Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, July 28, 2006

Suddenly Sudan

Suddenly Sudan
© 2006 Ross Williams

It reads like the plot of a Tom Clancy novel. Old intrigues resurfacing to inflict new intrigue upon another generation long since intrigued-out. Or possibly Tom Clancy-meets-Three Stooges, where old intrigues are slapsticked into a farce.

No matter; as always, "somebody" must do "something" about it. If only "someone" knew what that "something" might be... Someone apart from Mia Farrow, that is.[1]

International law is fairly clear: what happens within a nation's borders is nobody else's business. It doesn't matter what it is. If Slobodan Milosevic wants to wage war on his ethnic Kosov minority and he does so completely within the borders of Serbia, international law says he can do it. Even if he, or his army, rapes women, kills children and executes all the men without trial. Territorial sovereignty and all.[2]

The rest of the world can look on in horror – or in admiration, depending upon one's tastes in such matters – or it can look away. The rest of the world can even squawk with moral indignation and call the vile Milosevic every vile name it can think of. But the rest of the world is not allowed to do anything about it. It is an internal matter.

When NATO bombs Serbia into darkness and rubble because they don't like Slobo turning his ethnic minorities into Kosov-kabobs, NATO has just violated international law. Europe and the US has no more authority to intercede in internal Serbian policies when those policies wage war on the part of its population called Kosovs than Bolivia, e.g., has to intercede in internal US policies which wage war on that portion of the US population called cocaine dealers.

“But... but... but... killing innocent Kosovs is a crime against humanity…” Well, it’s rude, certainly, but find for me this law which spells out what “crime against humanity” consists of and the authority by which other nations have to come barging across borders to impose it by force of arms. I’ll wait … but not for very long.

"But... but... but... a simmering civil war on Europe's back doorstep isn't in Europe's collective economic interest..." Granted, but so what? Impeding the cocaine distribution network isn't in Bolivia's economic interest, either; the answer doesn't change because you shift from moral outrage to gross national product: you aren’t allowed to interfere in another nation's internal policies.

That said: it happens all the time. Not exactly every day, but often enough that we teach our kids the results of such interference in others' internal business. We call it history class. International law – much like US law – is written such that both sides are covered. No matter how it turns out, a violation of international law is cited. It violates international law for NATO to intercede in an internal Serbian matter, yet Milosevic was the one brought up on charges in The Hague. History is written by the winners as much today as ever.

If Serbia had beaten the US-led NATO – a long-shot, certainly, but anything is possible – then NATO would have been hit with sanctions and Clinton and Chirac would be answering the embarrassing questions instead.

I bring this up only to point out this little bit of salience: those who are indignant because the cultural beauty and worth of, for example, the human-sacrificing Maya and Aztec empires were steamrolled by the Spanish are themselves guilty of steamrolling the ethnocentric sensibilities of, in this instance, Serbia. In both cases morality is cited in marginalizing the loser.

I love the smell of hypocrisy first thing in the millennium. Don’t you? The moral equivalence is so ... new age-y.

And then we have Darfur.

Darfur is the western region of Sudan. In Arabic, the name means "land of the Fur". The Fur are – or were – come to think of it, maybe still are – slave traders whose forays into central Africa netted black African tribesman and -women and -children who were sold to Arab muslims for the thriving Arab slave market. The Fur are black Africans converted to islam in the middle ages, and who were ruled for hundreds of years by a succession of Arab, Egypti-Arab or British sovereigns. As long as they were still allowed to farm and sell slaves, they were content to be ruled by those who wanted to rule them.

Which brings us to today. By way of a few decades ago. Enter Tom Clancy.

Back when Moammar Gadhafi was being his Berber bad-ass self, he started up a revolution in neighboring Chad. Well, naturally, you can't do that. Not only does international law frown on one nation interfering in another nation's internal workings by fomenting revolution, but so do people who count. International law does not have an army or carry weapons. France and the US does. And, as everyone knows, central and western Africa is for France, not Libya, to play foreign puppetmaster. And the US didn't like Gadhafi, so no matter what he did it was wrong.

France and the US backed the Chadian government and defeated the pro-Libyan revolution. But the revolutionaries had to slink away somewhere. Couldn't go to Libya, since that would be a dead giveaway that Colonel Gadhafi was behind it. So they slunk next door to Sudan, to the Land of the Fur. These Libyan-backed revolutionaries were black muslims just like the Fur, but they claimed to be Arab. They spoke Arabic, anyway, and they are probably somewhat more ethnically-mixed with actual Arabs than the Fur are.

The stage is now set for the Three Stooges.

Sudan is ruled by Arab muslims. The Fur tribes didn’t like their territory being squatted on, even by other black muslims. These other black muslims don’t raise camels, they raise cattle. And they don’t deal in slaves, they fight in revolutions. And eww!! The squatters have one more Arab living in the family tree.

The Fur asked the government[3] to do something about the squatters – Baggara tribe. The Sudanese government, like all governments, is saddled with glacial inertia and did nothing, and very slowly, so the Fur got up a few revolutionary groups to do something about it themselves. …but not against the ex-revolutionary squatters, for they were still well-armed. There were tribal insurrections going on all over this part of the world – radiating from the horn of Africa, from Eritrea to Ethiopia to Somalia to Chad to Congo – so why not Sudan as well? The Fur started shooting at the government who did nothing about evicting the ex-revolutionary squatters.

The Arab government of Sudan didn’t like being revolted against, naturally, so it hired the black muslim squatters who call themselves Arabs to put down the Darfurian rebels.

Moe hits Larry; Larry complains to Curly; Curly ignores Larry so Larry hits Curly because Larry was originally hit by Moe. So then Curly hires Moe to hit Larry because Larry is hitting Curly because Moe hit Larry in the first place. Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

By all accounts, the Baggara squatters are quite good at putting down revolutions, whereas the Fur revolutionaries are not so good at revolting. A few hundred thousand camel-raising, slave-trading Fur have been killed by what amounts to the Sudanese National Guard-for-hire.

Except for a handful of actual got-totin’ Fur rebels, the Fur are, to a man, woman and child, essentially claiming that their revolution was all a misunderstanding, a joke as it were. They really only meant to sign a petition politely requesting that the Baggara squatters – now hired by the government to kill the Fur – be moved to the other side of Sudan. Or something.

African nations have banded together trying to put a stop to the Darfur “crisis” because Darfur is so unlike the identical crises in Somalia and Eritrea and Rwanda and Nigeria and Ethiopia and, and, and. There’s something about conducting wars that pinches the pocketbook, though, and the largely impoverished nations of Africa don’t have the funds to pay for an army large enough to force the fighting to stop. They can’t even afford the very small army they sent to sit in the desert like a rock, while the Baggara run around them to kill the Fur down the road. And it suddenly becomes unfair that the Fur revolutionaries are being killed by the government.

Once the word “unfair” gets uttered it means, of course, the “crisis in Darfur” has reached the ears of America’s perennially tear-stained professional sympathizers. These people’s first, and seemingly only, response is to beg for UN involvement.

The Fur need the UN for protection. And the UN needs the US for muscle. …because the UN, like international law, doesn’t have an army or carry weapons. The US does.

All the normal tear-stained activists, long on sympathy, short on circumspection, are lining up to agitate on behalf of a group of pseudo-revolutionary slave-traders who – in a spate of cosmic karma – are now getting what they’ve dished out for hundreds of years.

Even so, it’s rude to wipe out whole villages of Fur-Arab people, women and children included, even if they are a major conduit in the Arab slave trade. Yes. Mia Farrow is right about that.

As I continually nag, though: you don’t get points for being right, just pertinent. It is downright horrifying what is happening in Darfur. But it’s an internal Sudanese matter and none of anyone else’s business.

…which is not to say that it won’t be made someone else’s business – even our own here in America. That’s the way things go sometimes, though I’d predict that with everything else going on[4], the Fur are on their own here. I merely point this all out to describe, yet again, the fickle morality of our effete elite who agitate for quasi-war for “humanitarian” reasons and don’t understand the issue beyond their own Save The Children soundbite.

They are demanding that international law be violated on behalf of an abstract “humanitarian law” that no one can point to. This law they cite is apparently written on the blank faces and sunken eyes of the men, women and children who are not good at fighting the wars they start. They deserve a do-over, apparently, like any Hollywood movie star gets. Take two, Ms Farrow; try to hit your mark this time.

Let’s recap the last decade of Hollywood foreign policy, just for laughs:

Serbia, 1996-9, Kosov ethnic minority starts a revolution, gets wiped out by government forces, up to 10,000 Kosovs are killed, but estimates in 1998 started in the low six-figures; it’s a purely internal Serb matter, but the perennially tear-stained weep for war. A war to stop the festering European street fight serves Europe’s collective national interests – not America’s – and so America’s tear-stained give the raging self-interest a pass. We have a war that violates every shred of international law in existence. No US casualties, though, so it’s a “good war”.

Iraq, 1991-2002, Kurd ethnic minority and Shi’a religious majority are being systematically purged by Hussein in violation of 1991 cease-fire terms; estimates of the humanitarian NGOs range up to half a million killed by government forces. Iraq further violates 1991 cease-fire terms by flouting UN inspections and firing on US/UK aircraft thus justifying, under international law, military action being taken. The perennially tear-stained ignore Hussein’s humanitarian outrages because doing anything forceful would be a “war for oil” and otherwise serve America’s national interests, which is bad. Foreign policy is only good when it serves an abstract, theoretical purpose. Hussein gets trivialized[5], and the civilian deaths under Hussein are blamed on “US sanctions” – which were created by the UN. We have a war that is supported by international law; once the war is all over but the shouting, we find that “only” around 200,000 Kurds and Shi’a were killed by Hussein’s government. But the tear-stained don’t want to hear it; Bush “lied”, so the war supported by international law is “illegal”.

Sudan: 2003-6, Fur ethnic minority starts a mini-revolution, government hires a force to wipe them out; estimated 200,000 Fur are killed. Purely internal Sudanese matter, but the perennially tear-stained weep for war yet again.

And war would be what it requires. You can’t simply plop an army down in the middle of two squabbling parties and tell them to look fierce. That’s a recipe for another Blackhawk Down. Or Bosnia. Or Lebanon 1982-3. The army you send must be ready and willing to shoot anyone who looks cross-eyed. Which means war for peace and killing so that people might live.

In the grand scheme of superficial Hollywood foreign policy, isn’t that one of the concepts they criticize? Mia? It’s your line, sweetie…

[1] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-0607250114jul25,1,1899217.story?coll=chi-opinionfront-hed
[2] …which includes “self-determiniation”. We self-righteous westerners are all hot for democratic self-determination, except when the majority doesn’t appreciate things like gay marriage or the candidate from the Democratic Party.
[3] Let us not forget that this is the same Sudanese government which sponsored al Qaida in the mid-90s and imposed Sharia on its southern pagan tribes and its less-than-enthusiastic muslim population
[4] Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Hezbollah-Israel…
[5] “yes, he’s an evil dictator, but we don’t start wars just to topple evil dictators…”


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