Monday, June 05, 2006

# Posted 6:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS OPPOSING GENOCIDE BAD FOR DARFUR? That's a real question, not some sort of perverse black humor. In a recent NYT op-ed (pointed out to me by the lovely SC), Prof. Alan J. Kuperman of the University of Texas argues that:
Darfur was never the simplistic morality tale purveyed by the news media and humanitarian organizations...The rebels, much weaker than the government, would logically have sued for peace long ago. Because of the Save Darfur movement, however, the rebels believe that the longer they provoke genocidal retaliation, the more the West will pressure Sudan to hand them control of the region
Disturbing as that conclusion is, Kuperman does provide enough evidence to force non-experts on Darfur (such as myself) onto the defensive.

But first, let me observe that Kuperman has sterling academic credentials and no apparent partisan axes to grind. He received a doctorate in political science from MIT not long ago and then taught at Johns Hopkins/SAIS before joining the faculty at Texas.

In early 2000, Kuperman published a long essay in Foreign Affairs deconstructing the argument that it would have simple to prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. A few years ago, while doing some research on the Rwandan genocide, I read Kuperman's article and found it to be both well-research and persuasive.

Which isn't to say that I am anywhere close to agreeing with him on Darfur. I think that Nick Kristof sums up my thoughts quite well on his blog:
First, of course it’s more complicated than it seems at first. There are layers and layers of complexity to Darfur...But all that said, the essential truth is that Sudan’s government is slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people on the basis of their tribe and skin color – and that is genocide, and the rest is detail.
I would also point out that Kuperman proposed altnerative for stopping the genocide in Darfur strikes me as naive in the extreme:
This is no job for United Nations peacekeepers...Rather, we should let Sudan's army handle any recalcitrant rebels, on condition that it eschew war crimes. This option will be distasteful to many, but Sudan has signed a peace treaty, so it deserves the right to defend its sovereignty against rebels who refuse to, so long as it observes the treaty and the laws of war.
How can one possibly expect the government of Sudan to observe the laws of war if it has already sponsored one genocide? That's a little bit like saying that since Slobodan Milosevic signed the Dayton Accords, we should've trusted him to implement the accords as well, instead of sending NATO peacekeepers.
(4) opinions -- Add your opinion

Can you say "blame the victim"? Because Alan Kuperman can.

I suppose if you believe the rebels don't have legitimate complaints and you really don't mind genocide, then his position makes a lot of sense. But as I think genocide is bad (past, present AND future genocides), I have to conclude that the professor is a pretty vile savage.
This sort of silliness is what happens when excessive weight is placed on word play and not enough on physical reality. Sadly, far too many intellectuals get hung up on this sort of thing all the time.

You find similar silliness by people who argue that Iran "deserves" nukes because of this and that, ultimately due to some sort of verbal equivalence that is obviously bogus once one leaves the faculty lounge.

Words are an imperfect model of the world and are not the world.
Apartheid bad. Genocide okay.
Most govts are not Nazis - they use genocide to ethnically cleanse and achieve political ends. If only minorities never resisted govts, whatever they did, and so never put govt in a position where genocide was a useful option, thered be few genocides.

If the Kosovars had just accepted the loss of all autonomy, thered have been no ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Etc, etc.

But thats not realistic. Minorities ARE going to resist govts, over all kinds of issues. And some govts will use ethnic cleansing/genocide as a tool in response.

The Darfur rebel movement was not a response to the save Darfur movement. It was a response to the conditions in Darfur. And the genocide was the Sudanese govt response. The Save Darfur movement was a response to that genocide.

Now today, should we support pressing the rebels to accept the peace deal? Of course, and the Save Darfur movement has never said we shouldnt. But if the govt of Sudan is serious about peace, and really wants the rebellion to end, then let them welcome a UN force. That UN force can ensure that the rebels abide by the peace, while protecting the people from the Janjaweed.
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