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Sudan’s Al-Bashir Indicted. Time to Save Darfur.

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Human rights isn’t exactly China’s strong suit, so their exhortation to the UN to back off the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for the war-crimes arrest of Sudan’s President Al-Bashir seems pretty much par for the course. China’s in deep in Sudan, as they are all over Africa spreading around their wealth and patronage and laying waste to the land.

Chinese style colonialism is very much your run of the mill old-school exploitation without the actual raising the flag bit (it’s always the silly part that really pisses off the locals). Their MO? Bribe the hell out of the government, bosses and warlords, put some personnel with big smiles and bigger wallets on the ground and grab every shred of natural resources they can get their hands on. So far the world has been far too preoccupied with other issues like our Iraq disaster and the small matter of the economic meltdown to get a bead on China’s resource-grab, but as of today that might just change.

If nothing else China’s very loyal to Al-Bashir. Not many world powers are going to back a guy indicted on charges of genocide. But China’s sticking its neck out for this guy even though from a PR perspective it seems like a bad idea. Of course, the Chinese don’t do anything without a damn good reason, and that reason usually has to do an awful lot with money. Perhaps the alternative to Al-Bashir is less China friendly, but whatever Beijing’s motivation, China has the ability to neuter the arrest warrant by vetoing it as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. If they do they run the risk of becoming indelibly linked to the Darfur genocide, and not in a good way.

That possibility opens up some interesting avenues for the United States. As the State Department looks to recalibrate our relationship with China – and stop them loading the dice in their favor, this Al-Bashir moment might just give us the focus we need. As mentioned on this blog a number of times, China is our number one adversary, and we need a much more forthright policy that emphasizes what America needs out of the relationship rather than merely what China can offer us. A big part of the problem we face with Beijing is China’s virtual invasion of Africa which has gone on uncontested for far too long. It’s time to shine some light on it, challenge it, and most importantly do what should have been done years ago – use US military forces to stop the genocide in Darfur.

The first thing that many people will say is that US forces are overextended, but if we had a draw-down of 100,000 troops from Iraq, we could spare at least a couple of light combat brigades for deployment to Darfur as the core of an international coalition strike force. As for US air support, we have a major base in Djibouti, and could easily augment its contribution with at least one aircraft carrier.  The Janjaweed on their horses and Toyota pickups would either be smart and bail, or would be foolish and get wiped out in a few serious confrontations, then get smart and bail. We’d impose a cordon which in a matter of months would be handed over to a strong and committed OAS and UN combined force (under the watchful eye of a remaining US and coalition contingent).

Of course, China won’t like the idea of all this one bit, which is a damn good reason to consider it. Now is the time to go to the Security Council and build a coalition to end the Darfur nightmare for once and for all. Of course America would appeal to China to join such a mission and that would put Beijing in an intolerable position. Do they veto a humanitarian mission or join it? Do they abstain and reduce their influence? Or do they aggressively seek to protect their resource grab in Sudan, even as a force is being put together purely for humanitarian reasons.

At the same time as the Chinese fret, the US would boost intellligent and targeted aid to key African countries, mainly in the form of microloans and other support for local private enterprise. We’ll engage with nations that so far have seen very little of us, and way too much of the Chinese, and earn their loyalty and respect as part of a worldwide push to rebuild American power through friendship and largesse. With the help of a President whose father was Kenyan, we have the leader we need to help make that a reality.

In many respects, a push on Darfur would be an aggressive move by the US. But there’s a genuine humanitarian reason to move forward which provides the moral basis and the political cover, as well an opportunity to act in the shape of the ICC indictment of Bashir. Not only that, but the US draw-down in Iraq would free up forces for a Darfur mission. French and British support would be almost guaranteed, Russian support would be likely too. After all, there’s little love lost between Moscow and Beijing, and the US is working on a stronger, more symbiotic relationship with the Russians. That would leave China in a jam, and turn a great big Kleig light on their under the table African colonialism.

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