In addition, the administration has consistently tried to restrain the rebel force here, led by Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu, a successful commander who has lived in America and projects moderation. The rebels are itching to seize the South Kordofan state capital, Kadugli, but say that Washington is discouraging them. In an interview in his mountain hide-out, Abdel Aziz noted that his forces have repeatedly been victorious over Sudan’s recently.

“Their army is very weak,” he said. “They have no motivation to fight.” He seemed mystified that American officials try to shield a genocidal government whose army is, he thinks, crumbling.

Likewise, in Syria, the United States has not only refused to arm the opposition but has, I believe, discouraged other countries from doing so. Yes, there’s an underlying logic: the Syrian opposition includes extreme elements, and the violence is embedded in a regional sectarian conflict. Nonetheless, the failure to arm the opposition allows the conflict to drag on and the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, to massacre more people. The upshot is that the violence spills over into Lebanon, and sectarian poisons make Syria less and less governable.

In both Syria and Sudan, the Obama administration seems stuck behind the curve.