Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Blackwater in Darfur?!

A provocative article from William McGurn in the WSJ on the potential use of force to deal with evil (of course, subject to the usual caveats about theory vs. practice!)...

When Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg announced a new antismoking campaign the other day, they put their money in line with their mouths....pledged $500 million to target what Mr. Gates called "one of the greatest health challenges facing developing countries."

[But] the gravest health threat typically comes from a combination of murderous government and Western powers unwilling to use their force to stop them.

Oh, Darfur gets plenty of news coverage from sympathetic reporters sickened by the carnage and devastation they have seen. What the people of Darfur do not get is an armed force capable of taking on the Janjaweed -- a horse-mounted militia. The Janjaweed has murdered men, gang-raped women, beaten children to death, and left poisoned wells and burnt-down villages in its wake....

Enter Erik Prince, the chairman and CEO of Blackwater Worldwide. Yes, that Blackwater. Most of the attention the company has attracted has been for its security work in protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq. But much more of their work is training: from border and narcotics police in Afghanistan to police and maritime forces in countries ranging from the United States and Japan, to nations in Africa and South America.

Mr. Prince says that the 9,000 or so African Union soldiers in Darfur, as part of the United Nations peacekeeping force, are a good start. But he says that to be effective they need better training, communications and equipment. That is more or less the same message from a report released yesterday by the Darfur Consortium, a coalition of 50 African-based and Africa-focused NGOs....

Mr. Prince has a remedy. He believes that with 250 or so professionals, Blackwater can transform about a thousand of the African Union soldiers into an elite and highly mobile force....

At this moment, the U.N. is again debating a resolution on Darfur. Others are still hoping for a boycott of next month's Summer Olympics, hoping to pressure Beijing to pressure Mr. Bashir, who supplies the Chinese with a healthy percentage of their oil. Still others are working to tighten sanctions.

But nothing appears to have had much of an effect on Mr. Bashir's behavior. And if we are honest with ourselves, nobody really expects any of this activity ever will.

Then again, that's the point: Strongly worded resolutions, sanctions and boycotts are generally what you do in place of decisive action. I understand that the whole idea of Blackwater helicopters flying over Darfur probably horrifies many of the same people frustrated by Mr. Bashir's ability to game the system. But it's at least worth wondering what that same Blackwater helo might look like to a defenseless Darfur mother and her daughters lying in fear of a Janjaweed attack.


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