Over at another blog, there’s yet another call for “action” to stop the genocide in Darfur. I looked at that over a year ago, and came to the reluctant conclusion that there really wasn’t anything that the US could do. But this blogger tied it in to the Bush Administration’s recent leaning on the UN to take some sort of action regarding Syria’s assassination of a political opponent.
Now, it’s been over a year, and I’ve thought about my piece on Darfur several times, and I just don’t see where I might have been wrong, or how things might have changed since then.
But what about Syria? Since we can’t/won’t do anything about Darfur, should we simply let slide events in Syria?
I think not.
The differences between the situation in the Darfur region of the Sudan and what’s going on in and around Syria are significant.
1) The genocide in Darfur is strictly occurring within one nation’s borders, while Syria is meddling in Lebanon, Iraq, and Israel.
2) The United States currently has a very large military presence right next door to Syria.
3) Syria has been caught red-handed (literally) in the Hariri assassination in Lebanon.
4) Their decades-old occupation of Lebanon is crumbling.
5) Hafez Assad, the strongman who ran Syria with an iron fist died in 2000, and his son Bashar (whom Meryl Yourish calls “The Dorktator” ) is a very weak figure. There are speculations that he really doesn’t control much of Syria’s military, and they tend to just ignore and humor him while they do what they like.
6) The long-term goal of the Bush Administration’s Middle East Policy seems to be, to my eyes, aimed at breaking the old model of “stability” and actively destabilize a lot of regimes that could use some shaking up, and rebuilding them in a more democratic form. Further, it seems to be “use the tool that best works.” In Iraq, to destabilize Saddam, the Bush administration figured the best solution would be force. In Libya, quiet threats and making examples of other nations persuaded Qaddafi to give up his WMD programs. Now, in Syria, it appears that diplomatic force (through the UN) is going to be tried.
For decades, the key word, the touchstone, of Middle East politics was “stability.” NOTHING could be allowed to disrupt the status quo. But after 9/11, the Bush administration took a hard look at the Middle East and realized that the “stability” was every bit as much a quagmire as Viet Nam was, where no one dared push things too far in either direction. (And every bit NOT a quagmire as Iraq is proving, where it looks more and more like the Constitution passed — with the support of all the major political/social/racial/religous factions). In Viet Nam, there was a tremendous fear of “going too far,” of “pushing too hard,” of provoking China or the Soviet Union to get more involved — and that half-assed approach to fighting a war cost us dearly, in ways we’re still paying.
But the “status quo” in the Middle East was, and is, unsustainable. All it guaranteed was a minimal level of violence — a range where the deaths and destruction and carnage and brutal repression was acceptable. Yes, it almost never went too high, but it also never went too low. It was a sick, twisted, completely artificial structure, and unsustainable, and desperately needed to be shattered.
Tragically, none of these factors play out in Darfur. And so, with the United States simply being unable to act unilaterally in any substantial way there, and the Sudan’s neighbors uninterested in stopping it, and the Muslim bloc of the UN blocking any meaningful action, it’s likely to continue.
Yeah, it sucks. It sucks hugely. But I just don’t see any other solutions.