President Bush said Thursday that he had considered unilaterally sending U.S. troops to Darfur to stop the mass slaughter in that Sudanese region but decided against it in favor of a multinational response that he conceded has been "slow" and "tedious."On the last point - UN efforts have been frustrating to put it mildly - I agree with President Bush. Of course, the U.S. acting unilaterally by sending troops would be, due to the Iraq war, both a bad decision and is basically impossible anyway. We don't have any troops to send and it would spark a furor in the Muslim world. U.S. forces couldn't alone establish control anyway without international support.
Bush did not explain why he rejected U.S. military action and pointed instead to economic sanctions that he has imposed against Sudanese leaders and companies, saying he is "trying to be consequential." Aides said they believe it was the first time the president had so explicitly disclosed that he contemplated U.S. military action in the region...
The president acknowledged frustration with the U.N. effort to press the Sudanese to halt what the United States has called genocide. "This is a slow, tedious process to hold a regime accountable," Bush said. "We're trying to say that, you know, 'Change, or there's consequences.' " He added that he was encouraged by the latest report from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon about progress toward bolstering an African Union force of 7,000 soldiers with three times that many international peacekeepers.
However, the U.S. should be taking the lead in pushing other nations to take real action (which admittedly would be easier to do, again, if it weren't for Iraq). The genocide in Darfur has seen many as half a million people have died from disease and violence, thousands of women raped, and 2.5 million displaced since 2003 at the hands of Arab militias know as the Janjaweed who are backed by the government in Khartoum. Sanctions are not enough. President Bush should leveraging Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir daily to demand aerial bombings end completely and the institution of a no-fly zone, that humanitarian workers and investigators are permitted free movement in the region, and arms supplies to the Janjaweed are terminated. Furthermore, we should have an American envoy in the Chad-Sudan border at all times. Such sustained pressure shouldn't cease until the killing and rapes are stopped.
But again, this will only be effective if it is multilateral. Our government should continue to work with the United Nations to expand the U.N./African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur and give the forces a stronger mandate, including more generous logistical support. The Bush administration should forget its qualms with the International Criminal Court and use European help to urge the Security Council to refer those militia accused of looting, rape and murder for punishment. Lastly, the U.S. should work with China to set up a front on there end, as they have an oil trade deal with Sudan.
All will be much more likely to help with a broad, international coalition behind action in Darfur, and if no one else will take the lead in putting that together we should. God knows we need something to re-elevate our standing in the world after Iraq. The opportunity to do just that is there, and if President Bush wants to even remotely save his legacy, this would be a good place to start.