to have a working ceasefire and pick up peace talks that were held in Nigeria without much, if any success. Secondly, despite the denial of western help by the Sudan, it is the responsibility of the United States and more importantly the United Nations to act swiftly and decisively in order to isolate these rebel groups and control them, most likely though having to be done with an insurgence of U.N. troops.

The Darfur conflict is a gripping dilemma and one without a clear cut solution presently, but a situation that without an evident ending can only lead to long civil war and unrest for the civilians of Darfur. I wrote this article in order to educate at the most basic level those who remain unaware of the trials that these refugees face at all times. If it has become the job of the United States to act as the policeman to the world, there is not a better time to live up to this role than this one. The involvement of the United States in Darfur should be a case of when, not if, and it seems appropriately so.


Pacer said...

During President Clinton's term, the Rwanda genocide took place, and the US didn't do anything. The world world, for that matter, didn't intervene to stop the slaughter of 800,000 people who were killed within a month or so!

Why do you think the US will intervene this time? Is there any serious movement in that direction?

Anonymous said...

I do not necessarily believe that the United States will in fact intervene, it is simply my desire for them to take such action. By failing to do so the United States shows a tolerance for war crimes that happen in countries without immediate financial benefit to ourselves. The second part of your question is unfortunately without a long answer. The United states does not deviate from UN policy n circumstances like this and instead uses this shield to justify the lack of action.

Demos said...

I'm afraid you're right. Another ill-effect of a wasteful foreign policy that includes the Iraq war.

The US, I believe, has much to gain by helping people in need--and definitely help stop genocide--because this is good leadership, it buys good will and it gets us on a higher moral ground.

In the long term, by helping others we help ourselves too. And, actually, it's not all that expensive given the size of our economy. Norway, spends 87 cents for every $100 of their GDP; the US about 17 cents.

The latest post mentions the costs of being such a militaristic society, which, I agree, is not only tremendous but it's not a good value either.

For a fraction of the $2.5 trillion (Nobel Prize winner economist Striglitz's estimate) we could have done lots more good domestically and internationally than wasting it on the Iraq war.

Thanks for commenting.