Sarah Haig, Lesley Ledwell and Heather Oh would like to make you believe that U.S. involvement in Sudan should be part of a moral crusade to end the debilitating civil war that has plagued the region. While admirable from an ethical standpoint, their labeling of the problem as genocide and their calls for stronger U.S. action misconstrue the role U.S. foreign policy should play in conflict resolution in problem states.
Too often in the past decade the United States has engaged in punitive measures meant to impose a peace based on liberal democratic principles. But coercion has rarely been successful in achieving lasting peace. Sustainable change must come from internal shifts within Sudanese society. A policy of engagement with the northern government in Sudan would not only show both sides a path toward peace through persuasion, but also better serve U.S. interests in the region.
The trio does an excellent job presenting the Sudan problem in all of its complexity, yet they give only marginal reference to U.S. national security interests. Sudan, as the largest state in Africa and the former home of Osama bin Laden, is an essential piece in controlling the spread of radical Islam in Africa. The government in Khartoum has shown willingness to cooperate in the war on terror, providing a crucial gateway for engagement with the regime. Expanding on this cooperation with economic incentives and investment would draw the Sudanese government closer to the civilized world and farther from the brutal reality of their civil war.
While Sudan's situation is tragic, one must ask whether we want Sudan to be another Iraq, Iran or North Korea, where harsh rhetoric has only lead to further estrangement, or another Jordan or Bahrain, where carefully phased policies of engagement have lead to stability, cooperation against terror and peace. Peace must be the foremost objective for any American policy and engagement offers the most realistic policy for peace.