The National Catholic Review
I am not sure why all three remaining candidates for president signed a joint statement from the Save Darfur Coalition. Perhaps, after such a long primary season which was so often focused on nitpicking issues, it was time for a little moral posturing. They noted that "on this moral issue of tremendous importance, there is no divide between us. We stand united and demand that the genocide and violence in Darfur be brought to an end." King Canute, you will recall, demanded that the tides recede. The statement had nothing to back up this "demand." No consequences were spelled out. There was the clear implication that the souls of the murderous Sudanese regime were at risk, but that is a risk that regime seems quite prepared to take. There is danger in making a demand that you cannot enforce: it trivializes the value of your word and, in diplomacy, your word is all you have. Barack Obama, who has promised that a more vigorous diplomacy will be the hallmark of his foreign policy as president, should be especially ashamed for adding his signature to this statement. After spending a week defending the importance of negotiating, of words, after President Bush compared him to Neville Chamberlain in a speech to the Israeli Knesset, here was an opportunity for Obama to point out that words are not always enough, that we have had enough of words about Darfur, that not one single victim of the violence has been saved by the words, by the UN resolutions, by the on-line petitions. It was a chance for Obama to give Bush, McCain and the country a history lesson: the problem with Chamberlain’s stance at Munich was that there was no way to back up his fine words. He thought he had secured "peace with honor" but he had, in fact, lost both. John McCain’s signature on this text is repugnant for different reasons. The sad fact of the matter is that the tragedy in Darfur, awful though it is, can yet be made worse. And, the surest way to make it worse is to send in the Marines. One of the consequences of the Iraq War is that U.S. intervention, even on behalf of humanitarian goals, is not only much less likely, it is much more complicated. Does anyone doubt that if U.S. troops arrived in Darfur today, Al-Qaeda would arrive the next day? McCain’s support for the Iraq War was ill-conceived at several levels. There was no way the invasion of Iraq would not end up strengthening the mullahs in Iran. There was no way the ethnic and religious tension tamped down by Saddam’s repressive regime could be neatly and amicably resolved. And, there was no way that the American people could be led to embrace a more activist role in the world if the war dragged on, as the war has dragged on. The war in Iraq is the reason there will be no help in Darfur. Instead of feeling self-satisfied that they have looked past their partisan differences to embrace a common foe, the three candidates each have reason to feel ashamed. Groups like the Save Darfur Coalition present the mirage of accomplishing something, but the crisis in Darfur needs action not words. And words delivered with no concern for their veracity, words that raise false hopes of deliverance for the long-suffering people of Darfur, words that make idle and empty threats, are pernicious words that invite cynicism. Michael Sean Winters

Comments

Anonymous | 5/31/2008 - 6:01am
Bravo, Michael Sean. I support sending the Marines to Darfur. A small number should be enough, but they must also begin establishing a viable government in the area, including schools, hospitals, business, roads, etc. This will cost money and will not be popular with many people. Five helicopters full of Marines would have stopped the slaughter in Rwanda. I think Michael Sean should continue to write his article, but perhaps from Darfur, where he might be teaching in one of the schools established by the Jesuits. The Jesuits have Cristo Rey schools here in the U.S. and St. Aloysius Gonzaga in Nairobi. Hopefully, the Jesuits will begin to work in Darfur.