Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Darfur has been saved?

Mark Leon Goldberg says that Save Darfur has basically done its job and gone as far as it can go.

The time for activism is long gone. In terms of being able to affect change, the movement has played itself out. This is not meant to diminish the accomplishments of the Save Darfur movement. In fact, I would argue that the Save Darfur movement is a singular example of successful activism. ... Like the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s, the Save Darfur movement was able to bring to light a disaster halfway around the world and nurture a general political consensus around it. In fact, the movement was so successful it infiltrated the institution whose behavior it was seeking to change. A number of the leading lights of the Save Darfur movement now hold top positions in the Obama administration. Darfur is a household name.

These are amazing successes -- for any movement.

But we are now at a point where outside pressure has reached its limit. ... [T]he question now is what to do about Sudan policy, which is something relegated to the vagaries of the inter-agency policy making process. And here, there is a dispute within the Obama administration on the best way to approach Sudan. On the one hand, movement alumni in the administration are pressing for a hard line while others, like Sudan Envoy Scott Gration, reportedly prefer a more conciliatory approach that the movement abhors.

It is hard for me to see how activism (among, frankly, people who will vote Obama anyway) can influence this inter-agency debate. It seems hard to distill support for Susan Rice's policy prescriptions over those of Scott Gration and the State Department's Sudan desk into a placard.

I'll go one step further and say that Save Darfur's likely position (pro-Rice, anti-Gration) may at this point do more harm than good. Their accomplishments aside, Save Darfur was never able to delve into the complex politics of Sudan, or to grapple with the fact that Darfur itself was just a sideshow to the long-running North-South war. Continuing to take a hard line on the regime may lead to a terrible renewal of the North-South conflict, and won't lead to an end to the continuing Darfur rebellion that keeps that region anarchic and ungovernable to this day. A realist's touch is called for, and realism doesn't really have bumper sticker appeal.

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