Saturday, October 16, 2010

War Looms in Sudan

Sudan is another country whose borders were drawn by colonial administrators for purposes that had nothing to do with the well-being of people living there. That boundary lumps together two large groups of people who hate each other, and the arrangement has never worked well. At the time of independence, the leaders of southern tribes agreed to join Sudan on the condition that it if they were unhappy there would be a referendum on independence for the south in five years. Southerners were unhappy, but the northern government blocked the referendum. This led to decades of low-level strife and finally to civil war. The 2005 peace deal ending the civil war specified that the long-deferred referendum would be held in January, 2011. But the northern government has refused to do anything concrete to make the referendum happen, and they have just announced that the referendum must be delayed. If they stick to this, civil war is very likely to break out again.

Here's a question for all you folks who supported the US invasion of Iraq: should we intervene? By blowing up the northern air force and sending some drones and an attack helicopter squadron to the south, and a brigade of troops to guard their bases, we could probably guarantee southern independence. (Nobody doubts they will vote for independence.) I mean, the main tactic of the northern army in the civil war was to send bands of raiders on horseback to attack southern villages, and we shouldn't have much trouble stopping that. If you think we should use the US Army to do good in the world, why not?

I think, of course, that this would be a terrible idea. It would turn a question about the self-determination of peoples into another question about getting the US out of somewhere, embitter the people of north Sudan against us, draw radicals from across the Muslim world to Sudan and further corrupt its politics, spawn another generation of suicide bombers, cost us billions, and guarantee that the north will never accept whatever boundaries emerge. I can see the temptation to do good, but my instinct is that descending into the bush with high-tech weapons and limited understanding will only lead to more violence and more hate.

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