Sudan watch

Sudan is ruled by a Muslim regime centered on Khartoum in the north, headed by Omar Al-Bashir, a really rough customer under international indictment for crimes against humanity in the Darfur region. But, in addition to the well-known Darfur horror, the Bashir gang has been engaged in a decades-long repression of the non-Muslim southern region, which has been in rebellion against the hated regime.

Sorry this map is a bit small. Darfur is the orange area at left; South Sudan the darker green at bottom

In 2005, the Bush administration spearheaded negotiation of a settlement, ending violent hostilities in the south. This is the kind of thing the U.S. does, often without fanfare or plaudits, acting as a force for good in the world, to which all the America-bashers like Noam Chomsky are morally blind. It exemplifies America’s true core foreign policy: not to “dominate” other nations and peoples but, rather, to foster a world in which all can thrive. Because that is ultimately our enlightened self-interest. We are actually better off in a world where all people flourish than if we exploit others and impose our will by bullying. That is not a long run recipe for our well-being.

As John F. Kennedy once said, “We seek not the victory of one nation or system, but the worldwide victory of men.”

The 2005 Sudan agreement bound the Khartoum regime to an independence referendum in the South, by January 9, 2011. Given the vileness of Bashir and his cronies – and the presence of oil resources in the south – it always seemed a bit over-optimistic to imagine that the south would be allowed to peacefully depart. Yet, for a long while, the agreement seemed to be more or less holding, with the January vote actually going forward.

The beautiful and charming Omar Al-Bashir

But, as the saying goes, the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates the mind; and the Bashir regime finally seems to be waking up to the implications of the vote. And I am shocked, shocked, that it has now started trying seriously to muck up the process.

This is a highly dangerous situation, and it will take a very muscular commitment on America’s part to follow through and shepherd a halfway decent trajectory to events. I hope the Obama administration is sufficiently engaged.

I do not romanticize about a noble South Sudan gaining Jeffersonian freedom from the northern ogres. Alas, if it does actually become independent, the south will start out in shambolic condition, run by a bunch of thugs scarcely better than those in Khartoum. But at least it will be their own thugs, and if a terrible new war between north and south can be averted, then maybe Obama can finally claim to earn his Nobel peace prize.

(Of course, the Nobel grandees would never have dreamt of recognizing George Bush’s genuine achievement in the 2005 Sudan agreement. Obama’s prize was awarded for his being not-Bush.)

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