Back in April I wrote that if it wasn’t for oil, we’d care for Iraq about as much as we care for Rwandans, but that didn’t mean the war was wrong. I could have substituted Sudan for Rwanda, whose government, most people agree, is responsible for one the greatest humanitarian disasters; a place to which those that care would gladly send troops to protect aid convoys and help farmers return to their farms.
Yet Harry’s Place reports a lack of consensus. There’s a confused op-ed from John Laughland in the Guardian, a man whose card Harry & Co have marked. Laughland appears to try for a case against intervention by way of the strangest examples. To paraphrase: ‘Milosevic didn’t go as far as genocide in Kosovo (and probably didn’t know what was going on anyway) so he’s really okay; there’re no mass graves in Iraq (oh?) so Saddam’s probably okay; and the Taliban banned heroin, so they’re actually good guys. Finally, reports of genocide in Sudan are clearly nonsense, because all Sudanese are black arabic Muslims.’ And this is why we should leave Sudan alone.
Laughland (who more usually writes for the right-wing Spectator and Mail on Sunday) seems to say that our past crimes mean we should avoid intervening in Sudan, but even if Milosevic and Saddam were saints, ensuring the Sudanese are fed would remain a noble aim.
While Laughland’s right to think that, in general, countries only act when their own interests are threatened, he’s allowed disgust at what is often done ‘in his name’ to leave him terribly confused. Prioritisation is essential, because we don’t have the ability to police the whole world. So it’s right that a threat to the supply of oil, upon which our lifestyles depend, moves a crisis up the agenda at the expense of the more contained crises. That’s not to say we shouldn’t have turned our attention to Sudan sooner, but responsibility for the horror engulfing the country still lies with the Sudanese government and the now out-of-control militias it sponsored. Yet that government is still in denial and will only co-operate with outside agencies under considerable duress.