(US Defense Secretary Robert Gates with the Egyptian Military, soon to be deploying troops to Darfur)
Arab states have taken numerous hits in the media — some unwarranted, some deserved — for not taking a stronger role in condemning the violence in Darfur and arm-twisting the Sudanese government to allow for peacekeepers or peace talks. The US, by contrast, has continued to stand on a soapbox drawing attention to the issue and urging the world to move quickly to stem the violence that has claimed 200,000 lives.
But yesterday witnessed something of a reversal of positions. President Bush spoke at the UN and chastised the UN for its failures to stem the violence in Darfur (despite the breakthrough that will allow a joint UN-AU peacekeeping force) but has not been willing to put up the resources to make this breakthrough a reality as former Senator Tim Wirth stated:
This morning, President Bush admonished the UN to ‘live up to its promise to promptly deploy peacekeeping forces to Darfur.’ However, the Administration has requested funding for only 20% of its share of the Darfur mission, and is heading towards a debt of more than $1 billion for UN peacekeeping overall. It is impossible for the UN to ‘live up to its promise’ to deploy peacekeepers to Darfur if nations like the United States fail to pay for the peacekeeping missions that they vote for in the Security Council.
On the same day, Egypt, though by no means the model of human rights, took the significant step of committing 2,500 troops or 10% of the joint force to be deployed in the Darfur region. Deployments of Arab and Muslim troops cannot be understated — they will be quite valuable to both provide credibility to a western-led mission that is viewed by a large part of the world with suspicion and to dampen the resonance of al Qaeda’s twisted call to turn Darfur into another front against the West.
It’s a pity when we squander an opportunity on the global stage to lead the world on what we have termed a genocide But at the very least it’s good to see Middle East/North African neighbors beginning to warm to the notion of moral responsibility and regional stewardship on this front.