Justin Raimondo: What About Darfur?
- What About Darfur?
The case against intervention
by Justin Raimondo
May 1, 2006
Whenever I speak on campus, I always get the "But what about Darfur?"
question. This usually comes in tandem with the inevitable Holocaust
question, which goes something like this: "Yes, I agree with your
opposition to the Iraq war, and your anti-interventionist sentiments
in general, but what about our moral responsibility to prevent another
Holocaust?" This is usually accompanied by a paean to "the good war,"
i.e., World War II, and the assertion that "of course" we had to
intervene (and not just because of Pearl Harbor).
I will spare the reader my detailed answer to enthusiasts of "the good
war," except to say that if we hadn't intervened in World War II at
precisely the moment Hitler turned on Stalin, the likelihood of the
two totalitarian monsters destroying each other is a bit more than
mere speculation. I will also note that the Holocaust, far from being
prevented by World War II, was instead hastened and accelerated by the
conflict. American intervention in the European war had nothing to do
with the Holocaust, did nothing to prevent it, and may have worsened it.
In any case, to get back to the case of Darfur: my questioner, I
should point out, is usually not some warmongering neocon, but the
most well-meaning of all lefties, who is savagely critical of the
neoconservative agenda of "democratizing" the Middle East at gunpoint,
but, when it comes to Darfur, all discernment, all the lessons of the
past, are thrown out the window, and emotions take over. It is like an
alcoholic, who, after a long abstinence, quaffs a bit of wine, or has
half a beer: after just a little sip, all caution is abandoned, and
they find him the next day, passed out in the street.
Darfur, where as many as 300,000 may have been killed, has become an
international cause célèbre and rallying cry for the internationalist
liberals, the kind who pride themselves on having a conscience and who
constantly invoke the tragedy of Darfur as a potential model for
"humanitarian intervention." They think that they are different from
the neocons in kind because they advocate intervention for a "good"
cause, because they are motivated by kindness, benevolence, and all
those other liberal internationalist virtues that make them such so
much better people than Richard Perle and Bill Kristol.
This shows that whatever foreign policy debate occurs in this country
is not about the policy almost no one questions the wisdom and
absolute necessity of global interventionism but about motivation:
President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice care about oil, money,
Israel, and self-glorification, not necessarily in that order. We care
about helping poor blacks, stopping genocide, and dispensing American
treasure to the underprivileged albeit deserving peoples of the Third
To get a little perspective on this, let's look at what the invaluable
John Laughland, a writer and longtime observer of the War Party, has
"The Darfur crisis is following a pattern which is so well-worn now
that it has almost become routine. Saturation reporting from a crisis
region; emergency calls for help broadcast on the electronic media
(such as the one recently on the BBC Radio 4 flagship 'Today'
programme); televised pictures of refugees; lurid stories of 'mass
rapes', which are surely designed to titillate as much to provoke
outrage; reproachful evocations of the Rwandan genocide; demands that
something must be done ('How can we stand idly by?', etc.); editorials
in the Daily Telegraph calling for a return to the days of Rudyard
Kipling's benevolent imperialism; and, finally, the announcement that
plans are indeed being drawn up for an intervention."
Writing in 2004, Laughland averred that Western intervention is
"inevitable," and it looks like he was right on the money. The
Washington Post carried a story, prominently featured in the Sunday
edition, about the "growing outcry" to "do something" about Sudan:
"Massive 'Stop Genocide' rallies are planned on the Mall and across
the nation today to urge the Bush administration to take stronger
action to end the violence in Sudan's Darfur region. Thousands of
people are expected to converge on Washington, including 240 busloads
of activists from 41 states, local and national politicians and such
celebrity speakers as actor George Clooney, Holocaust survivor and
author Elie Wiesel, and Olympic speed skater Joey Cheek."
While early reports of plans for the demonstration reported an
expected turnout of 100,000-plus, the rally permit obtained by the
"Save Darfur Coalition" estimated 10,000-15,000, and the actual
numbers were far less. Reuters generously reported "several
thousands," but, never mind that: the sparse numbers were magnified by
the star power of the celebrity speakers. Piggybacking on titans of
Hollywood and the world of sports like Clooney and Cheek, Democratic
party bigwigs including Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and House
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California sought to extract
political benefits from this supposedly spontaneous upsurge of
That, only a few days before, Osama bin Laden had made Sudan the focus
of another of his tirades against the West warning the Muslim world
that Darfur would be the next entry point for the "Crusader-Zionists"
was surely a coincidence, albeit an enormously convenient one for
the motley collection of liberal do-gooders, Hollywood glamour-pusses,
and Christian zealots who make up the "Save Darfur Coalition."
President Bush was glad to endorse the rally: "For those of you who
are going out to march for justice, you represent the best of our
country," Bush said at a meeting with persons described as "Darfur
advocates" in news reports.
Before we send tens of thousands more American troops into a very
troubled region of the world, let us examine what these "Darfur
advocates" are advocating. Both Tony Blair and retired U.S. general
Wesley Clark have argued in favor of intervention, raising the
"successful" war and occupation in Kosovo as a model. That was one war
we didn't hear much about from the great mass of present-day "antiwar"
protesters, who apparently thought that attacking a country that
represented no threat to the U.S. and had never attacked us was okay,
so long as it was done by a Democratic president. By going into Darfur
under the rubric of "humanitarianism," the War Party can sell to
anti-Bush liberals the idea of opening up another front in the Muslim
The Dubai brouhaha showed how easily anti-Arab sentiment can be
exploited on the ostensible "Left" and utilized by the War Party to
demonstrate their effective control of both major political parties
and distance themselves from an increasingly unpopular administration.
The Darfur campaign is another example of their strategic shift: in
both instances, instead of following President Bush's lead, they stood
in opposition to the White House. Up until this point, the Bush team
has been skeptical of getting involved in Sudan. As the Bush White
House drags its feet in provoking the Iranians into war, the War Party
is turning increasingly to the Democrats and the ostensible
liberal-Left for support. This is beginning to pay off, as Hillary
Clinton tries to out-hawk the GOP on the Iranian nukes issue, and
leading Democrats take up the banner of Darfur.
From a realistic point of view, there is nothing U.S. military
intervention can accomplish in Sudan except to make things far worse.
Sudan would soon become Iraq II, with an influx of jihadists and a
nationalistic reaction against what would become, after a short time,
a de facto occupation very similar to what the Iraqis have to endure.
The rebel groups, aided by Sudan's neighbors, such as Ethiopia and
Eritrea, would metastasize, more weapons would pour into the region,
and the probable result would be a humanitarian disaster on a much
larger scale. Intervention, in short, would lead to the exact opposite
of its intended result a principle that, as a libertarian, I hold is
true in economics as well as foreign policy.
But you don't have to be a libertarian to see the folly of
interventionism in the case of Darfur, or Iraq. In the latter, it is
the presence of the U.S. occupation force that empowers the rising
anti-U.S. insurgency: the same principle would operate in Sudan. There
is no reason to believe that we would be welcomed with open arms by
the Sudanese any more than we were by the Iraqis. An initial euphoria
some of it staged would soon be supplanted by a growing
resentment, and the influx of jihadists would destabilize the entire
region, requiring increased U.S. and "allied" forces.
"Saving" Darfur would mean opening up another theater in what the
neocons refer to as "World War IV." Spreading outward from Iraq, this
global conflict will pit the U.S. against a wide variety of enemies,
both freelance and state-sponsored, swelling the ranks of terrorist
outfits and inviting further attacks on U.S. soil. This could be
construed as a "humanitarian" intervention only in the Bizarro World
inhabited by our leaders, including those hailing from the
A coalition of liberal internationalists, opportunistic politicians of
both parties, and the usual neocon suspects have banded together to
lure us into yet another quagmire, this one in Africa. This new
crusade is so imbued with the aura of humanitarian uplift that anyone
who questions the wisdom of intervening in a complicated and obscure
civil war will be denounced as a "racist" who doesn't give a hoot
Oh, so you're against intervening in Darfur, eh? Don't you care about
starving African babies? That our intervention will likely as not lead
to more starving African babies, rather than less, is in my opinion
indubitably true, yet even if it were not, intervention would still be
a mistake. It would be a grave error because there is no lack of
"humanitarian disasters" in this world, and the alleviation of all of
them cannot be the goal of U.S. foreign policy. That would have to
mean perpetualwarfare, on a global scale, waged by the U.S. against
countless legions of enemies, including many yet to be born.
It is a recipe for endless trouble, increasing expenditures, and
eventual bankruptcy, moral as well as financial. Because, in the end,
we'll discover that the whole thing was cooked up by disparate
interests with hidden agendas, in order to profit financially or
politically. The truth will come out: it always does.
We cannot help Africa, except by trading with it and increasing our
humanitarian private efforts to alleviate suffering. The least we can
do, however, is to stop encouraging the worst, most illiberal elements
by subsidizing governments like those of Ethiopia and Eritrea, run by
common thugs paid to do America's bidding. If we really want to help
Africa, we'll stay out of their internal political affairs, start
granting more visas from that continent, and get over our own sense of
moral superiority that lets us imagine we can somehow uplift the
entire world to the level of a typical American suburb.
Finally, if this doesn't underscore the unselfconscious irrationality
of the "left"-wing do-gooder-Hollywood wing of the War Party, then
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