I don’t see how Darfur liberals can be so blithely indifferent to a looming genocide in Iraq that we have precipitated, while urging intervening to mitigate one elsewhere. ~Andrew Sullivan

I don’t understand how there can be any coherence in this combination of positions, either, but then it seems clear to me that the inconsistency in their foreign policy is their desire to intervene in Darfur and not the desire to leave Iraq.  Iraq should show to all the dangers of intervention, whether these dangers are all foreseeable or not, and it should make everyone realise that interventionists are rolling the dice with the fate of entire peoples when they say that we have an “obligation” to act.  That realisation should make us even more skeptical and resistant to appeals to “do something” about Darfur or any other crisis around the world, as we should realise that every intervention carries with it the potential for unleashing a genocide or at the very least tremendous destruction and bloodshed.  Where there is one genocide, an intervention may create two or it may create some other unexpected or unmanageable situation.   

If we believe we are making things better by entering into someone else’s war or invading someone else’s country, it seems clear to me that we have not thought about the question enough.  It is almost certain that such actions almost never make the lives of most of the people in that country substantially, measurably better.  For every one successful intervention there are probably five failures, and these failures tend to have massive, negative consequences.  This is probably too generous to interventionism.   

For instance, intervention in the Balkans in 1995 resulted in the ethnic cleansing of the Krajina.  Perhaps that would have happened whether or not we actively supported Operation Storm, and perhaps it wouldn’t have, but in the event our government was at least indirectly party to the very sort of crime that our intervention was supposedly trying to stop.  (Krajinan Serb refugees remain refugees in Serbia to this day.)  There is, so far as I know, still no Save Krajina Coalition filled with drippy liberal actors and Sam Brownbacks, because the victims of that ethnic cleansing were the wrong kind of people.  If the plight of people is not on television or in news magazines, it might as well not exist for our politicians and media.  In 1999 in Kosovo, NATO’s intervention directly caused the mass exodus of Albanian civilians from what had become the war zone, creating a humanitarian crisis where none had existed before.  Upon the “successful” completion of the campaign, the Serbs of Kosovo were exposed to the retribution and ethnic cleansing of the now-victorious Albanians.  The original small-scale counterinsurgency within Yugoslavia’s own borders was turned into a regional disaster and the intervention contributed to actual ethnic cleansing where there had been none before. 

Darfur liberals will argue, somewhat implausibly, that it would be a simple matter to stop the janjaweed and end the killing in Darfur.   (Joe Biden, hardly an opponent of the Iraq war, also seems to hold this view.)  The people who endlessly (and rightly) ridicule “Cakewalk” Adelman and his ilk for pre-war predictions about Iraq have a strange confidence that things will go more smoothly in Darfur.  You know, like they did in Kosovo.  (It is only by comparison with Iraq, mind you, that Kosovo seems now to be anything other than a massive blunder and inexcusable waste.)  Adminstration critics correctly cite our general ignorance about Iraqi society and culture as a major, probably fatal, flaw with any attempt to intervene there, but general ignorance about the Sudan is vastly greater.  Virtually no one who is not a specialist in the region knows anything about the tribes of western Sudan, the politics of the different rebel groups or the details of the fundamental problems at the heart of the fighting, which are control of land and access to water.  Any involvement would certainly have to be largely that of air support for rebel groups, who are themselves stained with atrocities of their own, and would encourage the gradual disintegration of the Sudan as a state, creating a very large failed state.  All the arguments against intervening in Iraq apply to the Sudan with equal force, to which we may add yet another: we have no quarrel at all with Arabs in the Sudan.  It is the same kind of rhetoric and logic used by liberal humanitarian interventionists that helped to pull us into Iraq.  It needs to be fought wherever it is found, whether it is offered by Darfur liberals or by supposedly non-crusading, sober-minded conservatives who write things like this (via Ross):

I mean going in — guns blazing if necessary — for truth and justice. I am quite serious about this. The United States should mount a serious effort to bring civilization (yes, “Civilization”) to those parts of Africa that are in Hobbesian despair. We should enlist any nation, institution or organization — especially multinational corporations and evangelical churches as well as average African citizens — interested in permanently helping Africa join the 21st century. This might mean that Harvard would have to cut back on courses about transgender construction workers. And it might mean that some churches would have to spend more time feeding starving people than pronouncing on American presidential candidates.

We should spend billions upon billions doing it. We should put American troops in harm’s way. We should not be surprised that Americans will die doing the right thing. We should not be squeamish, either, about the fact that (mostly white) Americans will kill some black Africans in the process. Yes, this would be a display of arrogance of historic proportions, even a crusade [bold mine-DL]. But it wouldn’t be a military one. On one hand, this cannot be merely an armed invasion, but on the other hand it must not be some UN initiative which just shuffles poverty around. This would be America and its allies doing right as we see it.

Yes, this would seem imperial, for there would certainly be wars declared against us. French writers would break their pencils in defiance of the American Empire. Kofi Annan would need a pacemaker. Pat Buchanan would move to Canada. But being imperial is not necessarily a bad thing. The British Empire decided unilaterally that the global practice of slavery was a crime against God and man, and they set out to stop it. They didn’t care about the “sovereignty” of other nations when it came to an evil institution. They didn’t care about the “rule of international law,” they made law with the barrel of a cannon.