Not long ago I asked Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer about genocide--about what the US government ought to do when we reach a consensus that genocide is occurring in a country. My question was both general and specific, and JNP answered that he would not use the word genocide to describe the situation in Darfur, Sudan, and that he is not calling for any US military action there. Indeed, he would never call for unilateral US intervention in a country even were the purpose solely to prevent ongoing genocide. By way of explanation, JNP said that if we're right that genocide is occurring, we ought to be able to assemble a genuinely multinational coalition to intervene. (If we're not able to assemble such a coalition, that means we're wrong in our perception that a genocide is happening.)
In my mind reading, JNP would feel the greatest reluctance to advocate on behalf of a multinational intervention--even in the case of known, documented, ongoing genocide. He sees an inherent yucky imperialism in the assumption that our viewpoint (on whether genocide is occurring in some far-off country) ought to carry preponderant weight. That's because JNP believes that US foreign policy has caused enormous harm in numerous countries. Based on this insight, JNP believes that he can help a lot in the Senate simply by stopping harmful US foreign policies--that's how JNP sees himself doing mighty benefit on behalf of global justice. JNP isn't very interested in the Darfur, Sudan situation because it doesn't fit into his default stop-the-USA-from-pillaging-the-Third-World frame.
Don't get me wrong--I like Jack. He got the yes-no question on Iraq right; I got it wrong. Having just read Tim Weiner's indispensable Legacy of Ashes, I agree that the US has behaved miserably with nauseating frequency. Our government's clandestine service has too often operated without accountability, making a mockery of our democracy.
In the CD3 race for US Congress, I have attempted to put issues on the table so that meaningful debate can begin occurring among the candidates. On May 9, 2008, I emailed our CD3 congressional candidates, asking them:
The CIA's website says that ongoing genocide is occurring in Darfur, Sudan. In your view, should Americans use the term genocide to describe the Sudanese government's ongoing actions in Darfur? What would you propose the United States do, if anything, with regard to the situation in Darfur?
I've emailed Erik Paulsen on numerous occasions, asking for his positions on a number of issues. When I confronted the GOP candidate in a public setting, he explained that he wouldn't respond to my questions because he finds me insincere. [Fancy that!] So before Paulsen will answer someone's question, he engages in a sincerity-testing process whose methodology is pristine in its opacity and completely beyond accountability. (This aspect of Paulsen's haughty approach to democracy ought to be troubling even to Republicans, of course.)
When I ask Paulsen to explain his position on genocide, we can safely assume he has formulated some opinion on this subject. Furthermore, I conjecture that Paulsen accepts that the public has a reasonable curiosity concerning his views on how the US ought to react when it perceives genocide to be occurring in a country. So a person with a printing press has asked Paulsen a question the candidate himself acknowledges to be legitimate and fair, but he won't provide an answer because to do so would reward insincerity, an evil Paulsen seeks to diminish globally. (The Paulsen Doctrine: End insincerity; then and only then tackle genocide.)
That irritation aside, David Dillon has now responded to my Darfur inquiry: Here is his verbatim response:
Clearly the government of the Sudan has engaged in genocide and would be willing to continue to do so today if they were able. At the moment, military realities on the ground are such that rebel troops have just staged (probably not sustainable) raids in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum. Policy commentary on the Sudan should both account for local and historical complexities and be part of a larger integrated policy to free the world of such unspeakable horrors.
Local realities include:
*North South / Arab African Civil War
*Proxy War with Chad
*Territorial Expanses nearly the size of Europe
*Poverty and Infrastructure Levels unknown in the Western World
*Dictatorships both in surrounding countries and in local history
Sudan is the poster child for international inaction and a demonstration of the cost of the George Bush administration’s dramatic loss of moral influence in the world. The current administration has blunted the one good tool the United States had to lead a multi national effort to prevent the genocide in Sudan. Unilateral military intervention in Sudan is both unthinkable from a limits of US power perspective and, at least for the moment, it is hard to argue a greater humanitarian tragedy in Sudan than what is occurring with the butchery in the Congo, Sudan’s neighbor to the south where rape and torture have become routine weapons of war both for insurgent militias and government troops.
France is backing the government of Chad and asking for international support in its effort. The dictators of Chad have done little to suggest they are the good guys in all of this save support the rebels in Sudan who both fight to prevent genocide and to prevail in a civil war. All this while China supports the genocidal government of Sudan with opportunistic trade relations.
The next president of the United States should lead an international effort among free nations to sanction trade with those countries who support the world’s worst regimes. This should be done in concert with a long-term policy to use economic, diplomatic and, importantly, individual citizen initiatives to rid the world of its last dictators by 2020. With regard to suffering from dictatorships the people of Iraq, Burma, North Korea and Sudan all have had something in common.