One of the original justifications for the war in Iraq was that Saddam was a bloody dictator who ruled with an iron fist. However, there were other countries in the world where that reasoning would have made more sense. Pre-war Iraq, even after a decade of sanctions, was a better place to wake up in the morning than in North Korea, Burma, Congo, Nepal or Sudan. Can we do anything to improve the lot of people who live in these countries? It is an important question to ask because we are the most powerful country in the world, and with our inherent power comes a great sense of responsibility.
Of those countries that I just listed, the one where we could make the most difference and be most effective is Sudan. I believe that the U.S., and any country that has the power, should intervene when a genocide occurs. This does not have to mean that we wage all-out war, but it does mean that we get involved, and more than diplomatically if need be. It is important that the U.S. is associated as a power for good, not the face behind Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharib. Most importantly, if there ever is a justification for war it is to protect the innocent from slaughter, as Thomas Aquinas said. Plus, we've all heard that "Evil only triumphs when good men do nothing," to parapharase an Irish philospher.
What actions can we take with Sudan? Sudan's only real export is oil, and even if we don't buy it the Chinese will be more than happy too. Sanctions therefore won't work. Right now we have a proxy peacekeeping force there in the African Union (AU) troops. Yet, the AU is underfunded and not as effective as a U.S. force or European one. If America were to get involved in Sudan you would not hear cries of American imperialism since we are there to stop a genocide. No one would say that we are there to take their oil because we won't go any further from the Chadian border than 150 miles. This should be enough space to create a buffer between the refugees and the janjaweed. This type of operation would not require a large troop level if we use our technology well. Aviation could monitor potential janjaweed and let us know where we need to move. Meanwhile, the military would be given a clear mandate to actively protect the refugees, and target any janjaweed groups that come within the buffer zone. It is politically and operationally impossible at this point to deploy more than 10,000 troops, if that many. That is why we use diplomacy to get our NATO allies involved in order to share the burden. We would also use diplomacy to get the Darfurian resistance groups to lay down their arms and negotiate. They need to know we won't provide protection forever.
The most difficult issue is one of timeline. NATO forces should look to protect the buffer for a year to a year and a half, at which point NATO will begin to scale down. During that year and a half, the AU troops should receive training with NATO forces so that they can resume peacekeeping when NATO leaves. They probably won't have as aggressive a mandate, but they can still be effective if they are taught how to do their job well. The U.N. might also provide peacekeeping troops if it sees the good NATO has done.
Thoughts on the MacGyver Doctrine? Use up valuable bandwidth.