Gourevitch on Darfur

Philip Gourevitch has a piece on Darfur and intervention, in this weeks New Yorker.

Given the Bush Administration’s contempt for the U.N., and the U.N.’s own dysfunction, it is a measure of how low Darfur’s situation ranks among the Administration’s priorities that it is willing to let the Security Council handle it. And it is a measure of how forsaken Darfur is that Bush has been more actively engaged with its crisis than many Western leaders. (Last month, when the World Food Program, finding itself strapped for funds, cut food rations for Darfuri refugees, Bush noted that the United States, unlike other nations, had met its financial commitment.) Still, one can’t help thinking that the words “Not on my watch” originally carried a bigger promise.

The interventionist impulse—whether it is espoused by liberal humanitarians or neocon hawks—is not much in favor these days. Anti-genocide activists argue that Darfuris should not be made to pay for mistakes made in Iraq, and that “saving Darfur” can redeem America’s international honor. But how do we know that, if we take action, we will do the right thing and do it successfully? “Tough talk” aside, Darfur presents no more of a cakewalk than Iraq did. A major ground invasion would be required to stop the janjaweed’s horse- and camel-mounted killers—and advocates of intervention insist that air power would be needed as well. There are dozens of ethnic groups in Darfur, and at least three fractious rebel movements, in addition to the janjaweed, the Army, and the Air Force, and it is not clear which of them would be on our side, or whose side we would want to be on.