MELISSA BLOCK, host:
As the situation in Darfur deteriorates, what should the international community do? Among those advocating military action is Susan Rice. She was assistant secretary of state for African affairs during the Clinton administration. She's now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Welcome to the program.
Ms. SUSAN RICE (Brookings Institution): Good to be with you.
BLOCK: You write in an op-ed piece this week that military force is the one language that Khartoum understands. Explain what you mean, please.
Ms. RICE: Well, Khartoum has a long record of making promises to the international community that it then turns around and breaks. This is their pattern. So the time for negotiation, particularly with a completely unreliable partner, is over. They are launching what I've called a second wave of genocide and they need to understand that the international community won't tolerate it.
In the past the government of Sudan has relented when they perceived their interests are at direct risk and in particular when they fear the threat or use of military power. And for the United States and the international community to say to Khartoum let in the U.N. peacekeeping force or face the military consequences, I think that would get Khartoum's attention and I think that would prompt them sooner or later to reconsider their position and allow the United Nations in.
BLOCK: And what military consequences are you proposing?
Ms. RICE: Well, I think the first thing that the international community ought to do is to strike Sudanese air assets, their aircraft, their helicopters, their airfields, that have been used relentlessly to attack innocent civilians in Darfur.
Another option, albeit more controversial even than airstrikes, would be to blockade Port Sudan. A naval blockade of Port Sudan would prevent Sudan from exporting its oil, from which it derives most of its revenue to carry out its military operations.
BLOCK: You write in the op-ed that the U.S. should press for a U.N. resolution to authorize this force, but you say that even without U.N. backing the U.S. should go ahead with airstrikes. Do you really think this is a good time for unilateral U.S. military action against an Islamic regime, however unsavory it may be?
Ms. RICE: No, it's never a good time. But it's also not a good time for genocide. This genocide has been going on for three years. An estimated 450,000 people have already died and President Bush two years ago called this genocide and said it cannot stand. And yet it is not only standing, it's increasing in its intensity.
We have a moral obligation - we are all human beings from the same creator - to one another. And yes, we are living in difficult times. The administration and others have made some very unfortunate policy decisions which have set back the United States internationally. But that doesn't mean that we should cower and refrain from doing what is right to save innocent human beings when they are at imminent risk.
BLOCK: It's one thing for you to propose this as a fellow at a think tank, but I wonder about the real application of this. U.S. policy in Africa has been dictated a lot by what happened in Somalia with 18 troops killed in Mogadishu in 1993. It prevented action in Rwanda the next year. The thinking has been the U.S. will not repeat the mistakes of the past in anything that might risk American life in Africa.
Ms. RICE: I understand that dilemma. I remember the burdens and the challenges of being a senior U.S. policymaker, and I don't make these recommendations lightly. But I think we should've learned something from our experience in Rwanda. President Bush has said on numerous occasions not on his watch. But this is happening on his watch. When I call for action, I do so because I think our conscience demands that we not give the perpetrators of genocide a veto over the international community's ability to stop it.
BLOCK: Susan Rice, thanks for talking with us today.
Ms. RICE: Thank you, Melissa.
BLOCK: Susan Rice was an assistant secretary of state for African affairs during the Clinton administration. She's now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Her op-ed ran yesterday in the Washington Post.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.