Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Obama Administration Finds Another Dictatorship to Appease; Makes Friends with Sudan

By Barry Rubin

Good news for bad guys. The Obama Administration has found another dictatorship to appease.
Thanks to a superb article in the Washington Post, we can see what’s happening with U.S. policy toward Sudan. That country’s government, once accused of genocide in the south, is now said to have been doing the same thing in the west. While these claims may be exaggerated, we at least have here a case of mass murder and ferocious repression.

Where’s the UN issuing reports, the human rights’ groups condemning these actions, the front-page daily articles, mass demonstrations, protests by intellectuals?

Oh, sorry, I was thinking of Israel.

And far from being a semi-pariah Sudan was recently elected head of the non-aligned group, the largest voting bloc in the UN.

Thanks to an excellent Washington Post article—a newspaper increasingly superior to the crackpot tendencies of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times--we have a detailed report on a usually neglected country. According to the article, Sudan:

“is becoming a test of how President Obama will reconcile a policy of engagement with earlier statements blasting a government he said had `offended the standards of our common humanity.’"

Hmm….I wonder which of these two aspects will win out? It tells you a lot about this administration that no one can doubt it will be engagement.

In the Sudan case, “U.S. diplomacy has remained mostly in the hands of Obama's special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, who is pushing toward normalized relations with the only country in the world led by a president indicted on war-crimes charges.”

Gration’s critics in Sudan and the United States say the Administration’s approach on the Sudan “ is dangerously, perhaps willfully, na├»ve,” being manipulated “by government officials who talk peace even as they undermine it.”

In fact, Gration has ingratiated himself with dictator President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a radical Islamist, and declares he sees signs of goodwill from Bashir who he pronounces ready to change.
Well, that fits in with everything else we’re hearing about the administration world view.

"`We've got to think about giving out cookies,’ said Gration. `Kids, countries--they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.’"

Wow, what a great summary of the American president’s world view!

Incidentally, if Obama was not a liberal Democrat, liberals would be fiercely attacking him for cozying up to reactionary, repressive dictators in total contradiction to historic liberal positions on such issues.

The ultimate problem, however, is what could the United States get out of the Sudan even if relations improve? The killing in west Sudan might be stopping, but that’s because the region has been pacified by earlier killings. The war in the south might well restart. Khartoum will continue to be friendly to Iran and house some terrorist training camps. It will certainly continue to be repressive and anti-American. As one Sudanese observer put it, he fears U.S. rapprochement with the regime will give it confidence to crack down all the harder.

True, some Sudanese critical of the regime also think that he’s doing a good job.

Others don’t: Adam Mudawi, a Sudanese human rights activist, says, "In six months, he'll find out. They are liars."

At least, unlike another country I could name, they won’t have nuclear weapons by then.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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