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Martin LeFevre: Darfur - The Limits of Diplomacy

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

Darfur: The Limits of Diplomacy

The human spirit is deeply damaged when the so-called international community cannot summon the political will to stop genocide. After the Holocaust, the slogan was “never again.” After Rwanda, the reality seems to be, “again and again.”

Will the shift in the balance of power in Washington mean that the unconscionable international logjam over effective action in Darfur be broken? Don’t hold your breath. I haven’t heard it mentioned once in the Democratic laundry list of euphoric plans and pitches.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert says, “The winds of history are blowing a gale,” but the air grows more fetid by the week where Darfur is concerned. Perhaps it’s merely the overheated breath of politicians and pundits that he feels.

No matter how knowledgeable and skillful, there are times in history when diplomacy is not enough. The levels below and beyond diplomacy determine the limits within which diplomats operate. More importantly, these underlying factors, flowing from the clarity or confusion, passion or indifference of the peoples of the world, generate the political will that carries diplomats on their crest, or defeats them in its doldrums.

It’s often said that Bush “has done more for the people of Darfur than any other world leader.” But the ‘sole remaining superpower’ declared genocide, and then has done next to nothing to stop it.

Whenever al-Bashir feels cornered on Darfur, he brings up Iraq. The monumental error of the US/UK invasion of Iraq allows him to cry colonialism every time the introduction of an effective peacekeeping force is discussed at the UN.

The Bush Administration and the al-Bashir government share a deep similarity: both are evil regimes that have blocked the will of the world’s people to move the world in a different direction. Instead, they have pigheadedly done all they can to hasten the slide into chaos and unbearable suffering.

The elephant in the room, or rather (pardon the pun), on the continent, is China. The PRK is tacitly providing international cover for al- Bashir to act with impunity in his genocidal policy of ethnic cleansing in Darfur. As Professor Eric Reeves, an expert on Darfur has said, “the [al-Bashir] regime’s recent refusal to accept an Arab League proposal for augmenting the African Union force suggests just how confidently defiant the regime remains.”

Ethnic cleansing and genocide present painful barometers of the condition and direction of the world. In the same column, Bob Herbert claims, “the George W. Bush era will ultimately be seen as a fear-induced anomaly in American history.” That won’t wash. Americans elected Bush not once, but twice, and terrorism doesn’t come close to explaining the zeitgeist in this country.

If the Bush Administration is now irrelevant, what will fill the vacuum of American power, and from where will genuine leadership come? China doesn’t want the mantle America had assumed after World War II, and presumed after the end of the Cold War, though the PRK is economically assuming it by default.

Bush and the neocons tried to remake the world in America’s triumphalist image, and utterly failed. But without empire, indeed without the control of coercive power, will Darfur continue to piteously languish, and will one Darfur follow another?

With supreme irony, the Chinese communist leadership has transformed China into the premier corner of capitalism, but it wants nothing more than to be left alone to pursue its own interests. China looks to China, and only to the world when it has to.

One can be sure that other historical ironies are on the horizon. Will the next one be of the familiar kind, which cause stomachs to sicken and hearts to wither, or will it raise eyebrows and lift hopes of people around the world?

Check the website of the African Union ( The countries of the continent appear as a jumble of fragments. In the next second they realign, halt for a moment as if suspended in space, and then merge into a whole.

Africa has produced some of the best diplomats and most openly corrupt leaders the world has seen since World War II. If the AU clearly indicates to China its alarm over Darfur, China may well cease giving international cover to the al-Bashir regime and its policies of ethnic cleansing.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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