Lessons Learned

I was intrigued by the idea of a New Republic masthead editorial purporting to apply the lessons of Kosovo to the situation in Darfur. That, I thought, might provide a respite from the magazine's usual bomb repeat bomb take on the issue. But no:

But the biggest, and most important, parallel is this: We asked Milosevic to stop killing. He did not. We have asked Sudan to stop killing. And still it kills. Yes, it occasionally appears willing to bargain. But, while Sudan bargains, the aircraft continue to roam over Darfur. The paltry U.N. forces on the ground can do nothing to stop them. And that is probably how things will continue to unfold, until this president or the next one remembers the example of Kosovo, puts together a credible NATO force, and finally says enough is enough.

It seems to me that any serious look at Kosovo has to carry with it the lesson that there's nothing nearly as simple as a "say enough is enough" option. Coercive military intervention raises a lot of thorny issues. Do we really want to commit ourselves to a Kosovo-style mission in which we wind up administering Darfur for an indefinite period of time? Not that Darfur is 196,555 square miles to Kosovo's 10,887 square miles. Similarly, what about the wider consequences for Sudan of getting into the partition business? Meanwhile, though they acknowledge that the Darfur rebel groups on whose behalf they want us to go to war are "unsavory" they don't think through any of the implications of this.

Before a country currently engaged in two wars, plus several peacekeeping operations in the Balkans, starts a new war these are the kind of questions that need to be answered. The good news for TNR is that everyone knows their preferred policy has no chance of being implemented. Which means that there's no need to think it through, and also that there's every reason to adopt a maximalist posture. While efforts like the Enough Project to find constructive, practical ways to improve the situation like Darfur necessarily involve awkward compromises with reality, the maximalist gets to ignore details and practical problems and hold the moral high ground for his trouble.