In IS 302 today, we viewed the first 2/3 of the PBS documentary, Worse than War, based on the work of genocide (note: not genocidal) scholar Daniel Goldhagen , who is probably known best for his book Hitler’s Willing Executioners. Many of the issues raised by Goldhagen in the documentary were relevant to the readings of this week by Kaldor, et al.
A couple of weeks ago we watched the National Film Board of Canada documentary film, The Peacekeepers, in introduction to IR. It was a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the enterprise of UN peacekeeping operations, demonstrating the successes and failures of the UN in attempting to create and keep the pace amongst Congo’s warring factions. We saw the clash between realist views of international sovereignty, security, and power and the liberal ideal of multinational cooperation. The New York Times reports today on the potential failure of a relatively new UN peacekeeping operation before it has even started. Those who have been following the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan know that it has taken four years to get a UN peacekeeping force on the ground. It may already be doomed to failure. It is uncanny how much of this report sounds like it was taken directly from the documentary about Sudan.
ABU SUROUJ, Sudan — As Darfur smolders in the aftermath of a new government offensive, a long-sought peacekeeping force, expected to be the world’s largest, is in danger of failing even as it begins its mission because of bureaucratic delays, stonewalling by Sudan’s government and reluctance from troop-contributing countries to send peacekeeping forces into an active conflict.
The force, a joint mission of the African Union and the United Nations, officially took over from an overstretched and exhausted African Union force in Darfur on Jan. 1. It now has just over 9,000 of an expected 26,000 soldiers and police officers and will not fully deploy until the end of the year, United Nations officials said.
Even the troops that are in place, the old African Union force and two new battalions, lack essential equipment, like sufficient armored personnel carriers and helicopters, to carry out even the most rudimentary of peacekeeping tasks. Some even had to buy their own paint to turn their green helmets United Nations blue, peacekeepers here said.
The peacekeepers’ work is more essential than ever. At least 30,000 people were displaced last month as the government and its allied militias fought to retake territory held by rebel groups fighting in the region, according to United Nations human rights officials.
The New York Times reports that the notorious Janjaweed militia is once again active in Darfur.
Photo: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
SULEIA, Sudan — The janjaweed are back.
They came to this dusty town in the Darfur region of Sudan on horses and camels on market day. Almost everybody was in the bustling square. At the first clatter of automatic gunfire, everyone ran.
The militiamen laid waste to the town — burning huts, pillaging shops, carrying off any loot they could find and shooting anyone who stood in their way, residents said. Asha Abdullah Abakar, wizened and twice widowed, described how she hid in a hut, praying it would not be set on fire.
“I have never been so afraid,” she said.
The attacks by the janjaweed, the fearsome Arab militias that came three weeks ago,, were a return to the tactics that terrorized Darfur in the early, bloodiest stages of the conflict.
Such brutal, three-pronged attacks of this scale — involving close coordination of air power, army troops and Arab militias in areas where rebel troops have been — have rarely been seen in the past few years, when the violence became more episodic and fractured. But they resemble the kinds of campaigns that first captured the world’s attention and prompted the Bush administration to call the violence in Darfur genocide.
I noticed the same pattern during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, with militia groups acting in close concert with government support. In my study of the Croatian region of Baranya, I noticed that the villages in which civilians were killed all had one thing in common–they were on (or very near) a major regional road. This meant that government military forces (with their tanks and armed personnel carriers) had easy access to these villages, allowing the militias to swoop in and do their thing.
(Image from the San Francisco Chronicle)
In a piece published today New York Times op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof, addresses the link between China’s foreign policy goals and the continuing genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur. Hundreds of thousands have been killed or have died from starvation, disease and malnutrition, and millions have been displaced, whether internally or as refugees abroad, for which, Kristof argues, China bears some moral culpability. Kristof is not alone in this view and the NGO, Olympic Dream for Darfur, has decided to try to do something about it by establishing the “Genocide Olympics” campaign, which is meant to shame China into changing its policies toward Sudan.* Will this work? Is it good foreign policy? Is it morally acceptable to mix sport with politics? Remember, there is historical precedent for this type of thing as the United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Quoting Kristof:
The Beijing Olympics this summer were supposed to be China’s coming-out party, celebrating the end of nearly two centuries of weakness, poverty and humiliation.
Instead, China’s leaders are tarnishing their own Olympiad by abetting genocide in Darfur and in effect undermining the U.N. military deployment there. The result is a growing international campaign to brand these “The Genocide Olympics.”
This is not a boycott of the Olympics. But expect Darfur-related protests at Chinese Embassies, as well as banners and armbands among both athletes and spectators. There’s a growing recognition that perhaps the best way of averting hundreds of thousands more deaths in Sudan is to use the leverage of the Olympics to shame China into more responsible behavior.
The central problem is that in exchange for access to Sudanese oil, Beijing is financing, diplomatically protecting and supplying the arms for the first genocide of the 21st century. China is the largest arms supplier to Sudan, officially selling $83 million in weapons, aircraft and spare parts to Sudan in 2005, according to Amnesty International USA. That is the latest year for which figures are available.
As the highlighted portion of the quote above implies, China is acting in a fundamentally realist manner, eschewing moral concerns in order to increase its power and security.
*Please do not refer to Sudan as the Sudan, or to Ukraine as the Ukraine, but Sudan and Ukraine, respectively, as they are no longer regions within colonial empires, but are independent states in their own right. Adding the in front of their country names is anachronistic.