An Argument Against NATO Entering Darfur

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In the second of two commentaries on the situation in Sudan's Darfur region, commentator Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute says NATO should not send troops to the region. Preble says Darfur is an African problem, and African nations are able to solve it themselves.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is traveling to Darfur. The commissioner will visit camps in that region of Sudan where according to aid groups more than 100,000 people have died in civil conflict. An estimated two million people have been displaced. This week on MORNING EDITION, we're hearing two proposed solutions to the crisis. Yesterday, General Wesley Clark called for the deployment of NATO forces. Today, Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute says this is an African problem requiring an African solution.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER PREBLE (Cato Institute):

The human tragedy in Darfur continues. Although the African Union has done heroic work attempting to stop the genocide there, more can and should be done. US policy-makers should continue to work with African governments and with our NATO allies to seek a resolution to the crisis. However, given that American troops continue to make up a major part of all NATO forces, we should be extremely wary about a NATO mission that would deploy US troops to the region. The rest of the world and some Americans mistakenly assume that the United States has the military power and the political will to intervene everywhere indefinitely, but we do not, as is demonstrated by the public's eroding support for the current operation in Iraq and the military's difficulties retaining and recruiting personnel.

To ask our troops to take on a new peacekeeping mission in East Africa shows a lack of respect for an overworked fighting force. Calls to deploy NATO troops to Darfur seem reasonable on the surface and other member states in NATO may choose to send troops there, but that is a decision for each individual government consistent with the wishes of its citizens. The public demands that policy-makers remain focused on the most urgent national security challenges. To the extend that what is taking place in Darfur does not fall in this category, the solution to halting the genocide there must come from Africa with the world's help, not the other way around. Fortunately, the neighboring African countries recognize what is at stake. New Nigerian and Egyptian peacekeepers have just arrived while leaders in Chad, Kenya and even Libya have expressed concern and a willingness to help resolve the conflict. The African Union has pledged to increase its forces in Sudan to more than 7,000 by next month and then possibly again to around 12,000 by next year.

Some sneer at the contributions made by the African countries despite the fact that the AU's meager force has accomplished much already. The head of the UN mission to Sudan reports that since AU troops arrived, quote, "things are getting better in Darfur." Humanitarian groups, NGOs and others are increasingly able to operate in the region. Negotiations to address the political crisis there are scheduled to resume at the end of the month.

Given that our resources are limited, Americans should encourage other states to address humanitarian crises before such crises threaten regional security. The African Union is willing and able to confront crises like the one in Darfur. Helping it to do so will establish a precedent for solving regional conflicts and simultaneously allow Americans to shed some of our burdensome obligations as the world's policeman.

INSKEEP: Commentary from Christopher Preble. He's director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.

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