Susan Rice for a Change of US Policy?

While the Canadian government is in shambles, Stand'er Ben Fine recently sent me this article about US President-elect Obama's new choice for UN Ambassador. Like Clinton, it is expected that Obama will make this position a Cabinet-level position, critical to making foreign policy decisions.

This could very seriously represent a change of US policy when it comes to Darfur or response to genocide. As the VOA article mentions, Rice gained some notoriety when she called upon the US to use force against the Sudanese government to end the crisis in Darfur. Here is an op-ed she wrote in the Washington Post outlining her policy recommendations. The basic outline of her argument is that the US should not be afraid to bomb Sudanese military targets or blockade Sudan from oil exports in order to enforce compliance with UN resolutions.

Clearly, this is a very controversial stance and built upon the US actions against Serb targets in the late 1990s in response to Milosevic's campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Would force end up making the situation worse? Could it empower an even more radical elite within the National Congress Party (NCP) that currently rules Sudan? Could it unravel the fragile north-south peace treaty and plunge the country back into a larger civil war, even as (supposedly) the possibility of elections approaches for next year? Would it make the UN peacekeepers currently deployed sitting ducks for government retaliation? In that case, there could be a very serious escalation in which US ground troops would have to get involved eventually. And with military interventions, it is almost inevitable that some civilians will be killed...

On the other hand, I would welcome an Obama presidency that made it clear from the outset what sort of actions it would accept and wouldn't accept, while at the same time ensuring that the US complies with international law to maintain its own moral legitimacy. The Bush Administration, despite forceful action to bring about the end of the North-South civil war, has had its hands tied on Darfur, partly because of Iraq, the war on terror, and the loss of legitimacy due to Gunatanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. I think Obama might have a little more leeway because of the street cred he already seems to have in the rest of the world.

So basically, it would be great to see Susan Rice and Obama outline a strategy from day one that is both consistent and coherent. There will be much more international support for the use of force in Sudan if it is clear that other steps have been taken and the Sudanese Government has clearly violated resolutions or agreements. I also believe that other countries would jump behind the US if they seriously took the lead on pushing for peace negotiations.

At the very least, I think we can be fairly confident that Rice will keep the issue of Darfur on the agenda, as well as other possible scenarios of genocide, considering her research interest in failed states and responsibility to protect.

If only we had some similar hope in Canada right now...

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