De Waal on Intervention

In Harvard International Review, Alex De Waal on intervention:

However attractive it might be from a distance, actually providing physical protection for Darfurians with international troops is not feasible. And unfortunately, the clamor for UN troops has consumed most of the diplomatic energies of the United States and its allies over the last 18 months, diverting efforts from achieving a peace agreement that was within grasp a year ago but has now slipped away. And as a direct result, the existing AU troops have been left without funds, and sometimes without food or fuel, and above all without any effort to upgrade their numbers and capability.

Meanwhile, the focus on numbers, armor, and mandate obscured the fundamental question of the concept of operations. What are the troops there to do? Effective peace support is nine parts political work and community relations to one part force or the threat of force, but the Darfur debate has focused on force alone and not the politics of stability. Making Darfur the test case for the R2P has not helped the search for political solutions in Darfur. It unrealistically raised the hopes of the rebels and intensified the fears of the government. This illustrates the blind alley down which the concept of humanitarian intervention has led many idealistic, principled, and concerned people.

There is no such thing as humanitarian military intervention distinct from war or counterinsurgency. Intervention and occupation should not be confused with classic peacekeeping, which is difficult enough even with a ceasefire agreement and the consent of the parties. If we want an intervention to overthrow a tyranny, protect citizens from their own government, or deliver humanitarian aid during an ongoing conflict, we should be honest with ourselves – we are arguing for a just war. And if we wish to make this case, let us be clear that the war is political (and must be very smartly political to succeed); that military logic will dictate what happens (including probable escalation and various unpredictable factors); and that it will entail bloodshed including the killing of innocent people.