President Bush signaled a new American commitment on Friday to addressing the crisis in Darfur, saying he would support an expanded role by NATO to shore up a failing African peacekeeping mission there.
Mr. Bush also said he favored doubling the number of peacekeepers operating in Darfur under United Nations control, as proposed by the Security Council last month. He discussed Darfur, in western Sudan, as an offshoot of a question about the fate of children in war-ravaged northern Uganda.
"I talked to Kofi Annan about this very subject this week," Mr. Bush said, referring to a meeting with the United Nations secretary general. "But it's going to require, I think, a NATO stewardship, planning, facilitating, organizing, probably double the number of peacekeepers that are there now, in order to start bringing some sense of security. There has to be a consequence for people abusing their fellow citizens."
Administration officials said Mr. Bush's comments reflected discussions between the United States and its allies calling for a broader interim role for NATO in Darfur until a larger, United Nations peacekeeping operation can be established.
So far, so good. But alas, it looks like this is yet another false hope. Further in the story:
After President Bush spoke on Friday, a senior State Department official said the United States proposal continued to be "to strengthen the A.U." until United Nations forces arrive late this year.
While Mr. Bush spoke of "a NATO stewardship," the American officials cautioned that NATO would command only logistical operations, not the African Union troops.
They reiterated that Washington would send no American troops. In Congressional testimony this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "We are prepared to talk with our NATO counterparts about what more we can do to support" the African Union forces "until we can get the U.N. forces" into Darfur.
Over the last year, about 7,000 African Union peacekeepers troops have been stationed in Darfur to monitor and enforce a cease-fire between rebel and government troops. In January, the Security Council began to plan to send peacekeepers to Sudan, which envisions a force of as many as 20,000 operating under a broad mandate.
But United Nations officials have acknowledged that winning commitments from member nations to send that many troops is likely to prove difficult. The United States has stated unequivocally that American combat troops would not be sent there, and other nations have offered similar cautions.
Why do we have this unequivocal stance against sending US troops? I was looking for some leadership, damn it, not a shield by which any half-hearted Western country could duck out of its military obligations to the peacemaking force.
To me, this sounds just like Bush's oil proposal in the 2006 State of the Union. Sounds very dramatic, raises liberal eyebrows, immediately gets interpreted down to meaninglessness by lower aides, fade to black. It's wrong when the subject is our energy policy. It's inexcusable when it comes to genocide.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden (D-DE) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) have introduced a resolution calling for NATO troops to intervene in Darfur, including American troops if necessary. I generally despise Brownback, but his leadership on this issue has been steady, constant, and unwavering. I respect that immensely.
I'm competing in the Minnesota State Debate Tournament this weekend, so I might not be posting this weekend. If that is the case, have a great weekend, and see y'all Monday!