January 3, 2005


This is no humanitarian crisis - Darfur is a war (Sarah Kenyon Lischer, 1/03/05, CS Monitor)

This is not a humanitarian crisis. It is a war. Humanitarian assistance, in the absence of political and military engagement, can actually exacerbate the conflict.

The label "humanitarian crisis" conveniently absolves the rest of the world from taking political and military action in Darfur. By providing generous humanitarian assistance, governments and the UN claim to take meaningful action. But genocide cannot be resolved by donating blankets and food to the potential victims.

A purely humanitarian approach can worsen the war in three ways. First, it obscures the political and strategic importance of refugee populations as potentially destabilizing forces. Second, a humanitarian response empowers militants and fuels a war economy. And last, by dispatching aid workers rather than soldiers and politicians, governments increase the security threats faced by charitable organizations.

The crisis has now spread outside Sudan's borders and threatens to ignite a regional conflict. An estimated 200,000 Sudanese refugees have escaped from Darfur across the border into Chad. Policymakers and aid organizations lament the miserable situation of these refugees.

In addition to the human misery they embody, the refugees also have the potential to spread the conflict further. Refugees present a political obstacle to the Sudanese government and a political opportunity to the rebel forces. The mere presence of the refugees represents a potent indictment of the Sudanese regime. In response to the perceived threat, Sudanese forces have raided the refugee camps and nearby Chadian villages. If sufficiently provoked by cross-border attacks, Chad could enter the conflict. An international war will be even harder to resolve and contain than the current civil war.

This is kind of backwards--we're morally obliged to intervene in a simple slaughter (and we did), but not in a war, no matter how murderous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 3, 2005 7:04 PM
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