Wednesday, May 03, 2006

How to end genocide in Darfur

I was reading Barbi's excellent posts on Darfur over at Night Bird's Fountain (if you get a chance they are worth reading.)

The international community has apparently reached the point of 'donor fatigue' and is no longer prioritizing Darfur. Also there is supposed to be progress on reaching an agreement, but we know those things often fall apart at the last minute, or there is an agreement but it is not honored.

First, let's be clear about 'donor fatigue.' Less than $750 million has been raised to deal with the region, and about $188 million of this has come from the United States. Keep in mind that we spend over $200 million in Iraq each day. Let's also note that the E.U. has given nothing, other than about $1.2 million that is specifically from Italy. In fact, the $188 million, as weak as it was, leads all other nations.

Second, let's talk about what we should do about it.

I don't believe a military solution is the answer. We would get stuck fighting more radical Islamicists ourselves and it could never end (like Iraq). We know that charging into a country with our weapons out and no specific exit strategy is a recipe for disaster, so let's not do it again.

I also don't believe that we should turn a blind eye (as much of the world is) to the suffering of millions of refugees and victims. We should certainly provide humanitarian aid.

But the other thing we must do is this: provide each family who may be subject to ethnic cleansing with at least an old rifle and a few rounds. True some of these weapons could and most certainly would end up being used by combatants (I wasn't born yesterday, I know that many of them would), but that is why I suggested an old rifle with limited ammunition. Not a particularly useful military weapon, but adequate for individual or home defense.

And that leads to the real reason why this would be the best option to end genocide. Genocide is a very labor intensive job, with people having to go find, capture and either murder, or transport victims for murder someplace else. If there was a chance that each household was armed, then it would simply not be worth it for a small rag-tag army (or even a repressive government fighting a civil war) to risk losing fighters in ones, twos and threes in order to drag the people in homes out and murder them. In fact, I believe that this idea (lightly arming victims or potential victims) would probably stop pretty much all genocides for the same reason. Both that reason, and also the reason that it would make genocide much less attractive for a rebel army or for a government even if they could do it without suffering any casualties, if they knew for a fact that their victims (who are their 'enemies') would start getting free weapons as soon as they started in with the butchering.

And yeah, this does sound like an NRA solution, but it's logical and I don't care whether the NRA would propose it or not (especially since I am, as a matter of fact a supporter of second amendment rights-- about the only issue where I often agree with Republicans). Extreme acts like genocide call for an extreme response, but it is possible to respond without invading or unnecessarly endangering Americans.


Lily said...

Well I agree that intervention is required and forgive my ignorance but I thought Geneva compels us to. Not that its mattered in the past. Not that any treaties or agreements seem relevant or binding anymore.

But universal condemnation is necessary and while troops arriving in droves with guns out seems impractical, it does not help future people when the world ignores genocide. What is the point of the UN if not to work toward a bascic standard and to have as its mission fundamental core values of human rights? An irrelevant UN with useless resolutions can do nothing toward peace. So who will? Better that we send the message that the world does not care? That future genocide will not be dealt with either? We as Americans permit an illegal war but can spare no violence for slaughtered children?

Regrading arms- they most certainly would fall into the hands of the aggressors. And people would become starving prisoners, taking refuge in their homes with their few precious rounds. And when food or water is needed and the women are sent, who protects the children?
Further, our country (and Europe)would never support gun control here but mass distribution of arms in the Sudan.

Our country cannot prevent the millions of deaths from starvation, or confront preventable death by disease. Given that shameful fact, what could we do to arm people? Like alot of aid, the guns would be trafficked and used for power and gain.

Great to see you at Blue Republic by the way. Please consider joining in the forums when you have time! There is a new section for your geographical area too. -lily

Topwomen said...

I really appreciate this article!

The problem with distributing light weaponry to citizens is the same as distributing anything---how to get it to them and not into the wrong hands...

Something MUST BE DONE!

Karen said...

Arming them cost money and since they have no oil, they're of no strategic importance... this is not my personal view but that of our current administration.

Lily said...

Right, thats my concern. If we cannot keep food in proper hands, how would weapons be distributed? Another thing to barter.

Eli Blake said...

Elizabeth and Karen:

I understand what the concern is. And if there is no genocide, I would agree with you. Genocide can only happen, however, when one group of people is unarmed or virtually unarmed.

That's also why I've said that we should also continue with the humanitarian aid-- so weapons given for defense don't become the only thing people have to trade for food.

Lacking that, I don't see how else you stop genocide except with a massive military intervention, and we've seen how well that's been working for us in Iraq.

If we could get the U.N. to intervene militarily (sans U.S. troops) in a way that would be effective, that would be ideal, but realistically, I've seen that U.N. interventions (and I'm an avid student of history as well as current events) fall into three categories: 1. those which are really the U.S. with window dressing (i.e. Korea), 2. those which are completely ineffective and the 'peacekeepers' themselves are a joke (i.e. Lebanon) or 3. those which are maybe somewhat effective but lose their international support before the job is done (i.e. the arms inspectors in Iraq, both those kicked out in 1998 by Saddam to the sound of much international hand-wringing, and Hans Blix, who was told by George Bush to get out of Iraq so we could charge in and find out the hard way what Blix would have found out the easy way.)

Given that U.N. intervention is rarely effective, and even more rarely effective when it doesn't involve American troops (although the Australian led force currently keeping the peace in East Timor does prove that those rare occasions do happen), I still think that arming people who have been targetted for genocide is the most realistic (if not idealistic) solution I can think of.

Given the location and culture of Sudan, I'm absolutely certain that if we were stupid enough to put an American army in there, we would have exactly the same scenario we have in Iraq today (and which we will have in Iran if George Bush goes in there). Why would we want it in another country? Doesn't giving people the meanst to defend themselves make a lot more sense?

Anonymous said...

I can't believe YOU want to send more guns into a war zone.

Genocide is a crime that it is worth going to war to stop. That is what we did with Hitler, and its what we did in Kosovo.

Iraq was about oil, but there is no oil in Darfur so this would be about protecting people.

Anonymous said...

For those of you who think there is no oil in Darfur (many sincere albeit dumb Westerners), it only goes to show how little you know of the region let alone the conflict and its actual roots, i.e. oil.

Surprised? Well, ask anyone and anybody who knows anything about Sudan and next time do a better job hiding your ignorance.

Eli Blake said...


Where did I say anything about oil here?

What we have in Darfur is a place in which 1) genocide is occuring, and 2) Western powers won't intervene (for a number of reasons, some of them very good). Therefore I proposed that we lightly arm those most directly at risk for genocide. Enough to at least carry a cost associated with indiscriminate killing of whole communities.

If you have a better idea on how to end this, I'd love to hear it.