Christmas in Darfur
December 5, 2006 4:53 AM   Subscribe

What can two nerds from Chicago do about the crisis in Darfur? Donor fatigue means the marginal value of each life has effectively dropped to zero. Kill 5 people, kill 500, kill 500,000 - it makes no difference - each added fatality has absolutely no policy impact and won’t change the situation one iota. It’s not that as many as 500,000 (essentially an entire Seattle) have died in Darfur. The horrific thing is that they could kill another 500,000 and nobody will bat an eyelash.
posted by notsnot (95 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have such mixed feelings, reading this. Anything anyone can do to bring attention to what's happening in Darfur is a good thing, yes. But reading what they're planning to do makes my stomach hurt -- my friend Brad was just killed last month, trying to bring attention to what's happening in Oaxaca, Mexico.

I wish them well, I'll throw them some cash, I hope they stay safe.
posted by jennyjenny at 5:14 AM on December 5, 2006

Bunch of new material lately from young Americans who went to Darfur. See also Darfur Diaries (DVD and book) about 3 people from NYC who go to Darfur. And The Devil Came on Horseback (DVD and book) about an ex-Marine. The bad-asses in this conflict are the Janjaweed who ride around on horseback looking like Nazgul.
posted by stbalbach at 5:15 AM on December 5, 2006

Fundraising to get money for their trip is good, but holy crap, doesn't putting up this website put their life in danger? Especially if it gets really popular? Do they think the Darfurian government won't be on the up-and-up to their arrival?
posted by schroedinger at 5:20 AM on December 5, 2006

My sympathies are distributed roughly as follows:

Me >
Family >
Friends >
Acquaintances >
Neighbors >
Countrymen >
Idiots Killing Each Other 7000 Miles Away

I'm out of patience with this 'heal the world' crap; if people over in Sudan insist on engaging in a bloody civil war, I say 'let them,' unless the interests of the United States and our close allies are adversely affected.

The same for HIV/AIDS in Africa (or anywhere, really). Spend millions for prevention / research, but not a penny of public funds toward keeping a doomed minority alive at the expense of the majority.
posted by The Confessor at 5:44 AM on December 5, 2006

posted by slimepuppy at 5:56 AM on December 5, 2006

This is a commendable effort and an innovative way of drawing attention to the Darfur crisis - 10,000 people dying per month according to the UN. I haven't read anything about Darfur in the media for months. I hope it takes off...
posted by scrm at 5:56 AM on December 5, 2006

If you characterize the situation in Sudan as 'idiots killing each other', you may have a gross misunderstanding of what's actually happening.
posted by Adam_S at 5:58 AM on December 5, 2006

By your rubric, Confessor, why should we even care what your opinion is?
posted by notsnot at 6:00 AM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Hey, The Confessor, while your hierarchy of sympathies may be so distributed, maybe you should ask yourself if they should be so distributed.
posted by Tullius at 6:06 AM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

if people over in Sudan Confessorland insist on engaging in a bloody civil war minded self-humiliation through gross incompetence, I say 'let them,' unless the interests of the United States and our close allies women and childern being brutally murdered because of the color of their skin are adversely affected.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:12 AM on December 5, 2006

The Confessor's position, while seemingly harsh (It is harsh) probably represents the actual, unfiltered view of the vast majority of people world-wide. HL Menken espoused similar views, and he was on target with a lot of his observations.

Someday, I'd like to see an concrete plan for how the action planned by activists is actually going to cause the changes they desire or stop the genocide. I think these problems are intractable, and no matter how good it makes us feel to rail against the darkness, the tragic reality is that all of the efforts we might make amount to nothing. Send 200k troops to Darfur? What about China, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mexico, etc etc etc.

Does that sound lame and defeatist? Its not that I have the view 'I am not my brother's keeper' its that I can only deal with so many brothers. Genocide is not a recent phenomenon, its been going on since time began. I don't know, its so overwhelming. Maybe its just life in the foodchain.

Now, we could stop selling arms to them...
posted by sfts2 at 6:13 AM on December 5, 2006

BTW, terrible, illegible website. Is small black text on dark grey background the new black?
posted by sfts2 at 6:16 AM on December 5, 2006

I would bet it was done on a Mac, which uses different gamma, so it's much more legible.
posted by notsnot at 6:22 AM on December 5, 2006

Thats less then the number dead in Iraq, which we seem to have a bit more control over.
posted by delmoi at 7:12 AM on December 5, 2006

My sympathies are distributed roughly as follows:

Me >
Family >
Friends >
Acquaintances >
Neighbors >
Countrymen >
People Killing Each Other 7000 Miles Away >
The Confessor
posted by delmoi at 7:13 AM on December 5, 2006

Who is selling arms in Sudan? oh ... and short note to the confessor.. when are you going to stop driving your SUV to Wallmart... and nobody gives a shit about your creative portfolio... it shows you as the selfcentered, meanspirited prat you show yourself to be here; and by the way Americas close allies are getting fewer by the day... maybe it has something to do with people with a mindset like yours.
posted by adamvasco at 7:13 AM on December 5, 2006

What? These people don't apparently have any expertise in A) filmmaking; B) Sudan or C) humanitarian aid in general. Why would I donate money to what is essentially their aggrandizing vanity project? There are plenty of organizations that actually know what they're doing in Sudan.

I'm sorry if this seems harsh, but at a certain point, well-meaning foreigners do more harm than good.
posted by footnote at 7:25 AM on December 5, 2006

Idiots Killing Each Other 7000 Miles Away

Hey look there is at least one in your room !
posted by elpapacito at 7:26 AM on December 5, 2006

Good movie coming out next month: God Grew Tired of Us, which talks about the last twenty years or so of this war and then follows a group of refugees as they move to America. Won Sundance. Full disclosure: I worked on it a couple of months.
posted by fungible at 7:32 AM on December 5, 2006

sfts2: Large scale adoption of fair trade practices would likely stem many internal conflicts globally by alleviating massive poverty.

Problem solved! <brushes hands clean>
posted by beerbajay at 7:42 AM on December 5, 2006

I would bet it was done on a Mac, which uses different gamma, so it's much more legible.

It's not any more readable on my Mac.

Flippant copy, reckless endeavor, unreadable website, noble cause. Good luck!
posted by effwerd at 7:50 AM on December 5, 2006


As opposed to what alternative? Living in brotherhood with all of humanity? Caring for the 'other' just as much as you care for yourself?

*Confessor shakes his head*

People who espouse such views always bewilder me; I wonder if they have any true understanding of the sacrifices that would be required to ensure that no child is hungry or thirsty, to ensure that all peoples are equally equipped for survival, to 'heal the world'.

And do they understand that such generosity and self-sacrifice is an open invitation for those that would take advantage of it? If not, I have a cousin in Nigeria (a deposed prince!) who could use some financial help.

The sad fact of the matter is that some people will gladly accept your helping hand, kick you in the nuts, and snatch your wallet from your back pocket as you writhe in pain on the pavement.

Me? I do my best to avoid such scenarios, which means being generous to the people I care about.


Learn to write in corectly speled sentences that don't always end in ellipses... paragraphs also help.

Your argument, such as it is, is insubstantive, hopelessly assumptive (SUV? Walmart?), and based almost entirely on ad hominem statements.

And honestly, if you really don't give a flying fuck about my website, why even bring it up?
posted by The Confessor at 7:53 AM on December 5, 2006

I wish these two chaps the best of luck but while I was tempted I won't be throwing a penny in the hat. Why?

Their intention is to make a film to raise the profile of the conflict. They recognise that "people don't seem to be responding to yet more Tear-Jerking Movies about how terrible things are" yet they're off to make a movie. Worse, they intend to make their movie about Europeans and Americans in Darfur. In my view these narratives are morally incidental to those who are the victims of the conflict.

The fact of the matter is that those who don't want to let Darfur intrude into their cozy little worlds won't relate to the narratives of aid workers and the like and they'll write them off as mad, missionary or messianic.

I view funding Medicines Sans Frontieres as more important than contributing to this project, firstly because it will demonstrably alleviate suffering on the ground. Secondly because MSF (and its ilk) are aware of their duty of témoignage and have professional communications and public relations functions with which to effect it. It's a matter of opinion which will likely be more effective; which will do a more effective job in raising the profile of the conflict but I have a view.

They're well intentioned and I imagine that their product will likely be high quality but this feels more like 'witness' than humanitarianism and while I can empathise with the urge to the former I prefer to fund the latter.
posted by dmt at 7:58 AM on December 5, 2006

In the immortal words of somebody from Brecht to Asian Dub foundation
dem come for de rasta and
you say nothing
dem come from the muslims
you say nothing
dem come for the anti-globalist
you say nothing
dem even come for the liberals and
you say nothing

dem come for you
and will speak for you?
who will speak for you, who ?
posted by elpapacito at 8:00 AM on December 5, 2006

For those of you that have a problem with The Confessor's sympathies, how are yours significantly different?

And yes, sometimes the best way to put out a fire is let it burn out. Inhumanly harsh? Yes, but the alternative is worse.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 8:10 AM on December 5, 2006

My sympathies are distributed roughly as follows:

Me >
Family >
My pets >
Friends >
Pizza >
Sushi >
Other Tasty Snacks >
College football>
Acquaintances >
Small Kittens >
MetaFilter >
Neighbors >
Countrymen >
Canada >
People Killing Each Other 7000 Miles Away
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:24 AM on December 5, 2006

The problem, Confessor and hoverboards, is that your predilection towards indifference reaches across all possible situations.

In the region, right now, not-all-that-many troops in Chad would produce a great effect. The conflict is just beginning to spread to that country. That could be stopped and reversed. No, it wouldn't solve everything, but it would prevent maybe hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of deaths, and prevent the destabilization of another country.

And Confessor, that taxonomy is definitely how we're predisposed to see the world. Adam Smith wrote perceptively about that, about how if all of China disappeared tomorrow he would reflect on it, then go about his business, while if he lost his finger, it would occupy 95% of his thoughts for days. That counsels against coercing people to care about things that they don't actually care about. But I just don't understand how you can actually argue that others shouldn't even care. Yes, some people are shiftless layabouts. Doesn't mean that other people's efforts to prevent genocide are stupid. Hope and action in the face of difficulty are more useful than seeking out justifications for indifference. And your "make the US government feed very child in the world" vs. "do nothing" dichotomy is, happily, not real.

Of course, hoverboards, you're right, that it's plausible that some conflicts can't be usefully affected by outsiders.

But people said that about Yugoslavia. Then we intervened. Now, ten years later, cities that were killing fields a decade ago are tourist destinations.

On preview, monju, your leaving baseball and Elvis Costello off that list can only be described as a moral atrocity.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:38 AM on December 5, 2006 [2 favorites]

how are yours significantly different?

The trap in this kind of reasoning is : distance makes identification unlikely , reducing sympathy. To say it is not like that, would be denying the truth that we don't care for far away people, which is proved by the fact we aren't in Darfur EVEN if we know there are big troubles.

This faulty reasoning has pernicious consequences:

1)it gives a moral plataform for politicians and extremist from which they blame people for behaving immorally or balm their sense of guilt. Chickenhawks LOVE to bash people for their not being in war, while they comfortably sit in front of PC blaming people.

2) as we prefer to think we are do-gooders, we don't like the idea we talk alot and do little, so we switch to believing that we, indeed, don't care much about them sandniggas, do we ? This dehumanizations allows us to reduce sense of guilt, but at the price of become actual racists, as opposed to people that good with words like Nigga, Wigga, Zigga , but wouldn't harm a fly.

Clearly invasion is NOT ALWAYS the good thing to do to save people : we have AMPLE crystal clear evidence from Iraq, Vietnam.

It is not a simple work, but we are told to look upwards to our politician and blame them for a work we wouldn't know how to handle in the first place (or at least many don't), so the sense of frustration and apathy is amplified when we see our government not giving a flying fuck or not factually solving the problem.
posted by elpapacito at 8:40 AM on December 5, 2006

As if Iraq isn't evidence enough that dropping a boatload of teenagers with guns in a foreign country isn't going to stop people from shooting each other, even in the slightest. At best, the Janjaweed will spare one quarter of every magazine and a few shells out of every case to shoot at some kid cause they're wearing a patch with the stars and bars rather than because they're brown.

Help Medecins Sans Frontieres to alleviate the suffering as best as they can, but any sort of intervention is an exercise in futility. If the African Union can't (or doesn't care to) fix the situation, why should we believe that we can?
posted by fet at 8:49 AM on December 5, 2006

I guess "never again" is only for white people. It's ok to commit genocide against brown and black people. Jeezuz, where the hell have our priorities gone. Of course the War on Terror insures that there are no military resources for stopping this human tragedy. While "the population of Seattle" has been killed in Darfur, "the population of Seattle" has also been killed in Iraq.

Where am I going with this? Death is bad, and I don't know what can be done about it. There are dozens of regions of the world where Bad Things are happening, and even the best intentioned of us cannot keep them all in our hearts and minds and prayers. As for myself, I will start by doing what I can to "not make things worse" and try to do constructive things towards making things better where I am. There are hungry people and victims of horrible violence in my community too.
posted by ilsa at 8:52 AM on December 5, 2006

Learn to write in corectly speled sentences that don't always end in ellipses

A misspelled spelling callout...this shit here sells itself.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:08 AM on December 5, 2006

Interesting quote, elpapacito - a different spin on Pastor Niemöller's classic words.

In the face of 'options' like stopping the arms trade to war-torn countries or making fair trade the de facto standard - well, heck, I'd want to make a movie about the crisis instead, to go there and try to do something, anything. It seems like the easier option than ending arms funding, starting fair trade, ending the inequalities of our world. However, it seems sadly misguided and naive in the face of real work that MSF et al are doing over there. Indeed, I think in this case well-meaning foreigners doing more harm than good. I hate to slag off people with their hearts in the right place, but the needs of a movie (to raise awareness, to document atrocities, to educate, etc.) aren't what's going to solve the conflict there. I don't know what would (UN peacekeepers anyone?). I do wish activism could address these things in a comprehensive framework (send MSF in first, then what?) instead of bandaids, the 'conflict by conflict' issue, but perhaps that's overstepping what activism can do.

I think one can not fund their movie and disagree with Confessor's position without some sort of cognitive dissonance - I hope.

Confessor, your conservative view of humanity (that someone's always going to kick you in the nuts when you try to help them, and the whole 'every man for himself' bit) does help to create a culture of indifference - an indifference that helps us get by, day to day (and save up money for our cars) but leaves us as a species much worse for wear morally and spiritually. I hate to diss a fellow agnostic, but really, any validity in your arguments you've posted here in this thread kind of go out the window when you show your ignorance of the situation in Sudan and you reveal this meanspiritedness of the "out of patience with this 'heal the world' crap. It's thankfully the holiday season, which means the next time you see Alastir Sim's face in the Christmas Carol - well, sit back and watch it. It might do you some good Note the section about Ignorance and Want from Dickens in particular.

Please read up on the situation in the Sudan - it's not 'just' a civil war. It's a genocide, which means we have a moral obligation to do something. If we don't do something, perhaps we should just admit that the words 'never again' have just lost their meaning, and we go on being indifferent. If that's what we agree - that indifference is better than action - then we are barely moral creatures, not a heck of a whole lot better than the evil that's going on there. Indeed, at that point we'll have a lot to confess...
posted by rmm at 9:22 AM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I worked on this project forr the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

I think the plan is to start installing the piece in other museums around the country.
posted by Mick at 9:23 AM on December 5, 2006

Some quicktime video from the project

Excerpt of Clooney visit to Darfur.

Complete interview
posted by Mick at 9:27 AM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Jesus, these people have learned NOTHING from Iraq.

That's always been my hope, that despite the terrible atrocities our countries are now committing in the middle east, their impending defeat will at least mean the Americans will vote in isolationists for the next twenty years. That might go some way towards a peaceful, multipolar world.

Half a million dead in Iraq is a price worth paying to prevent many millions dead in Iran, or China, which the neoconservative strain in American politics fully intends to cause.

The liberal interventionists, the Eustonites, they still have to learn. Stop invading other countries. Just... stop. Let the Sudanese and Rwandans and Iraqis kill each other. You can do nothing to help.

You are being useful idiots for the bad guys, the imperialists, the warmongers. Stop giving them an excuse to invade nations and squander your taxes.

Let other nations have their civil wars, ethnic cleansings, violence. Every culture has them. Ultimately, it's the only way to settle a political argument.

Stop listening to crazed Jewish utopians (I'm sorry, but this description is accurate) and corrupt military-industrial profiteers and journalist whores.

Stop this Soviet attitude that democracy is somehow what everyone wants, that the world must be invaded for the sake of revolution.
posted by Bletch at 9:28 AM on December 5, 2006 [2 favorites]

"this shit here sells itself"


You ain't kidding.

If you look closely, you'll find that I also used an ellipse to end that sentence. I considered putting all succeeding sentences in the same paragraph as well, but I'm just a little too anal-retentive about my writing to let something that egregious pass.
posted by The Confessor at 9:29 AM on December 5, 2006

Iain Banks addressed this directly in Against a Dark Background, and to a lesser extent in Excession. He's always been fascinated by the human inability to mourn more than a token amount. He uses the example of a bus full of people being killed versus an entire city. Nobody is really capable of feeling any more remorse/sadness/etc than they do for very small numbers. You could extrapolate simply, to amazing proportions. Compare the erasure of a city with the erasure of Alderaan. It's more or less negligible.

Not that I've ever seen a planet blow up.
posted by avriette at 9:31 AM on December 5, 2006

everyone on Earth places a higher priority on the lives of their loved ones than on those of people they've never met, and it would be ridiculous to claim otherwise.

And of course there is no ideal solution to problems like this one. But its a long leap from there to intentionally doing nothing and feeling proud of yourself for it.

This reminds me of people who refuse to give money to homeless people and then walk away saying "he was only going to spend it on alcohol or drugs anyway," all proud of themselves as if they did a good thing.

Bullshit- you have no idea what he was going to spend it on, and even if he did spend it on booze, so what? If you don't want to give, don't give. If you don't want to care, don't care. You are completely within your rights. But don't try to make yourself a hero for it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:48 AM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

This is good news, very simply because it brings the conflict closer to home. I'm happy to take sides on this one: the Arab Gathering deserves to be smacked down, hard. If the government of Sudan manages to suppress both the Christians in the south, and the NRF Muslims in Darfur, life will get a whole lot shittier for any number of people, including one I know personally.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:49 AM on December 5, 2006


Isn't this the cause of a tremendous amount of hope for the world? That even a small tragedy makes us mourn to our fullest extent? Is the amount of mourning the point? Or the relative amount of mourning?
posted by sfts2 at 9:51 AM on December 5, 2006

As we're self-linking, here's a piece from a project I worked on. It's a poster detailing recent genocides in the world including Darfur. Really shows the effectiveness of "Never Again" sentiment.
posted by misterpatrick at 9:53 AM on December 5, 2006

You are being useful idiots for the bad guys, the imperialists, the warmongers. Stop giving them an excuse to invade nations and squander your taxes. Let other nations have their civil wars, ethnic cleansings, violence.

Nah. Even from a strictly libertarian standpoint, my neighbor's well-being (or not) tends to affect me. It makes perfect sense to intervene where the consequences of inaction promise to be worse. Iraq was and is not such a case, and we tithe far, far too much of our life and lucre to the war machine - but 'Swiss-styled' neutrality is not always pragmatic.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:57 AM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

perhaps we should just admit that the words 'never again' have just lost their meaning

Pretty much, yep. Especially when the people doing the killing have such powerful friends at the UN, and when the other nations who could do something are in the grip of other problem., if chinese oil workers started dying in Darfur at the hands of the janjaweed, you might see things take a sudden turn.
posted by aramaic at 9:59 AM on December 5, 2006

Seems to me it breaks down roughly like this...

We have:

-Utopian Socialists

-Wolfowitzian Neocons




-Dostoevskian Underground Men ("I am a mean man, I am a spiteful man, but I'm $7.13 away from a new car.")

-Liberal Isolationists


-The Apathetic

for the hearts and minds of people going "Huh?"
posted by StrikeTheViol at 10:04 AM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm out of patience with this 'heal the world' crap; if people over in Sudan insist on engaging in a bloody civil war, I say 'let them,' unless the interests of the United States and our close allies are adversely affected.

We've discovered a new species -- the "unconcern troll".

As opposed to what alternative? Living in brotherhood with all of humanity? Caring for the 'other' just as much as you care for yourself?

The ethic of reciprocity or "The Golden Rule" is a fundamental moral principle found in virtually all major religions and cultures, which simply means "treat others as you would like to be treated." It is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights. Principal philosophers and religious figures have stated it in different ways:

* "Love your neighbor as yourself." — Moses (ca. 1525-1405 BCE) in the Torah, Leviticus 19:18
* "What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others." — Confucius (ca. 551–479 BCE)
* "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man." — Hillel (ca. 50 BCE-10 CE)
* "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." — Jesus (ca. 5 BCE—33 CE) in the Gospels, Luke 6:31; Luke 10:27 (affirming of Moses)— Matthew 7:12
* "Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you." — Muhammad (c. 571 – 632 CE) in The Farewell Sermon.

That may not be a universal human value, as your own example proves, but maybe you're the odd man out.

I'd like to see an concrete plan for how the action planned by activists is actually going to cause the changes they desire or stop the genocide.

Well, for one thing, attention -- as Amnesty International has proven again and again -- makes people in power nervous. The Confessor's view that these are just "idiots killing each other" is, I submit, naive nonsense. Mass violence is almost always coordinated, not something spontaneous. People have to be taught to hate; people have to be trained to kill. Interrupting these cycles is not easy, but it is easier to imagine influencing the leadership directing the activities than it is to put a peacekeeper in every backyard, so to speak.

Confessor and fet and Bletch all seem to have the idea that the only possible response is peacekeeping -- and the idea that activists bringing attention to a cause only want them to do something. Their anger is an obvious psychological fig leaf for guilt. They don't like being guilted, so they react with anger. Maybe that means they feel something after all.
posted by dhartung at 10:22 AM on December 5, 2006 [2 favorites]

Warning: This comment doesn't concern the movie directly. This is a repost from a thread last month (posted it then right before the discussion died). Thought I'd paste it here if people want to read more about what the USG can do to help protect Darfur, and what ordinary citizens can do to help the people of Darfur.

nasreddin: "The impulsive notion that we can "help these people" with our muscle is just a reverberation of the White Man's Burden."

This doesn't make any sense to me. When people read about the countless women and children gang-raped; when people realize that Khartoum has killed more than half a million Darfuris; when people read about the ethnic insults delivered to the victims as they are shot down ("We will kill all blacks---this is not your homeland")----when people attain even a basic understanding of this genocide, I don't think its fair to say that our concern is a manifestation of the White Man's Burden. Are we already too cynical?---Do we not believe anymore that this kind of violence is offensive to any person of good conscience?

wander: Every time I hear about Darfur, I want to know what can be done.

Just to put my cards on the table---I do a lot of Darfur advocacy work. One of the more frustrating things about talking Darfur with synagogues, churches, community centers, etc. is the the extent to which people bring up Iraq as the complete reason for why the U.S. can't possibly intervene to protect Western Sudan.

I'm not denying that Iraq has negatively affected Darfur. Samantha Power and other like minds argue as much. We've lost our standing at the Security Council. Diplomatically, then, the USG doesn't seem to have leverage to call out China and Russia for their direct funding of the current atrocities. The USG doesn't seem to have leverage to call out the Arab League, which has turned a blind eye to what is essentially Muslim-on-Muslim violence.

But re the "we're overstretched argument"---no one is talking about sending an American contingent to Western Sudan. In any case, American involvement in African peacekeeping died a long time ago. On the other hand, there are some definite intervention scenarios that the Bush administration needs to seriously consider. Here are two:

1) Targeted economic sanctions and a credible threat of intervention. So, the U.S., the EU, and the UN would impose financial, travel, and diplomatic sanctions against the Khartoum dictatorship. The U.S. would provide enough funding, training, and logistical support in order to equip a UN force with the capability to stage and effect a forced entry into Sudan. The hard part here is getting an adequate number of troop commitments, given that a forced entry into this hostile environment might require something on the order of 40,000 troops. Countries like Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Nigeria, however, have already promised their soliders.

2) NATO intervention. NATO has an existing sub-unit called the NATO Response Force (NRF). It is operational with 20,000+ troops, and can deploy to anywhere in the world after five days' notice. In this scenario, NATO would impose a no-fly zone over the Darfur region (to stop the flights of Khartoum's Antonov bombers and attack helicopters), and would enter Sudan in order to provide security perimeters around the IDP and refugee camps.

Of course, getting NATO into Africa is a tall, tall order. But the difficulty, I think, is largely one of political will. (I should say that the current deployments in Afghanistan and in Iraq do not prevent the formation of a NATO rapid-response force for Darfur.) From my contacts, I know that NATO's military staffers aren't afraid of getting "bogged down" in the region---they are confident that they can establish air supremacy over Sudan's jury-rigged planes, and they are confident that the NRF would be able to engage, if need be, hostile Janjaweed, the great majority of whom are bandits with camels, horses, and AK47s. Rather, what the Atlantic Council is afraid of is bad publicity---i.e., the prospect of explaining dead European peacekeepers to the citizens of the Western world. Ostensibly, it will be hard to prove that the sacrifice is worth it, that lives lost can be justified in a fight against GENOCIDE.

Three additional notes:
a) A no-fly zone can be imposed using just U.S. and French assets---France has an air base in Chad.
b) The threat of non-consensual intervention itself might be enough for Khartoum to let in multinational peacekeepers.
To explain: Security Council Resolution 1706 already authorizes 20,600 blue helmets for Darfur. But the UN has essentially and perversely said that it will not begin this deployment until Omar al-Bashir and company give their yes.
c) Would intervention threaten the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement? This question should take into account that the CPA has amounted to nothing. There is no true power-sharing arrangement between Khartoum and the SPLA, the Southern Sudanese rebel group. In any case, there is no doubt that the South will vote to secede in 2011.

So, intervention or no intervention in Darfur, there is an outstanding need to draft a second, more comprehensive peace settlement, one that takes into account the grievances of Darfur and Eastern Sudan in addition to the South. If such a thing does not happen, we'll just continue to witness massive counter-insurgency campaigns all across this country.

In any case, not intervening in Darfur will destabilize the region even more. Chad, the Central African Republic, Uganda---Darfur's violence will lead to, and is already leading to, increasing government-government & government-rebel violence.

What can U.S. citizens do? While it doesn't seem like it will have an effect, direct political advocacy is probably the best thing that we can do. I know for a fact that our Senators and Members of Congress aren't hearing enough about Darfur from their constituents---it's pathetic that the Capitol Hill phone-lines aren't ringing off the hook about this issue.

In terms about what exactly you should tell your Members of Congress to do, these policy recommendations relate to some of the intervention measures spelled out above.

You can go to [self-linking here] to start advocating---this site has email webforms, letter-writing templates, and call scripts for Congressional and Executive Advocacy.

Ideally, advocates for multinational protection in Darfur need Congress to pass a bill (not just resolutions) that authorizes intervention to the greatest extent possible (including authorization of using U.S. military assets). And ideally, another advocacy strategy would be to take to the streets in protest and in civil disobedience. FYI, there's a protest going down at the Sudanese Embassy in DC starting this December 9---go to the website above to find out more.

I hope that everyone reading this will do some kind of political lobbying about Darfur. It only takes two minutes to leave voice messages with your Representatives.
posted by n_s_1 at 10:25 AM on December 5, 2006 [5 favorites]

"(including authorization of using U.S. military assets)"

Great, so you're advocating sending troops into Darfur? Yeah, that worked so well in Somalia. I remember seeing signs during the first big anti-Iraq war protests saying "No on the next war too." And now people are pushing for a full military injection into Darfur?

I'm sorry, but if I'm going to write/call my congressional reps, it's going to be about all the ass backwards broken shit that we have here in the United States, and not Darfur. If all of the billions of dollars that we've poured into Africa (An additional $25,000,000,000 by 2010, too!) hasn't solved the issue, I guess that marching in troops to obliterate the warlords *is* the best option.

I'm not ready to sign up our troops for such a bloodbath.
"No on the next war - and that includes sending troops into Darfur."
Let's work on getting China to stop selling arms to the militants first.
posted by drstein at 10:45 AM on December 5, 2006

I take issue with the confessor’s viewpoint
being filed away as ‘conservative.’

I’ll grant, in tone, he’s arguing against the touchy feely pseudo-caring ‘liberals’ tend to go on about. But that no more makes him conservative than it makes anyone who makes a rational argument in favor of practical action a liberal.

I’ll further concede that people are, for the most part, concerned with that Adam Smith analogy (losing the finger vs. losing China). But that is not a social matter - that is a human matter or more appropriately a human animal matter.

Tigers - for example - know when they are being hunted and will act to save their lives. They might attack the hunter. They might run. Any number of very smart animal tricks to save their lives.
However tigers have done little to change the fact that man-made changes in their environment will very quickly render them extinct.

The reason the larger, stronger, faster, better equipped tiger is being eliminated by a soft, weak, otherwise (natural) weaponless creature such as ourselves is because of our society and our ability to create our own environment.

It is and always has been a foundational conservative position that government should not enact laws to make large sweeping changes in society because that act is the act of one generation. Now granted there are sweeping changes who’s time has come and the government should respond to them (I’m thinking of the civil rights act for example) and for the most part some small course corrections are acceptable, but conservativism - particularly as it applies here - is very rightly called the maintanance of the social ecology.

And that is where humans have an advantage over the tiger. We can make use of the wisdom of former generations. We can take the rock our ancestors used and chip it into a spear head. We can take the spear and find new ways to propel it. We can take arrows and make the heads out of metal. And so on and so on until no tiger can stand against any single man armed with even the most common rifle much less battlefield weaponry.

There are indeed people who will accept your help then beat and rob you. They are not to be shunned or avoided, but confronted. And not with naked force as a tiger might. But we should destroy the environment which produces such horrible beasts, not merely seek to elude their claws.
Destroying an enemy consists of unmaking what they are, not simply killing them or ignoring them killing each other.
That indifference - from so high a place as the one we now sit, one of wealth and privilege - and if you are a ‘first worlder’ you are indeed privileged (I spent this morning, more on coffee than most third world families would see in a year - er, not just for myself of course) - is reiterated. As one culture sees another with bronze weapons and will use their techniques to produce their own bronze weapons, so too will a culture mirror anothers techniques for success, whatever those might be - even those techniques that do not lead to success.
In much the same way as one culture mirrors technique and flaws in technique - so too will any results be flawed, because they don’t know any better.

Certainly the conservative viewpoint is focused on one’s own culture and institutions, but one does not support them at any cost. The product of one’s culture must be measured against the continued well-being and maintainance of that culture.
You do indeed reap what you sow. And the bottom line of any conservative philosophy no matter how different the established institutions or traditions or values is this cultural introspection and constant re-evaluation with an eye toward stability and continuity.

Unfortunately this is often mistaken and/or co-opted for political expediancy into conformity for continuity and narcissim over examination.

But the world is thus what we make it. And though we may lose a finger, we should be far more concerned with our environment than the tiger. Lest we find ourselves extinct.

I don’t want genocide in my world. And that’s the world I’m working for.
(which is why ultimately we’ve made progress, no matter how outnumbered by the indifferent - and yet appear to lose. Those who care change the social environment. The best the opposition can do is kill some people. Lack of character, intellect and imagination really - but tigers suffer from the same problems.)
posted by Smedleyman at 10:50 AM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

People like n_s_1 are useful idiots for imperialism. Sorry, I know that sounds melodramatic, but it's demonstrably true.

China has invested heavily in Sudan's oil industry and is creating jobs and investment at astonishing speed in many nations in Africa, thanks to their pragmatic approach.

You know, unlike the IMF, EU and US.

Taking over oil supplies to bring China to heel is the avowed aim of the neoconservatives.

That is why they are beating the drums for yet another fucking war in Sudan.

And why the liberal interventionists are getting some traction.

Nothing to do with genocide, if it was, we'd hear about nothing but the Congo (biggest death toll of any conflict since WW2, yet surprise surprise, no liberal interventionists calling for us to invade)
posted by Bletch at 10:56 AM on December 5, 2006

Furthermore, kid ichorous, you are mostly wrong. We are not affected in any way by faroff wars, unless we choose to take sides and suffer blowback. If a civil war broke out in Mexico or something, sure, you would have a point.

Not in Rwanda or Sudan.
posted by Bletch at 10:58 AM on December 5, 2006


Never Again? Bull-shibboleth!

Intrinsic in that sentiment is the delusional belief that such a thing as genocide *never* happened before, and that no evil greater than that perpetuated by the Third Reich ever existed.

Does such rhetoric sound familiar? Well, it was just as idiotic and ill-informed then as it is today.

We face a newer, greater enemy! We now return to our regularly scheduled episode of American Idol. How 'bout that Kelly Clarkson?

There is nothing new under the sun, and genocide is no exception. It isn't a recent innovation; it's only the scale on which it occurs that has changed. And though it is an unambiguous evil, it is hardly the responsibility of the rest of humanity to stem the tide whenever it occurs.

It wasn't Germany's holocaust policies that provoked World War II, it was their invasion of neighboring countries. Britain and sovereign France didn't enter the war out of deep love of the Jewish race, they entered the war because it was plainly obvious that Germany intended to occupy their territory as well.


As for 'heal the world'-type people, the greatest indictment of that sentiment followed World War II: the establishment of a Jewish state. In Palestine. Because nobody of any consequence was using it at the time?

*Confessor shakes his head*
posted by The Confessor at 11:11 AM on December 5, 2006

I can't even begin to address the stuff written above. Just... wow.

it's just interesting how all these amazing intellectual gymnastics boil down to "the best thing for me to do is ignore the situation and make absolutely no effort to do anything whatsoever."

There aren't many situations in life when the right thing and the easy thing are the same, and this sure as hell isn't one of them. As I said above, you are totally within your rights to not give a shit. Just stop trying to dress it up as noble, especially if you call yourself a liberal. Please.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:24 AM on December 5, 2006

I think its funny how the sides emerge in a conversation like this, with the people on one side, supposedly empathetic, quickly reach for insult and invective when confronted with someone who disagrees with them. Feeling all self-satisfied and smug, they hurl insults and pontificate. Is there a chance that The Confessor has a different perspective, a valid one, just like yours, attained through his collective experience and life?

How different are you from the Jangaweed miltiaman, looking to shoot someone of a different clan/race/ethnicity/religion/area?

Look inside folks, charity begins at home.
posted by sfts2 at 11:31 AM on December 5, 2006

Recommendations from the International Crisis Group.
UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (31 August 2006) extended to Darfur the mandate of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), which presently has 10,000 personnel in-country monitoring the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement: it “invited” the consent of the Sudanese government to the deployment of 20,600 UN peacekeepers. This expanded UN force was in effect to take over the African Union’s overstretched African Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which – although threatened with expulsion in September – has now been extended to the end of December, with its numbers on the ground expected to grow to 11,000.

The NCP continues to strongly reject the proposed UN deployment. Its primary motive appears to be a fear that improved security would loosen its grip on the region. Officials responsible for orchestrating the conflict since 2003 also appear to fear that a major body of UN troops in Darfur itself might eventually enforce International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments, although it is not obvious why that risk should be decisively greater for them with an extended UNMIS deployment than it is with the present one.

In responding to this rejection, full-scale non-consensual military intervention by the international community is not at this stage a defensible or realistic option. But it may be possible to persuade the NCP to alter its policies and consent to the UN mission in Darfur by moving now to targeted sanctions against regime leaders and their business interests – and immediately planning for the establishment and enforcement of a no-fly zone over Darfur that builds on the ineffective ban on offensive military flights the Security Council imposed in 2005. International support for the role of the ICC should be again clearly expressed, with the Court in turn declaring its intention to focus immediately on any war crimes or crimes against humanity committed during the current government offensive.
I don't think it's so unreasonable to say that we should be primarily concerned with the interests of people closest to us, rather than everyone everywhere. Our obligations towards those people are strongest precisely because our ability to help those people is greatest. My ability to affect my children, for good or evil, is much, much greater than my ability to help people in Darfur.

That said, just because our obligation to help strangers is much weaker doesn't mean that it doesn't exist at all. We live in a time when people may be stripped of all those around them who would normally help them--their families, their friends, everyone--and forced to rely on strangers, or die.

The African Union already has a force on the ground in Sudan, and my guess is that the West will try to strengthen this force rather than sending in its own troops. I think it's reasonable for the AU to take the lead: in particular, Sudan's neighbors are going to have a direct interest in the situation in Darfur, whereas humanitarian interest is a shaky basis for going to war. (See Somalia. Yugoslavia, in comparison, was in the West's backyard.) The question is whether the AU force has the capability to be effective or not, and if not, what help they'll need.

sfts2: comparing what's happening in Darfur to an Internet argument doesn't make any sense.

Nicholas Kristof:
In my years as a journalist, I thought I had seen a full kaleidoscope of horrors, from babies dying of malaria to Chinese troops shooting students to Indonesian mobs beheading people. But nothing prepared me for Darfur, where systematic murder, rape, and mutilation are taking place on a vast scale, based simply on the tribe of the victim. What I saw reminded me why people say that genocide is the worst evil of which human beings are capable.

On one of the first of my five visits to Darfur, I came across an oasis along the Chad border where several tens of thousands of people were sheltering under trees after being driven from their home villages by the Arab Janjaweed militia, which has been supported by the Sudan government in Khartoum. Under the first tree, I found a man who had been shot in the neck and the jaw; his brother, shot only in the foot, had carried him for forty-nine days to get to this oasis. Under the next tree was a widow whose parents had been killed and stuffed in the village well to poison the local water supply; then the Janjaweed had tracked down the rest of her family and killed her husband. Under the third tree was a four-year-old orphan girl carrying her one-year-old baby sister on her back; their parents had been killed. Under the fourth tree was a woman whose husband and children had been killed in front of her, and then she was gang-raped and left naked and mutilated in the desert.

Those were the people I met under just four adjacent trees. And in every direction, as far as I could see, were more trees and more victims—all with similar stories.
posted by russilwvong at 11:40 AM on December 5, 2006

sfts2: It's also possible that his point is completely invalid within a larger ethical framework. Further, no one wants to shoot the confessor, just point out his selfishness. Oh, and call him a troll.
posted by notsnot at 11:58 AM on December 5, 2006

Russilwong said

"sfts2: comparing what's happening in Darfur to an Internet argument doesn't make any sense."

I didn't, I compared peoples reactions to same, which in my view makes perfect sense.

While certainly overstated (in an effort to make a point), the labels that people identify with and use to polarize still exist, and still create 'violence' be it verbal or physical. Its only a matter of degree. True, degree is not meaningless, but perhaps we'd all be better off, if we judged less across the board.

However, as I intimated above, I have little interest in changing the behavior of others (including you BTW), having quite an effort in front of me to manage my own behavior. (perhaps my viewpoint is one such heretofore unappreciated aspect) I tend agree with Mencken, the charitable effort, while noble, is often misplaced and almost invariably pointless. Since time began, the bigger stronger animals, or the ones with better guns, have killed the smaller and weaker. Even if we were able to stop the genocide in Darfur in its tracks, we would have zero effect on this overarching human/natural condition. Having said this, I am ALL for reasonable practical measures to disincent its continuance, and I think moviemaking is a particularly inefficient mechanism to do so, although perhaps the only avenue available given the skills and motivatons of the two nerds. If they really want to make a difference, fly over, grab a gun, and protect who you can with your life. I'll save my greatest respect for the ones who do so. (Daddy, what did you do in the great war in Darfur? Oh, Sweetie, Daddy made movies to raise conciousness...)

Oh, and I disagree with Smedleyman (unusual) - I think we as a species are not getting noticably better nor worse in this particular regard. It is what it is. Tragic? Sure. Avoidable? Not so much.

I suspect, you ain't seen nothing yet.
posted by sfts2 at 12:05 PM on December 5, 2006

Well said russilwvong. I’d add that there’s a difference between the weaker desire on the individual level to help far off strangers and lending one’s voice and efforts as an individual to the greater collective effort.
I tend to act locally myself, but that doesn’t invalidate my concern with folks in Darfur or mean I should resist being part of the snowball of collective effort to lend assistance.

It is hard to render aid from the middle of another continent to a woman mutilated and raped. If it happened here I suspect I would be very much personally involved in trying to stop it. But every little bit helps the greater overall effort of those who are directly concerned.
And though working for different causes on different continents we serve the same goals. And those are in the interests of the U. S. of A - we’re not simply people who happen to live within certain borders.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:09 PM on December 5, 2006


Did you mean to say 'my ethical framework?'
posted by sfts2 at 12:11 PM on December 5, 2006

nope. Morals is subjective, ethics ain't. Unless you're Cthulu.
posted by notsnot at 12:14 PM on December 5, 2006

This doesn't address Darfur specifically, but it seems to me there must be a link between extreme poverty in Africa and civil and genocidal wars like the one in Darfur. I thought this talk by Hans Rosling, of Gapminder, did a pretty convincing job of showing that the latter half of the 20th-century saw dramatic economic and health-related improvements in just about every part of the world except Africa. Among others, the economist Jeffrey Sachs has some low-cost and pragmatic ideas for ending extreme poverty in Africa in our lifetimes.

Anyhow, whenever I hear someone (myself included) ask why Africa seems to consitently and brutally f'd up, the Rosling talk and the Sachs book both come to mind.

And, yes, I must admit that I often "tune out" dreadful news from Africa. I can't remember a time when there wasn't something in the news about famine, genocide, brutal civil wars, etc. I guess I feel jaded, that whatever I might contribute would be like giving someone aspirin when what they really need is surgery. The Sachs book at least gave me some hope that money wisely and carefully spent on measures that would reap not immediate but long-term benefits might actually do some real good.

On the other hand, it seems to me, though, that it would be extremely difficult to grow a market economy in consistently war-torn regions, that war and extreme poverty may be locked in a vicious cycle that no one knows how to break out of. What to do, then? Geez, I haven't a clue, but I hope someone does . . .
posted by treepour at 12:45 PM on December 5, 2006

Jeezuz, where the hell have our priorities gone.

Don't kid yourself into thinking they're significantly different than they have been for roughly forever. That's no reason to just give up on making the world a better place, but the complacency that result from hand-wringing about how It's All Gone Downhill From When It Was Better is counter-productive.
posted by phearlez at 12:47 PM on December 5, 2006

I for one, hope The Confessor lives 7,000 miles away from me and next door to someone particularly idiotic.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:55 PM on December 5, 2006

Learn to write in corectly speled sentences
The Confessor, you have proved yourself to be an ass. You seem to care more about corectly speled sentences than mass rape, barbarism and genocide, because its not in your back yard. As dhartung pointed out you are nothing but an "unconcern troll". As for your website, you link to it in your profile. I went there to try and find out what kind of callous person you were.
Back towards the topic - the destabilisation in much of Africa South of the Sahara should be of concern to all Europeans.
The number of boat people - economic refugees - to Tenerife alone this year is in excess of 21,000 As for Dafur n_s_1 (neat user #) gives good information; and the time taken to do something even for non caring trolls is less than it takes to read this far.
posted by adamvasco at 12:57 PM on December 5, 2006

How different are you from the Jangaweed miltiaman, looking to shoot someone of a different clan/race/ethnicity/religion/area?

I'm not looking to shoot someone. Personally, I think that does make me different. Making the comparison makes you an ass.
posted by dhartung at 1:15 PM on December 5, 2006

On the other hand, it seems to me, though, that it would be extremely difficult to grow a market economy in consistently war-torn regions, that war and extreme poverty may be locked in a vicious cycle that no one knows how to break out of. What to do, then? Geez, I haven't a clue, but I hope someone does . . .

Africa isn't any more "war torn" then Europe was up until the 1950s, or Asia was until the 1970s. Or North America was until the 1860s.
posted by delmoi at 1:25 PM on December 5, 2006


Nope, that was just me putting as much thought into my rebuttal as you put into your original argument.

Gazing upthread, I see that most people continue to cry heresy without looking into Galileo's telescope.

*Confessor shakes his head*

I expect to be exonerated in ~350 more years.
posted by The Confessor at 1:29 PM on December 5, 2006

As if Iraq isn't evidence enough that dropping a boatload of teenagers with guns in a foreign country isn't going to stop people from shooting each other, even in the slightest. At best, the Janjaweed will spare one quarter of every magazine and a few shells out of every case to shoot at some kid cause they're wearing a patch with the stars and bars rather than because they're brown.
-- fet

Stars and bars is the confederate flag, the US uses the stars and stripes.
posted by delmoi at 1:39 PM on December 5, 2006

“I think we as a species are not getting noticably better nor worse in this particular regard.”

Species is distinct from culture (manifestly). Unlike animals we can control our own behavior and change the conditions under which we live.
Whether we will consistiently continue to do so is debatable, but there is no question our technique in making better social systems has been refined over time to more and more prevent might making right. (Details are such a pain in the ass - but let’s talk Magna Carta for starters)
I argue this position as a large dangerous animal myself, one who would greatly personally benefit from the more primative “ME BOSS!” systems.
One of the things that gives me that perspective is having seen how poor a tool force is (and I often regret mastering it instead of some truly refined art and craft such as medicine or plumbing). I have shed blood in that kind of cause. And I find Lincoln (and Musashi) was correct, you can’t simply kill or force your enemy to submit, to destroy them you have to make them your friend. And that recognizes ‘soaking in.’ Not merely the (Orwellian sounding) changing your enemy so he sees your truth, but understanding his perspective and allowing for self-examination of one’s own position from that perspective in order to acheive some positive but practical effect.
Inflicting one’s own perspective on another is the worst of those stereotypical knee jerk limo-liberal traits.
But there’s little question genocide needs to be halted and there is no legitimate justification for it or any kind (cultural, moral, etc).

We could stop what’s happening now with force (and I’m indeed tempted to) but there you and I are not debating whether the cause to stop it is just, only means.
Certainly you can get further with a kind word, and a gun, than you can with just a kind word. But that’s short term, and that perpetuates the “might makes right” ethos with which you yourself expressed disgust (say that 10xs fast) the means which will have more lasting results is the solution without violence.

Bringing public attention to the matter is just one method. And this is just a couple of kids doing it. These things can snowball. And (as Steven Biko said) one can be confrontational without being violent.
Biko was clubbed to death. And that’s the best they could do to him.
If I could have half the impact Biko had for the cause of liberty and justice, I’d be happy to die that way.
The Ben Franklin quotes on giving up liberty for security and all this live free or die stuff, express the notion that what one lives for is more important than one’s own life.
That is the essence of what separates us from the animals.
Whatever pain or blood in our future may or may not be avoidable, the difference is in what we choose to purchase with that pain and death that gives it meaning.
In my estimation mere existence is not worth the price, nor is the existence of my family or friends. I would sacrifice them all (given they would be willing of course) if it would ensure that it furthered those goals.

I don’t think the Confessor is being a dick. He’s merely expressing the position that it’s more practical to focus one’s resources at home where one has more control over them and where they would be more efficacious. Also that it is possible, in attempting to ‘heal the world’ to make egregious errors, and, furthermore, that since we (humanity not involved in genocide) don’t have the power to stop it, it shouldn’t be our responsibility.

Which is a fair assessment to a point, but ultimately short sighted (as has been said) and predicated on the animal nobility of covering one’s own rather than the social human ethic. Not a truly odious position*, but not laudable, and most certainly wrong as concerns genocide.
If for no other reason than (as a practical matter) if it’s not solved it could happen here or happen to someone you do care about.

(*Dante didn’t put those who were neutral in the celestial war in Heaven in the worst part of Hell, but he did assert they should be ignored - an idea also expressed upthread)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:43 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

lol confessor I'm sure if you lived in Darfur you'd be wringing your hands, hoping and praying that those poor rich people relaxing in the western world wouldn't trouble themselves to help you.

After all, Confessor - you worked really, really hard to be born into the family you were born into, in the nation you born in, at the time in history you were born.

*Balrog shakes his head.*
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2006

The problem is that it hasn't been explained to America properly in terms of "who is the evil bearded cartoon character we can chase across the deserts and mountains with big noisy off-road vehicles?" and "exactly how are the Darfurianites threatening America's strategic supplies of low taxes?" As soon as you make it clear to Americonians that the Darfurish conglomerite means to offend their nation's inbred right to indignation, the path will be cleared to approving World Bank sanctions against all peoples of the Darfanian region whose action could be officially termed "uncalled for."
posted by pracowity at 2:10 PM on December 5, 2006

I got to admit the Confessor, while expressed crassly, selfishly, and short sighted, is at least honest.

We are not helping in Darfur because we are not helping in Darfur.

What is happening in Darfur is morally repugnant. But to most of us it's only a distant intellectual exercise.

Every one of us has the means to fly there tomorrow and be human shields. Every single one of us. Any excuse you claim is bullshit. You can get the money. You can find the time. What would it do? Maybe nothing.

So, everyone of us could fly to DC tomorrow and march on the Whitehouse and demand action. If you believe there is Genocide happening in Darfur that CAN be stopped by US leadership on the issue then there is NO reason for not flying to DC tomorrow. Not money. Not your jobs. Not your family. Nothing. You could go there tomorrow and find a way to help those people in some way. If it 's that important you find a way to personally help.

We don't because we don't.
So don't rip on Confessor... just go do something your self or shut up.
posted by tkchrist at 2:23 PM on December 5, 2006

Dear Bill Gates,
Please hire these guys to intervene in Darfur. I’ll chip in.

PS- Can I rip on the Confessor now?
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:07 PM on December 5, 2006

Further Darfur-related policy analyses, for those interested:

Military Intervention Necessary to Stop Darfur Crisis
- NewsHour talk with Susan Rice, State Dept. official under Clinton (Back story: She and Anthony Lake failed Rwanda in 1994.)
2) Former Ambassador Stresses Renewing Diplomatic Efforts to Resolve Darfur Crisis - NewsHour talk with Morton Abramowitz
3) Professor Recommends Targeting Sudan Through Economic Means - NewsHour talk with Sudan analyst Eric Reeves

Also, a couple of notes about the International Crisis Group's most recent Darfur report---ICG isn't calling for non-consensual military intervention at this time, but it does argue that the contingency planning for this forced entry should begin now. This seems to me only reasonable, especially given that Khartoum is becoming more and more vocal about its refusal of UN peacekeepers.

In the short-term, there's no reason why our officials shouldn't try to strengthen the African Union Mission in Sudan with additional equipment, logistical support, and funding. On the other hand, there are too many compelling reasons proving that AMIS cannot establish civilian protection alone, no matter how much the U.S. and others fund it. For one, the AU can't possibly find 20,000 more African troops for AMIS. For other reasons, see this long report put out by The Brookings Institution.

Oh, and yes, I'm one of those Democratic Party-registered interventionists. I believe a good deal of interventionists have done some serious thinking about the real definite costs and real possible costs of sending in military force, of launching U.S. cruise missiles to destroy Khartoum's air bases and other military installations, of entering a Muslim country with Western-backed firepower.

Here, I'm arguing the certain costs of not intervening are drastically higher than the probable costs of proactive intervention. The implied comparisons between Somalia's warlords/Iraq's insurgents and the Janjaweed/Sudanese military are unfair; the implied comparisons between the on-the-ground military environment in Somalia/Iraq and the military environment in Darfur are unfair as well.

Peacekeepers would not be up against militias who entrench themselves in urban strongholds. The genocidal machinery in Darfur is constituted by thieves on horseback with AK47s; by old Antonov bombers that wouldn't be able to outmaneuver any NATO plane; by a joint militia-infantry presence that cannot still defeat the relatively weak rebel movements in Darfur.

At the end, the primary political and moral question remains: What should powerful countries do, if anything, to stop genocide?
posted by n_s_1 at 3:34 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

PS- Can I rip on the Confessor now?

posted by tkchrist at 3:42 PM on December 5, 2006

tkchrist, et al- I've often wondered: what makes someone engage in long-winded, self-congratulatory defenses of inaction and passivity? Is it that you don't like the guilty feeling, but don't know how to make it go away?

I've been to Washington, I've marched and protested there and in other cities, I've stood for candle-light vigils, I've written Senators and Congressmen and op-eds, and I've come away elated, frustrated, confused, and confident, at turns. The truth is, DC is built to take in every last protester the nation has to offer, to nod and smile and take their money, and then to send them on their way home feeling better about themselves. Politicians ignore their mail, and op-eds don't make policy, they make newspaper copy. These are not places to get things done. Getting things done takes media savvy, it takes political cunning, and it takes a single-minded determination. It takes a hundred stupid stunts and apparently-wasted efforts. And then, often as not, it fails or gets corrupted or simply comes too late or serves as political cover for a monstrous evil.

I'm a pessimist about these things, but I still act. And today, I'm asking you: why not do something yourself? Why waste your energy on smug defenses of laziness?
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:26 PM on December 5, 2006


Perhaps if you personally insult and name-call everyone that disagrees with you you will cement your own opinion of yourself as morally superior.

Those who feel the need could kindly answer two questions for me.

1 - Do you understand the difference between 'should' and 'will'? As used in the following sentences:

a) We should stop the genocide in Darfur.
b) We will stop the genocide in Darfur using a model that can be successfully replicated everywhere else where genocide is occuring today.

When you can successfully articulate how you can make sentence 2 true, I personally will email the Paypal receipt for my above average donations.

2 - Can someone will be so kind as to detail the chain of events that will cause this to happen? I'm quite interested to what the actual plan or chain of cause/effects are.

> Make movie
> Movie seen by 100 million people causing a significant increase in political pressure and will on the part of the America people to 'do something' about Darfur.
> ????? What's next?
>> Send troops. Stop violence with more violence? Hasn't this been tried before? How's that working out for you? A logistical nightmare, and with enough resources you can probably stop the organized state-sanctioned killing, just like Iraq. Gonna do this everywhere? Why is it so bad to invade and occupy Iraq and so good to invade and occupy the Sudan?

>> Free trade? First, how do you make this happen? Impose it by force? Some other means? If you assume it can be done, it probably has some good effects, but does it really stop people from killing each other because one is a camel herder and the other is a cow herder? I doubt it would ANY effect, and certainly is more of a generational plan which will not stop the genocide in Sudan now.

I am not trying to be a dick here, but its easy to rail on about major intractable problems in this world, its a lot harder to come up with workable solutions. Simplistic notions about what 'should be' are totally irrelevant and represent a mind-numbingly simplistic view of how situations like this work at worst, and plain old wishful thinking at best.
posted by sfts2 at 4:48 PM on December 5, 2006

And today, I'm asking you: why not do something yourself? Why waste your energy on smug defenses of laziness?

I'm not defending laziness? How do you figure? I'm merely identifying a human trait.

And who says I dont' DO something? Little good it has done. Maybe it WOULD have been better to save that money for my families needs.

You know I was in Paris during those riots last year. No matter what you think of them, that method, those people - they got what they wanted. The government listened. You're telling me that if you and I and every MeFi and all our friends bused out to DC and occupied the Mall for a month it would have no positive effect? I KNOW it would. Who is the cynic now?

The truth is: We don't because we don't. It IS that simple.

Maybe because our lives are comfortable. Maybe we hope somebody else will do all the leg work. I dunno.

I do know we all have a hierarchy of what we care about and where our energy goes.

So this Confessor guy doesn't care. I find his compassion wanting, but I'm not cradling dying babies either. Maybe the guy spends every waking moment caring for his sick mother? Who knows.

In my opinion Darfur is a lost cause. I hate to say it. But it is. Helping Darfur now is about alleviating our consciences because we let it happen. Again. I also believe that is as good a reason to help as any. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves.

Feeling is not doing. Saying how outraged you are about Confessor on Metafilter doesn't save one person in Darfur. Your free to hurl shit at him because he sounds like an asshole to me. But why not save your energy and do something yourself.
posted by tkchrist at 4:59 PM on December 5, 2006

Peacekeepers would not be up against militias who entrench themselves in urban strongholds.

There would be if soldiers with American Flag patches on thier soldiers showed up.

Look. I actually AGREE with intervention. But there is no way the UN could do it without a significant and overwhelming support by non-USian militaries. And who is that? Not Brittan. France? Germany? Russia and China?

The genocidal machinery in Darfur is constituted by thieves on horseback with AK47s; by old Antonov bombers that wouldn't be able to outmaneuver any NATO plane; by a joint militia-infantry presence that cannot still defeat the relatively weak rebel movements in Darfur.

I agree. But it WOULD go "insurgent" very quickly if the US got involved. Maybe we should risk it, but not while we are still in Iraq. And by the time we are out of Iraq it will be too late.

No. This time it's up to the Europeans to figure it out. And they had better get a move on.
posted by tkchrist at 5:09 PM on December 5, 2006

Hey n_s_1, would you mind emailing me your contact info? I'd like to get in touch with you.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 5:10 PM on December 5, 2006

Saying how outraged you are about Confessor on Metafilter doesn't save one person in Darfur.

I'm not outraged, I'm curious, and a little peeved that he treated the situation in Darfur like just another 'ethnic conflict,' when it's clearly a case of armed militias killing innocent civilians.

it would have no positive effect? I KNOW it would. Who is the cynic now?

The fact that it works on the French government (when it's a pension or job security matter) does not mean it will work on the US government (when it's a matter of diplomatic relations with an oil ally and strategic military action.) And don't knock cynicism, or pessimism for that matter: "Optimism of the Will, Pessimism of the Intellect." Frankly, I find myself unimpressed by people who claim to "KNOW" things. Show me you know, then maybe I'll believe you.

b) We will stop the genocide in Darfur using a model that can be successfully replicated everywhere else where genocide is occuring today.

On the 72nd day of NATO's air war against Yugoslavia, President Slobodan Milosevic accepted an international peace plan to end the Kosovo conflict and allow nearly 1 million ethnic Albanian refugees to return to what is left of their homes.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:24 PM on December 5, 2006

“So don't rip on Confessor... just go do something your self or shut up.” -posted by tkchrist

Collectively we can do more than any of us can do by individual action such as going and being a human shield. There are organizations working on this, and there are people who are part of those organizations. Don’t be so liberal with that “we” kemosabe.

As much as I disagree with the Hobbesian perspective (colloq. used there) of selfishness there exists clear and solid cognitive biases against doing anything about genocide. In this case there is very much a negative availability heuristic going on - the emotional impact of such an event irrationalizes thought about it. We don’t want to even consider such acts happening within our own spheres.
But thats the first step - that empathy and acknowleging it as a problem, and a problem we ourselves might well get caught up in.
And there are practical measures one can take to mitigate the genocide short of abandoning all other responsibilities.
Much like 30 minutes per day of exercise is more productive than working out for 14 hours once a month.
Hell, it’s better than leaving it to chance - which is indeed all that separates anyone born into a first world country from anyone getting their asses kicked in the third world right now.

Actually, I retract that last statement - from the perspective of a single person living that life, that is true, however our birth in the first world was the product of a tremendous amount of effort by our ancestors as well as the ancestors of other people in order to develop institutions by which we prosper.
It is simple prudence to recognize that fostering that stability in other cultures lends strength to our own. While that’s not a nationalistic position, it’s far from being communist or socialist. If they prosper with our social tools, so much the better. Competition forces our own system out of complacency - the Japanese are a great example (although GM is still only now getting off it’s ass, and sluggishly at that).

Hobbes’ political philosophy was to do no harm. This does not mean that we should not act however. And indeed our acts should be focused on doing no harm - bloodying a knuckle in the name of peace is ridiculous, sometimes unavoidable, but it is rarely the result intended.
In this case the inability to judge performance before effort is expended here should not be a factor. Things need to be done and those things are (currently) more art than craft.
The only reason this comes up as a question at all is because of those cognitive biases - except on a massive scale. Wishful thinking, survivor bias (in confessor’s case) or disconfirmation bias, we somehow expect it to sort itself out. And indeed, it does. One way or the other. And ironically the same biases lead us to believe that it won’t happen again.

Humans are some of the most murderous bastards in terms of intra-species violence, many anthropologists argue, I think rightly, that war is not cultural but something inherent in the species - chimps are pretty violent as are many of our other primate cousins who have not (like say the bonobos) found creative ways to cope. Culture rather than wild unbridled sex (unfortunately) seems to be our feedback system and government is the regulating arm of that system - who else should do something about it? I think it’s a shame we’re not doing something. But then corporations aren’t culture. And I think that’s in part why we (the first world) are not doing anything. No business interests there. Or potentially competing interests. There are indeed always people willing to have more for themselves at the expense of others rather than working harder or smarter, but you so very rarely find such people among the impoverished I’m surprised the argument is used.

As to method n_s_1: I’m with anotherpanacea - I don’t know exactly how, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from acting.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:53 PM on December 5, 2006


I often wonder about the evolutionary implications of that extraordinary brand of compassion that leads people to take real risks for the other - for individuals they couldn't possibly have less in common with.

Is this type of compassion a positive evolutionary step? Or is it a throwback to a time when the human population was so small that there literally was no other?

I hope it is the latter, no matter the strife our disparate ideals may cause us now. Because sometime far in the future, humanity may well have an other thrust upon us, and we must retain the capacity to meet that contact with friendship or war as necessary.
posted by The Confessor at 6:04 PM on December 5, 2006

And I’ll add that we’re all here on metafilter to refine our thoughts on this subject (and others) and subject them to consensual validation and feedback to clarify and refine our positions. It could well lead someone who is not now acting - to act.
This is what people do. They think, form ideas, and develop a plan. That plan fails or succeeds and they ruminate on lessons learned. Because language and dialogue are so complex and listening/comprehension skills are so varied this takes time.

But at the very least it’s a start. It took a long long long time for life to reach the moon. Even within the scope of human endevor, it took quite a while. But things like reaching the moon, curing polio, all took time and importantly - errors - to be possible. All the pain suffered by people over the millenia has not been wasted. Certainly any given act can be wrong. It’s wrong to torture. We know that tortuing someone in the name of God to save their soul is wrong. We know that now. But we didn’t know it then. (and indeed absent “God” in the equation, some of us still don’t know it) We are ignorant monkeys working in the dark. Ten thousand years from now we’ll look like barbarians brutally verbally mistreating each other in a virtual world. But it all has to be worked through. You set the objective and work towards that goal. And whether it’s 10,000 people or 1,000,000 people from now depends only on how much effort we’re willing to spend - but it has to start somewhere and it’s agony that we can’t do it overnight, but if we do ultimately achieve that goal, than at least those deaths won’t have been in vain.

“We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.” - Einstein
posted by Smedleyman at 6:12 PM on December 5, 2006

Perhaps if you personally insult and name-call everyone that disagrees with you you will cement your own opinion of yourself as morally superior.

You're really fucking dense, aren't you? You drew a moral equivalence between debating on the internet and commiting genocide. Maybe I have a right to be offended by that. Maybe I'm just laughing at your banal argumentation.

I am not trying to be a dick here, but its easy to rail on about major intractable problems in this world, its a lot harder to come up with workable solutions.

Well, no shit. But railing against the people who are trying to think of ways to deal with major intractable problems makes you part of the problem. Or at least a bit of a dick.

Listen. You're not trying. You're succeeding. Congratulate yourself.
posted by dhartung at 6:20 PM on December 5, 2006

Something that I've always wondered about in these conflicts is why if international citizenry is so angry, why aren't they over there actually fighting? Not rhetorical at all, this, because if all we need is a few tens or hundreds of thousands of good men to keep the peace and stop the killing, why aren't there volunteer armies to do precisely this? I mean, I'd go. Wouldn't you?

What, exactly, is stopping some philanthropic old geezer from buying up old stocks of M-16's, renting an airfield in Ethiopia, and putting out a call for service? Are the kind of people who'd do this really that rare? Am I psycho for entertaining fantasies of Janjaweed getting blown off their horses at the end of my blunderbusses? Would anyone really respond if someone were to attempt a volunteer intervention force? What would be the legal/practical challenges?
posted by saysthis at 6:23 PM on December 5, 2006


Feel better?
posted by sfts2 at 6:47 PM on December 5, 2006

dhartung: You're really fucking dense, aren't you? You drew a moral equivalence between debating on the internet and commiting genocide. Maybe I have a right to be offended by that. Maybe I'm just laughing at your banal argumentation.

What dhartung said.

"It's only a matter of degree"? It seems like an odd kind of moral perfectionism--as if to say that someone who criticizes others on the Internet should not be condemning genocide, because, you know, they're not morally perfect either, right?
posted by russilwvong at 8:12 PM on December 5, 2006

Nepal’s Newly Peaceful Maoists Set Up Camp and Wait

Oh, look. It's an intractable problem. 13,000 people are dead -- there's no possible way this can be solved. The United Nations has such a dismal record at peacekeeping, we'd better hope they stay out of this, too.
posted by dhartung at 2:00 AM on December 6, 2006

I don't see how sympathies are very relevant. Sympathies don't lead to good decision making, that comes from understanding consequences. You pay experts apointed by elected officials to work out consequences. And you hope that their goals are kinda like yours.

So my only question for Confessor is: Is that really all your care about? I certainly don't care about Darfur, but I care about things beyond my friends:

Only memetic evolution really matters, i.e. science, technoogy, etc. So Darfur can't directly impact this much within the next 50 years. Nor do we know how/if aid will help or harm. So we're better off just ignoring it & speding the money elseware.

However, millitaries are currently a self perpetuating political reality, i.e. you can't prevent that same money from being waisted on the millitary. So we might as well use it to prevent the conflict from spreding to Chad. Assuming you've got some good plan.

Otoh, intervention supporters *must* argue that we won't make it worse like Iraq. Ideally using specific successful past examples. "It can't get any worse" don't cut it. So my vote remains against intervention until I see such an argument.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:03 AM on December 6, 2006

Here's a little background (via LRB)
posted by adamvasco at 2:17 AM on December 6, 2006


My original post was written hastily; portions of it were poorly-worded as a result. Given more time I would certainly have come up with a more complete list of priorities, including preventing regional destabilization likely to affect countries with known or suspected biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons programs or stockpiles.

The United States' idiotic intervention in Iraq reduces our capacity for intervention (following the Yugoslavian model) elsewhere, of course. Our priorities need to reflect that.

I would also have refrained from calling victims of genocide 'idiots'; most people who quoted/parodied my little list corrected that mistake by calling them 'people'.



Let's talk about priorities:

The casualty study most often cited in the Darfur conflict pins the total loss of life at approximately 400,000 people after three years.

Big number, eh? Well consider this:

Worldwide, 400,000 people die from starvation every 16 days. That's right, twenty-five thousand people per day, seven hundred fifty thousand per month, more than nine million per year! If nine million people die of starvation, how many millions more suffer greatly yet continue to survive year after year?

Bigger number, worse problem, higher priority, right?

But if you really want to fix it, you'd better be prepared to sacrifice. No matter what Christian Childrens' Fund tells you, you won't solve this problem by donating the approximate cost of a cup of coffee each day.

Dhartung mentioned the Golden Rule upthread and gave a few examples of its use by philosophical and religious figures from several major religions. Most of those examples are actually phrased negatively:

Don't engage in an action (i.e. starving people to death) that you would not have visited on yourself.

The Mosaic version could be construed as a positive phrasing of the Golden Rule, but it is still very much limited by the subjective meaning of the word neighbor. Jesus addressed this very issue, and effectively removed that distinction, with his most famous parable, that of the Good Samaritan.

Only Jesus' rendering of the Golden Rule is phrased positively, with no limitations:

Take a positive action (i.e. save people from starvation) that you would wish others to visit on yourself.

But what degree of positive action was Jesus talking about? What sacrifice did he require of those who would follow his teachings? When a rich young man asked Jesus that very question, Jesus advised him that in addition to keeping all of the commandments, he must sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.

To everyone who truely wishes to heal the world, I would give the same challenge Jesus gave: make real sacrifices and take real risks on behalf of the disadvantaged, if you dare. But don't consider yourselves morally superior to me just because you'd help if it wan't so terribly inconvenient.
posted by The Confessor at 7:10 AM on December 6, 2006

OH NOES! I was going to do something about x, but why bother when y is happening all the time?

A vanitas vanitatum, and not a very interesting one.
posted by tannhauser at 7:57 AM on December 6, 2006

*Confessor shakes his head*

Nah, you weren't going to do anything truely substantial about x or y beyond bashing isolationists on metafilter.

We can stop genocide in Darfur... 'til the armies pull out and violence begins anew!

We can save millions of AIDS victims worldwide... 'til they eventually die anyway!

We can end hunger in third-world countries... by turning first-world countries into second-world countries!

I refuse to pay lip service to these doomed ideals, but that does not mean that I have no ideals. My duty is to my family and friends, to my neighbors and acquaintances, to my city, state, and country. I would far sooner sacrifice for these than for the people of another country.
posted by The Confessor at 9:24 AM on December 6, 2006

“make real sacrifices and take real risks on behalf of the disadvantaged, if you dare. But don't consider yourselves morally superior to me just because you'd help if it wan't so terribly inconvenient.” - posted by The Confessor

Daring? Way ahead of you there. Speaking for myself, I don’t count myself among the folks who consider themselves morally superior. When it comes to stuff like this, everyone should do something to help the general welfare of mankind. Only an individual can judge for themselves what their capacity is, where their passion lies and the degree to which they’re willing to sacrifice time, energy and money.
My only issue with your position is that it seems to be “none” which I don’t find a defensable argument.
Furthermore, the degree to which you are willing to sacrifice appears to be limited by an otherwise arbitrary border rather than, as I presumed earlier, the most effective and controlable use of resources.
Again, I find the morality of that position questionable. I do recognize it as a practical measure, but you position seems to take that to an extreme. For example, you would not - I assume from your position - donate a buck to an NGO working on this problem. Not to go Kantian on you but if everyone felt that way those organizations wouldn’t get any money at all and no one could help in any way. But if everyone in the U.S. kicked in a dollar they’d get about $300 million.

The thing about charity is precisely that you give to someone not related to you. You extend that trust. How do your friends become friends? I have friends who would kill for me. I have friends who I could move in with for years and become “Uncle Smed” to their kids. I have friends who quite literally owe me their lives. I didn’t meet them under mutually beneficial circumstances. Sometimes I needed a hand or I needed a hand for a friend of mine and sometimes they needed the help. But the initial extension of that trust is how you form solid lasting relationships.
So are your friends your friends because you just hit the same bars or like the same movies? There’s nothing wrong with that kind of relationship, but it’s not based on anything substantial and I don’t see how because you’re aquainted with someone and you share an interest in film that person gets a higher priority than someone who very badly needs it.
You see the point, hopefully. Jefferson said: In matters of taste swim with the current, in matters of principle stand like a rock. That applies to this as well. Being someone’s friend, helping them out, as a matter of principle, is far stronger an act than helping them because you share tastes. And helping someone on that basis helps spread that principle whether they are your countrymen or not. And indeed, you can teach someone those principles far easier than you can make them a U.S. citizen. I’d argue that all U.S. citizens should serve the principles of liberty and justice for all, but - manifestly - not all of them do. Those that serve those principles I stand by, those who do not, I do not. But I can’t make that determination apriori by an arbitrary line on a map or chance of birth unless I extend that hand first.
Is that at all clear?
(If not look up ‘prisoners dilemma’ - on the whole, trusting yields better results)
If they decide then to rob me, then I know them for an enemy and that requires a different kind of effort.

“why aren't there volunteer armies to do precisely this?”

Who watches the watchmen?
The crusades had some real problems as well. Certainly you could hire a mercinary company to do this, but they’re not the best peacekeepers.
And volunteers need more than just not being paid. There are logistics concerns, feeding them, boarding them (do you impose yourself on the citizenry - another evil - or build barracks? Where? Do you buy the land or just take over on a temporary basis? What if one of your guys gets a tricky idea and wants to set himself up in power - a BIG temptation even for the well meaning?)
And how do you know when to STOP killing? When all the “Janjaweed” are dead? Is that when the people stop riding horses and change their M.O. or is there some other signifier that your enemy hasn’t simply gone underground and is waiting for you to leave? Speaking of which - what are your lines of supply? The rented airfield? If you’re planning to live off the enemy, you’re going to need the support of the populace, how do you plan to protect them from reprisals? How do you know who to set up in the government? Are those volunteers going to have to live there for 10 years or so to make sure the place remains stable?

I’m not trying to slam ya saysthis, there are lots of problems there at a basic strategic level that government apparatus can pull off without blinking, without even getting into the nature of the occupation or international law.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:27 PM on December 6, 2006

“What would be the legal/practical challenges?” -

Y’know, the more I think about it, the more it occurs to me that people conceptualize this kind of intervention the way American forces were positioned in Vietnam in the early bits. Reactive - eradicators of a troublesome pest (in the case in this thread the Janjaweed) rather than military-political operators. The notions implicit here is that if tactical objectives can be achieved enough times than the strategic goal of recreating a political order to stop the genocide (or creating a government in Saigon friendly to U.S. interests) can be achieved. The assumption is that finding engagement opportunities would not be a problem. But if I’m the Janjaweed C.O. (or an NVA honcho) really, it’s my backyard and I can fight or run at my pleasure. So defeat - something really the U.S. didn’t have to worry about as a whole in Vietnam (we’re not currently under their leadership) was not a consideration and therefore was unexpected - and therefore persisted even when there was solid evidence.
Which is the flaw in most plans like this - the enemy’s options aren’t recognized.
There was an engagement at the Ia Drang valley in Nov. of ‘65 I believe - air cav, fire support by the 21st artillery, gunships, even air force support, that met with a coordinated attack by the NVA - it was an airmobile insertion under conditions similar to the insertion scenario saythis describes - find the enemy, engage them sorta thing. The Col. in charge gave lotsa tactical info - how to move, where to go, where the support was, - but left how the op was to unfold to the unspoken doctrine.
Bad idea.
So the Lt. Col. who planned it just went ahead and assumed the enemy would just passively accept the violence being done to them and planned for contingencies based pretty much just on terrain and basic logistics. The NVA of course, did not deign to meet his expectations and though he responded well and was able to withdraw to An Khe, he was unable to impose his will on the enemy because he didn’t know much about their nature, plans, intentions, and likely response to his own actions. Sorta like playing chess and executing your own plan - no matter how sound, if you’re not looking at what you’re opponant is doing, you will lose.
Same thing here. There is a major political component (that leads to greater intelligence) to any type of engagement - but most especially something like this - that has to be put into operation before any battles are fought. You must know your enemy.
I tell people this concerning counterterrorism all the time - diplomacy is the most often used, and most often successful technique. The same principles apply here. You can’t just go in and shoot ‘em and expect to win no matter how well trained you are. Exactly the same mindset in Vietnam. (And very similar to certain aspects of the current war in Iraq).
(sorry for getting technical)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:21 PM on December 6, 2006

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