98.83% in Sudan: What’s Next?

by Taylor Jo Isenberg | February 11th, 2011 | |Subscribe

The announcement of the final result of the Referendum has marked the end of an era and today is the beginning of a new era in our history.  Today is a glorious day for all the sons and daughters of Southern Sudan.  It is a glorious day for the people of the Republic of the Sudan.  It is a glorious day for Africa and the world.  You have exercised your inalienable right to self-determination freely, fairly and peacefully.  You have expressed your freewill over your future.  By this official result of 98.83%, the whole world has heard your voice loud and clear!

-President Salva Kiir

Very few experience the kind of jubilation the Southern Sudanese felt when the results of the independence referendum were certified by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) and President Omar al-Bashir this week. Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, they went to the ballot box and at 98.83% of the vote walked away from a ruthless dictator with a knack for not only surviving, but thriving off his country’s misfortunes. The impromptu dance party in the capital of Juba said it all. On July 9th, 2011 Southern Sudan will become the 193rd country in the world and the 57th independent country in Africa. (more…)

NI Envoy Named – Sudan/Darfur Envoy next?

by Raj Purohit | March 17th, 2009 | |Subscribe

A few years ago I spent a fair bit of time working on the challenges facing Northern Ireland. I was happy to have the opportunity to play a small role on the issue and quickly came to understand that the NI Envoy had a key role to play in efforts to secure the peace in that area.

Today, Ben Smith (via Toby Harnden) let us know that Mark Tuohey is likely to be named the NI envoy by President Obama. This seems to be a good fit, Harnden let us know that Tuohey’s credentials include the fact that he “advised the Patten Commission on policing – a subject that remains a thorny issue in Northern Ireland.” Smith also suggests that the President “heard” the concerns raised by the Irish-American community when they responded negatively to “candidate Obama’s” suggestion that an envoy would not be needed. Whether that is true or not, as far as I’m concerned, this appointment is a good move from the President and worthy of praise. Having said all of that, it is also fair to say that this decision got me thinking about another part of the world I care about – Africa.

It struck me today that there are other regions of the world where the need to name an envoy is probably more acute than NI. One area that comes to mind immediately is Sudan/Darfur and another is the Congo.

Now, I understand that the question of an envoy for Sudan/Darfur is under active consideration within the administration (Darfur activist and actor George Clooney noted that a review was under way last month after his White House meeting with the President and Vice President) and Sen. Clinton suggested today that an appointment would be made within days.

This is without question good news, but as I read today’s announcement, which comes on the heels of important policy steps and appointments re: the Middle East and Central-South Asia, I was left with a feeling that the administration is falling behind the curve when it comes to Africa.

I wanted to test this sentiment and spoke to a few friends and colleagues with an Africa focus and it is fair to say that there is a growing sense among progressive foreign policy types that the administration’s Africa policy and appointments are in fact behind schedule.

Perhaps this critique seems harsh considering we are still within the first 100 days so let me be clear about one thing. I absolutely believe that the President has a lot on his plate and his priorties must be the economy, energy and Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan. BUT it is also important to note that the President has built an all-star foreign policy team precisely, one would suspect, to ensure active engagement in areas where he cannot focus at this time.

If you believe that this true, and I do, it seems fair to say that the President is being let down a little by his team. During the campaign he laid out his approach to a range of Africa centric challenges and now his team needs to build on that vision. It is time for the Secretary of State and the foreign policy group to develop and execute not only a Darfur/ Sudan policy but a broader strategy for Africa as quickly as possible – there are a range of crises that require US led multilateral attention quickly including those in Sudan/Darfur, the Congo, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

ICC Acts on Darfur – All Eyes on Khartoum and Washington

by Raj Purohit | March 4th, 2009 | |Subscribe

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has just issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. This action has historical implications with al-Bashir becoming the first sitting head of state to be subjected to an arrest warrant in the life of the court (the charges are war crimes and crimes against humanity). Now that the ICC has acted all eyes will turn first to Khartoum to see how the al-Bashir regime responds and then to Washington for the Obama administration’s reaction.

The challenge for the Obama administration is to leverage the pressure the court’s action will bring to bear on the Sudanese leader. I would like to see the administration publicly support the arrest warrant and make clear that the U.S. will not sit idly by if any member of the Security Council – notably China – attempts to shield Mr. al-Bashir. I’d also like to see the administration name a special envoy to take charge of the Sudan/Darfur issue (there are a number of attractive options but I’d urge the President to choose Gov. Richardson, who has worked this issue in the past, to serve).

An envoy would be in a position to take advantage of the space created by the ICC and push for a comprehensive peace agreement. Such an agreement would likely include: 

A long-term U.N. peacekeeping group in the region.
Complete demilitarization of the militia groups.
Governance concessions by the Sudanese central authorities.
Transfer of two other alleged war criminals – former Minister of State for the Interior Ahmed Haroun and janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb – to the ICC. 

The ICC has created some space – let’s hope the administration can use it.

Obama, the ICC and Darfur

by Raj Purohit | February 6th, 2009 | |Subscribe


Just a short post from me this morning. The Baltimore Sun just ran an op-ed I co-authored with my friend Howard Salter titled “Will Obama Act to End Darfur Tragedy?” In the piece we consider whether the administration will look to leverage the forthcoming arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir  to secure a peace agreement for Darfur. 

Our piece has come out on the same day as this Washington Times editorial which urges the President to shun the Court. I’m not shocked at the stance taken by the WT but am curious to see what take my fellow bloggers and visitors to ATA have on this issue.


International Justice Systems and the Muslim World: Why Bashir is Wrong

by Raj Purohit | January 28th, 2009 | |Subscribe


Friends – I hope you find this joint effort with my friend Amjad Atallah of interest. Amjad is the Director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation.

International Justice Systems and the Muslim World: Why Bashir is Wrong 

by Raj Purohit, and Amjad Atallah

If the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in February, it will certainly be met by a volley of criticism from the accused as he continues to frame the ICC as a tool of the west in its fight against the Muslim world. Al-Bashir can be expected to use the world-wide revulsion over the civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip to deflect attention from his own crimes. 

However, human rights activists should not cede ground to Mr. al-Bashir and his allies on this issue; instead they should embrace a debate centered on the relationship between international justice and the Arab and Muslim worlds while maintaining a moral consistency across every conflict that highlights the inviolability of every civilian life. 

A Scorecard for the Presidential Debate

by Matthew Rojansky | September 26th, 2008 | |Subscribe

Given the prospect of a trillion-dollar-plus government bailout package for Wall Street, tonight’s Presidential debate is likely to stray from the official theme of national security and foreign policy.  But, as Senators McCain and Obama have each suggested, America’s economic future is closely linked to our national security, our international standing, and our competitiveness in the global marketplace.  For that reason, any conversation about putting the US economy back on track will raise some serious questions about the next President’s national security and foreign policy agenda.

The Partnership for a Secure America’s distinguished bipartisan Advisory Board issued a statement asking Senators Obama and McCain five critical questions about foreign policy challenges that will require cooperation between Democrats and Republicans in January of 2009.  The statement begins: “As Democrats and Republicans, we believe that the next President of the United States must initiate a new era of US global leadership based on bipartisanship at home and cooperative engagement abroad.”


Carrots, Sticks, and Olympic Torches

by Matthew Rojansky | June 10th, 2008 | |Subscribe

According to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in an article in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, China’s reluctant and belated concession to allow a skeleton UN-AU peacekeeping force in Sudan represents a newly “cooperative approach on a range of problems.” But the reality is that some newfound sense of Chinese responsibility on the world stage had nothing to do with Beijing’s decision to “cooperate.” The concession on Darfur (if you want to call it that) was entirely about the Beijing Olympics. Given that it took a threatened boycott by Western leaders for China to stop arms sales to Sudan and drop its veto of the peacekeeping resolution, I am dubious that we’ll see any further “responsible” behavior after the Olympic Games have come and gone. At this point, the Games are going ahead—with or without protesting Western leaders—and the leverage a coordinated boycott might have provided will be a mere memory.

But I’m not writing this to bemoan a missed opportunity or cast aspersions on Rice’s diplomatic optimism. I’m writing this to call some attention to the next opportunity down the road: Sochi 2014.

China and Russia are both rising powers, economically, militarily and diplomatically. Secretary Rice referred to both as carrying “special responsibility and weight as fellow permanent members of the UN Security Council.” Translation: they both have lots of nuclear weapons, so our military power doesn’t really scare them. China is also not the only rising power we’d love to see adopt a more cooperative stance as it claims (or reclaims) “full membership in the international community.”


Bush’s Legacy in Africa

by Jonathan Wallace | February 20th, 2008 | |Subscribe

Bush African Dance

By any measure, George W. Bush’s foreign policy has been a disaster. However, one of the few bright spots during his seven years in office has been his policy towards Africa, particularly in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The President raised development aid by 30% from 2001 to 2003 and raised total HIV/AIDS funding by 36% in his first years in office. In Africa, his foreign policy is not seen solely through the prism of failed militarism. People recognize the strides that Sub-Saharan Africa has made in combating disease and poverty during his term. To be sure, there is still tremendous work to be done and the Bush administration should not strain themselves patting their own backs. However, for a President searching in vain for a foreign policy legacy, Africa offers an opportunity to enhance the presidency in the eyes of the historians, and to help millions of people who still ache for a better life. With this in mind, I believe now is the right time for President Bush to make the bold moves and take on the politically risky challenges that the continent presents.

He could start in Darfur, where the (much like other parts of his foreign policy) the rhetoric has been strong, but the action has been timid. President Bush could do much to help the UN peacekeepers that are just now being deployed there. He could lease helicopters to the UN so that the peacekeepers can track movements of the militias and travel quickly from camp to camp. While he has been forceful in his use of the word genocide, there needs to be more state level engagement in order to isolate the Bashir regime in Khartoum. These efforts could begin with our allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia and perhaps even extend to China, which holds financial influence over the country. Finally, he could float the idea of a NATO enforced no-fly zone (as seen in the PSA statement on Darfur) in the region, at least for some more diplomatic leverage. Not only would progress in Darfur be a monumental foreign policy achievement, but it would also be a boon to the moral credibility of the United States (something Bush has done plenty to hurt over the last six years).

Additionally, President Bush could use his profile to highlight on-going conflicts in Africa that have received little, if no attention. He could make a high profile statement in support of the democratic process in Congo. He could put pressure on the government of South Africa to harshly condemn the policies and police state of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. He could use his status as the world’s terrorist warrior to show Americans what is going on in Somalia; not just the fight against extremists, but the failed state conditions that breed them. Finally, he can use his position as Leader of the Free World and chief aid distributor to push for a transition from aid handouts to direct investment, which is a more effective (and more sustainable) development strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa.

While this list is a bit hopeful, it is no more hopeful than President Bush’s attempts to solve the Mideast crisis in a year. By refocusing on Africa, President Bush could score some significant gains for his reputation and that of the United States. But most importantly, he could concentrate the world’s attention on vital issues that seem only to pop in and out of the world’s radar screen.

To Darfur via China

by Brian Vogt | April 17th, 2007 | |Subscribe


I wanted to follow up today on Raj’s two recent posts on Darfur.  Raj highlighted Google’s recent efforts to draw attention to the conflict in Darfur and also Joe Biden’s call for US troops being sent to Darfur.

What I found particularly striking recently was a story of how Mia Farrow and Steven Spielberg have been placing pressure on the Chinese government to use its influence to help end the suffering.  So, you might be asking why the Chinese government would care what these two hollywood celebrities have to say about the Darfur conflict, particularly after numerous efforts have been made to convince the Chinese to help end the conflict.  Well, I was struck by how these celebrities recognized the right pressure point to get the Chinese to step up to the plate – the upcoming Olympics taking place in Beijing.  It was really quite brilliant that Spielberg, who is an artistic adviser to Beijing for the Olympics, realized that although Beijing places a high priority on their access to oil, they might place an even higher priority on the upcoming Olympics going off without a hitch. 

On a trip last summer to Beijing I saw firsthand the efforts China is going to, to get Beijing in shape for these Olympic games.  Construction cranes are everywhere and whole neighborhoods are being torn down and rebuilt (that’s a whole different issue that merits another blog post).  The amount of effort and money that China is putting into the Olympics is tremendous.  It is clear that the Chinese see the Beijing summer games as a coming out event that will elevate their status in the world and help position them as a global leader.  (more…)

Moral Foreign Policy and the Pottery Barn Principle

by Eugene Gholz | January 18th, 2007 | |Subscribe

The “Pottery Barn Principle” has tremedous informal influence in the on-going debate about what to do in Iraq. The quick summary is incredibly evocative: “you broke it, you bought it” applies in international affairs, just as it does at Pottery Barn and other stores. So the U.S. “owns” the Iraq problem and can’t leave until stability and happiness return to the land.

Of course, the principle is rarely enforced at stores like Pottery Barn. Nice stores understand in advance that they have fragile displays, with glasses stacked in precarious poses to make them look nice for potential customers. So the owners and managers expect some glasses to break from time to time. And the stores focus on making the unfortunate customer who accidentally bumps into the wine glass display while backing away to get a different perspective on the beautiful $800 console table feel comfortable enough to come back to the store — or perhaps even to buy the console table that very day. Other customers don’t turn and stare and clap and otherwise humiliate the unfortunate, clumsy person, as they would do in a high school cafeteria. Nice stores are much more grown up and understanding.

Yet the analogy still holds strange power in the foreign policy debate. Many Americans really have a deep streak of responsibility. The U.S. “owes” something to Cambodia, to Guatemala, to the Philippines. As a country, we don’t always act on our guilt, but sometimes we do, and there’s a deep reservoir of support that prioritizes efforts to improve the lives of people that the U.S. had something to do with harming over efforts simply to help people. Many Americans want to do good in the world, and that matters; the impulse to do good tinged with the guilt of having done ill in the past matters even more.

But how much sense does that make? Even in the moral framework, I think it’s tough to make the case for the pottery barn principle. (more…)

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All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.