Darfur Watch: Polls, and what won't happen and why

It’s as predictable as the sun rising in the east: You start talking about a crisis and pretty soon there’s some support among the voting public for doing something about that crisis. I’m sure I’m not the first to make that observation. Second, if you have an interest in an issue and conduct a poll about it, you’re bound to find support for your position.

Regarding Darfur, a new poll says a majority of Americans want something done about it. Sort of.

Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) believe taking action to stop humanitarian crisis like genocide should be a high (42 percent) or the highest (19 percent) foreign policy priority for the country. Among respondents who had heard “a lot” or “some” about Darfur previous to the poll, support climbs further to 71 percent. Sixty three percent support the use of targeted sanctions against Sudanese leaders responsible for carrying out genocide, 54 percent support denying port entry to tankers carrying Sudanese oil, 53 percent want the US to work with the International Criminal Court to bring the perpetrators to justice, and 50 percent favor direct US military action as part of an international peacekeeping force.

Ah, yes, sanctions. They worked so well against Saddam, he was only able to skim billions off the UN’s terrifying wrath and use that cash to buy safety. For a while.

As for working with the ICC, how should we go about apprehending those responsible for the genocide? Send in the police? Leftists made that same argument vis a vis Osama bin Laden after 9-11–that we should bring him to justice without resorting to military force. Reality bites that argument pretty hard though, since the killers in Darfur are heavily armed and currently engaged in a war. In bin Laden’s case, he was sitting behing the Taliban’s army and his own Al Qaeda fighters. In both cases, you need military force to get the bad guys. The same leftists who want us to work with the ICC don’t support putting troops on the ground, though.

The poll report makes an issue out of the fact that support for doing something about Darfur is high in spite of the ongoing carnage in Iraq. That war, by the way, was predicated on among other things ending Saddam’s human rights abuses. He was responsible for about 300,000 Iraqi deaths during peacetime and about 1.5 million deaths total, more or less, for starting the war with Iran and for invading Kuwait. But the majority of the voting public that believes human rights should be a US priority no longer supports the war in Iraq. We have our ideals, and we have reality, and apparently a lot of us never let the two meet.

Free Tibet! Ahem.

One could also add, support is high in spite of the last time we intervened in anything like Darfur with boots on the ground (Somalia, 1992-3) and the fact that unlike Iraq, Darfur doesn’t impact our national security. One could also add that that 50% support for direct military intervention would drop by about half once the first US troop was wounded or killed in any mission in Darfur. Based on history and reality, the support for intervening in Darfur in any way is much softer than the poll makes out. A majority likes the idea, but the reality? Not so much.

The poll was conducted on behalf of something called the Genocide Intervention Network.

I think it’s wonderful that there are groups out there polling Americans on Darfur and prodding us all to action. The genocide there is a monumental crime, among many monumental crimes currently underway around the world.

But you can’t intervene in a crisis with the world you want, you have to intervene or not based on the world you actually have. And the world we actually have includes China, which as I mentioned the other day is likely to use its position as a rising power to land on the wrong side of the genocide.

One potential avenue for diplomatic negotiation that has not been fully explored is through China, which is one of Sudan’s greatest trading partners and largest exporter of the country’s vast oil wealth. Sudanese oil exports declined by 20 percent last year due to the Darfur situation.

China has resisted exhortations that it get involved in human rights negotiations with Sudan and its other African trading partners, wary that such interventions would give other nations license to intervene in its own internal disputes and power struggles with Taiwan. But as Beijing moves to take a greater role in global geopolitics unlinked to its commercial interests, China has begun tentative steps to be a key diplomatic player.

Chinese President Hu Jintao left Tuesday for an eight-country African tour — his second in the last 12 months — to include a stop in Khartoum for talks with his Sudanese counterpart. The talks are to encompass discussions of the prospects of a negotiated political solution to the Darfur crisis.

Stressing that “sanctions will not work,” Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun said: “China’s position is that solutions to the problems of Darfur should be aimed at stabilizing the region, since deterioration will affect neighboring nations.”

China is concerned with two things on the international scene, and neither of them are the rights of Christians and animists in Sudan (or anywhere else). China is concerned with trade (in this case, oil), and with keeping everyone else out of its business in Taiwan. In Sudan China sees a trading partner in Bashir and a template for others to justify meddling in Taiwan affairs. Thus, if China intervenes in Sudan it would only be to “stabilize” the genocide, not end it. Try getting China’s partnership on any UN-led endeavor to stop the genocide in Darfur. Try getting around its veto on the UNSC. You’ll have to acquiesce to China’s demands, watering down to the point of uselessness anything that finally gets through.

In the world that is, as opposed to the world we want, Darfur will suffer because a) it doesn’t directly threaten us and we’re in the middle of a simmering war of our own and b) other powers have an amoral worldview that places absolutely no value on human life, and through bodies like the UN we have magnified their influence at our own expense.

I would love to see regimes like Bashir’s ended forever. Crimes such as that against the people of Darfur ought to be stopped and those responsible, punished. But when the only world power that has the will and the capacity to do anything about anything like Darfur actually acts, half our own country denounces us and most of the world does everything it can to stop us. The world calls America a criminal for her desire to stop criminals, and the loudest voices against us come from fellow Americans.

That is the world we have. And that world is why Darfurs happen and why they will continue to happen.