It’s been seven months since news broke out about the ICC’s pursuit of an arrest warrant for Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, charging him with genocide and war crimes against humanity, a move that brought about entertaining Sudanese reactions.
Seven months, and it seems to me that there are some who can hardly wait for the issuance of this arrest warrant as if it’s some kind of magical solution that’s going to bring peace and stability to Darfur.
We’ve witnessed a lot during that time, from China trying to lobby the UN to suspend the ICC’s efforts, to the ICC’s recent additional indictment of three Darfur rebel leaders whose names were not disclosed.
The most recent development was a false leak claiming that the ICC has finally made a decision regarding the arrest warrant, something the ICC staunchly denied (yes, the same ICC al-Bashir hilariously called a terrorist organization).
The false leak circulated all over the media and was then corrected. But there was another recent development that has a major influence on this whole ICC ordeal – the new American administration.
I’ve already discussed what an Obama administration could mean for Darfur back when the elections were under way.
As a Sudanese, I have witnessed firsthand what American foreign policy under both Republicans and Democrats can do to a country like Sudan. It can inflict pain or alleviate it. Bill Clinton’s did the former. He bombed a pharmaceuticals factory which produced a large chunk of the country’s medical supplies, alleging that it manufactured chemical weapons when it didn’t. He enforced sanctions that did little to affect the regime and instead ended up making life for the average Sudanese more miserable.
… Unlike Clinton, the Bush administration dedicated a great deal of time and resources into pressuring Sudan to end the longest war of the past century, and it succeeded. A few years of relentless diplomacy behind the scenes finally led up to the monumental signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. At last, the blood of countless innocent Sudanese stopped spilling. Our long war, one which killed millions, finally came to a grand halt, and it all wouldn’t have been possible without the immense pressure exerted by the Bush administration.
… given that it’s the Democrats who’ve been calling for a withdrawal from Iraq and a forced military intervention in Darfur, I’m not exactly ready to comfortably embrace Obama just yet. Darfur needs a political solution. Going back to Clinton’s approach is the last thing Sudan needs. Bush’s is better although it lacks sufficient pressure now because al-Bashir’s regime is heavily cooperating with the CIA again in sharing highly valuable terrorism-related intelligence. Moreover, last year the CIA convened in Khartoum at a conference attended by more than 50 African intelligence agencies.
… Democrats I’m afraid are too hostile towards Sudan. Meanwhile, Republicans are easing pressure over Darfur and the CPA’s implementation in return for valuable intelligence. Neither is good but the former is the lesser of two evils. I believe the hostility will inevitably soften once reality kicks in to a level that isn’t potentially dangerous, but yet sufficient in terms of the positive pressure it produces.
Heck, the hostility is already softened. Let me explain why.
You see, compared to the Red Elephants, the Blue Donkeys are indeed hostile towards Sudan. In case you haven’t noticed, most Americans backing the Save Darfur cause are left-leaning liberals. Plus, let’s also take into account Obama’s decision to appoint the lovely Hillary Clinton (yes, here we go with another Clinton) as his Secretary of State. So, not only do we have a hostile Clinton in this new American administration but also the really hostile Susan Rice, the United States Ambassador to the UN. Watch her passionately speaking on Darfur in this video:
Still not convinced she’s hostile? Fine, then read this article she wrote back in 2006 with two other persons.
History demonstrates that there is one language Khartoum understands: the credible threat or use of force. After Sept. 11, 2001, when President Bush issued a warning to states that harbor terrorists, Sudan — recalling the 1998 U.S. airstrike on Khartoum — suddenly began cooperating on counterterrorism. It’s time to get tough with Sudan again.
After swift diplomatic consultations, the United States should press for a U.N. resolution that issues Sudan an ultimatum: accept unconditional deployment of the U.N. force within one week or face military consequences.
Now, here’s why I wouldn’t be too concerned about “military consequences.” A lot has changed since Susan made those remarks, but the relevant changes mainly come down to one thing that occurred between then and now.
The American economy
It’s currently screwed and as a result, the global one is suffering too. Therefore, a US-led military intervention in Darfur is a pretty remote possibility at the moment, so we’re safe from a well-meaning mistake that will only bring about a short-term solution. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, the Blue Donkey hostility is in practical terms inevitably already softened. The potential for well-meaning recklessness is smaller, which is cool.
Too little pressure, bad. Too much hostility, also bad. Restrained hostility and adequate pressure, good.
But then again, how does all of the above relate to the ICC indictment? I’ll answer that in a minute, but before that, read this previous article of mine.
According to the Washington Post, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is now seeking an arrest warrant for the Sudanese dictator, Omar al-Bashir, charging him with crimes against humanity for his role in the mass killings that engulfed Darfur during the last five years.
The move in itself, and the symbolic pursuit of morality and justice it represents, are commendable. Any research and evidence that can shed more light on the butchery that took place in Sudan’s western region is more than welcome.
Nevertheless, once all the warm and fuzzy feelings vanish, we are left with the reality and the negative consequences that such moves can cause.
First of all, what on earth does the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, plan to do after he gets his warrant? Walk into Khartoum and handcuff the Sudanese president? Let’s get real.
… The very lives of Darfur’s innocent women and children could face increasing danger as a result of this warrant. Khartoum will very likely react aggressively, by stubbornly stirring up more trouble than already exists.
Al-Bashir is currently scrambling after the Arab League to hold a meeting of foreign ministers in order to discuss the ICC matter. However, this panicky attitude shouldn’t be mistaken as a positive development, because the goal of the effort isn’t to annoy Sudan’s president or force him into a corner. The final goal is peace and security for Darfur’s people — and pursuing a well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful strategy won’t achieve that.
The ICC — which got the green light to conduct its Darfur investigations from the UN Security Council — can’t do much on its own in terms of enforcement.
On top of that, the UN is also notorious for not having the will to confront what needs confronting. The so-called “international community’s” and UN’s reactions to al-Bashir’s possible coming damaging reactionary maneuvers are all too predicable and they’ll be anything but tough or sufficient.
… If the ICC effort could truly deliver positive results, it would be wonderful, but I strongly suspect the bad will outweigh the good.
The ICC will just make itself look more and more like what the UN already is — a fangless, paper tiger.
Yup, it’s true, the ICC can’t do much on its own in terms of enforcing the arrest warrant (if it issues it at all) and the UN is a fangless paper tiger, but…
… given that we now have Susan Rice as the US Ambassador to the UN, Hillary as Secretary of State (she has her own blog now by the way), and a Blue Donkey administration in charge of running things, US policies towards Sudan will gradually become starkly different than they were just a few months ago when Bush was still in power.
An ICC arrest warrant issued within this new context will now have more weight, and hence its potential issuance will probably be more useful as a tool for pressuring Omar al-Bashir to act in favor of peace in Darfur and implementing the CPA.
Things are so different now, I might actually change my mind about the indictment and back it after all. Why merely “might”? Because I still doubt if the good that will come out of an arrest warrant would be more than the bad it will cause.