Obama Admin’s Sudan Middle of the Road Approach

Written By: Kelly KO
(Editor, KO Zine)

Last week, the Obama Administration finally laid out their plans for how to deal the controversial Sudanese dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The decision took months of debate, but will effect many, in the region and beyond, for years to come.

The policy will place pressure on al-Bashir and offer incentives should he comply with US demands. Both the demands and incentives have yet to be released. This middle of the road approach is much softer than President Obama had pledged on the campaign trial, but hard enough to avoid giving the Sudanese government a free pass.

The al-Bashir’s regime is responsible for genocide in their region that has killed more than 300,000 in six years, according to UN estimates.

The lack of harsh sanctions in the policy is somewhat aligned with renowned expert on Sudan Alex de Waal’s argument that aggressive international intervention is either ineffective or sometimes counter-productive.
Regarding the issue, the Program Director at the Social Science Research Council has wrote, “When peace and justice clash, as they do in Sudan today, peace must prevail.”

Two key members of the administration are said to be the reason behind the extended debate and the final decision is a compromise between the two’s arguments.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. J Scott Gration, the US special envoy to Sudan, fought for more communications and easing of sanctions on Sudan. Gration preferred a “gold star” and “cookies” approach (as told to the Washington Post), which outraged many in the human rights camp.

The other side of the debate is lead by UN Ambassador Susan Rice. Rice believes that the on-going genocide calls for harsh penalties and some, including former envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios believe she, “want[s] to declare all out war.”
Of course, the US is not the only player in this issue. Earlier this year, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir, leading the Sudanese government to tell the ICC to “eat” the warrant. In the following months, most aid workers were forced out of the region because of fear of unrest that the warrant was expected to spark.

The US policy is much like those of other countries efforts with Sudan, including many in Western Europe. To complicate the issue, Sudan’s strong relationship with China means that they don’t necessarily need to comply with the US and other countries that have similar policies.

Some may argue that compromise is just an indecisive leader’s way of making a decision. In some cases, this may be true. However, in the case of US-Sudan relations, a compromise should be just enough to finally bring this war-torn region closer to peace.

Find out more:
Washington Post

The Atlantic

Time

BBC

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