There’s an old saying in military thought that amateurs study battles, professionals study logistics. Because in the end, the essence of military victory is a matter of “getting there firstest with the mostest.”
Today is supposed to be a day to focus on the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Current estimates say that about 10,000 black Christians, Muslims, and Animists are being killed each week by the Arab Muslim militia, the Janjaweed, while the government of Sudan says it can’t do anything, but quietly supports the slaughter. And the Arab nations have coalesced into a solid bloc to prevent the United Nations from doing more than wringing its hands. (Although it must be said that wringing its hands is pretty much the most effective thing the UN does when it comes to stopping slaughter — witness Rwanda, for one.)
John Weidner had a piece on his blog last week that brought the Darfur genocide back to mind for me last week, and it’s a pretty good piece. It’s full of passion and conviction. But I hate to do this, but it lacks practicality.
John says that it would only take a “couple of battalions” of US forces to put an end to the genocide. I am not well versed enough in matters to dispute his numbers with any serious argument, but I’ll say he’s a little on the low side. A battalion runs roughly 1,000 troops, so let’s say it’ll take 5,000 troops to stop it.
The first problem is getting them there. The government of Sudan is not willing to accept peacekeepers, so flying over the non-Darfur parts of the country are problematic. And the Darfur region itself is bordered by Libya, Chad, and the Central African Republic — none of whom have expressed much interest in getting involved. So we’d have to either bribe, threaten, or sneak into the area.
Once there, we’d have to support our troops. That means guaranteeing them a steady stream of food, water, weapons, supplies, spare parts, electricity, and replacement troops. All the troubles of getting them there would be compounded, and the supply chain would be very vulnerable to disruption.
OK, let’s presume that we get our forces there, we can maintain them indefinitely, and we don’t have to worry about them getting stranded or cut off. Then what? What will they do once there?
I’m going to steal from myself here, and lift from something I wrote over two years ago on the same issue, because not one damned thing has changed except for the number of dead bodies:
These troops will not be going in as “peacekeepers.” There is no peace to keep. They’re going in as peace MAKERS. Their mission will to be instantly assert that they are the baddest asses in the neighborhood, and things WILL be done their way or the wrath of God (or the wrath of the United States Armed Forces, the next closest thing) will come down. This will not be pretty. There will be many “skirmishes,” many “battles,” and many other things that translate into dead bodies. Piles of dead bodies. Piles of dead African bodies, killed by Americans.
And since the dead bodies will be belonging to African Muslims, if Iraq and Afghanistan are of any predictive value, the fighting will draw in other anti-American Muslims from surrounding nations. Sudan borders Egypt (with rising anti-American sentiment), Libya (who has recently “seen the light” and is trying to distance itself from it’s terrorist past, but still has a huge anti-American element), Chad (51% Muslim), Kenya (where Al Qaeda blew up our embassy), Eritrea (heavily Muslim), Ethiopia (45-50% Muslim), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (torn by civil war, which spills over into Chad, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, among others), and has access to the Red Sea.
And let’s not forget that we have no real interests in Sudan apart from humanitarian. I hate to sound so cold and mercenary, but we have no major economic, historic, or security ties to that region. It’s hard to get the American people involved in a cause that doesn’t hit them where they live, and western Sudan just doesn’t have any real relevance to the vast majority of Americans.
But let’s assume we get past all THAT. There’s still one last thing we need to successfully intervene and stop the genocide in Darfur, and it’s the most important of all.
We need the WILL to do so.
We need the determination to overcome all the above obstacles and persevere anyway. We need to be willing to stand up to these murderous, genocidal thugs and tell them to stop. And when they refuse, we need to back up our words with actions.
No, that’s too soft, too smooth, too bland. I can’t sugarcoat the reality of the situation. We need the willpower to back up our words with piles of dead bodies. We have to be ready to kill black and Arabic Sudanese by the dozens, the hundreds, by the thousands, by the tens of thousands if need be, if they will not stop killing and raping and terrorizing the people of the Darfur region. We need to pile on more and more death and destruction until they either finally realize that we will NOT let them continue their rampage, or there aren’t enough left of them to continue it.
It’s a huge price to pay. I can only imagine the toll it will take on the souls of our troops who will have to fill all those body bags. Such a campaign would quite likely make the post-traumatic stress syndrome our Vietnam veterans suffered look like a couple bad boogeyman dreams.
Genocide is never undertaken lightly. It takes great passion and determination to carry out. And it takes even greater will to stop it. We’ve only done it once, in World War II, and even then we had to be dragged into the fight. We did the right thing, but it was at a terrible cost. The only thing more damaging would have to have not done anything.
And that’s why I don’t think the United States will intervene in Darfur.
Laurence Simon had an interesting idea two years ago that might be worth exploring. He pointed out that there is a sizable group of people with military training who repeatedly say that they want to prove their worthiness to be part of the international community, and they’re mostly Muslim to boot. He suggested training and equipping them, slapping blue helmets on their heads, and sending them off to Darfur to protect the Darfurese. We could handle the logistics of moving and supplying them, other nations could contribute money and goods towards the effort, and voila – a win/win for all concerned.
It’s a pity that the Palestinians seem to be too interested in killing innocents than in protecting innocents, but it was a good idea nonetheless.
The genocide in Darfur is going to continue. It’s going to continue until something significant changes that alters the cold calculus I’ve outlined above.