Wall Street Journal Calls Out Sudan Groups

In an editorial this morning, The Wall Street Journal calls out Sudan activists in the U.S. for not criticizing the Obama administration's new policy on Sudan, announced last week, which includes new "incentives and disincentives"--which happen to be classified--for the Khartoum government:

The larger wonder is how all of this can go down so smoothly with those in the human-rights community who have championed Darfur and assailed the Bush Administration for not doing enough. Instead, they are congratulating Mr. Obama, in part because he didn't take the even softer line on Sudan being advocated by U.S. special envoy J. Scott Gration. Perhaps the Darfur activists should ask why Khartoum instantly praised the new policy for representing the "new Obama spirit."

In part, the Journal answers its own question: Sudan advocates were put off by Lt. Gen. Scott Gration's (ret.) comment in September that the U.S. should start handing out more "gold stars" and "cookies" to the Sudanese government, and the administration's policy announcement, though light on specifics, reassured them that sticks, as well as carrots, are part of the plan--even if it didn't go as far as some of the rhetoric during the campaign, which the Journal rightly points to.

But for Sudan advocates, the policy isn't necessarily the point: while they liked the new posture the administration announced, they're quick to tell you that that everything depends on how it's implemented--whether the administration makes a commitment to Sudan, and whether it makes it a priority.

In that regard, the response from Sudan advocates was less than congratulatory.

On a conference call with reporters after the policy was announced, leaders of Sudan advocacy groups said they're waiting for President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take a more personal involvement in Sudan--for them each, personally, to work their relationships with international leaders to rally multilateral pressure on Khartoum--before they pat the administration on the back.

"This is a statement of principles until actually built into reality, and so that's really where the game is now," Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast said.

"If we don't see demarches, we don't see the deployment of senior officials, we don't see calls being made, we don't see Ambassador Rice meeting with all the different permanent representatives in the United Nations that matter, then we know that they're actually sweeping this one under the rug again," Prendergast said.

The Journal is right that advocates have settled for something less than campaign rhetoric. But praising the policy while calling for prioritization and engagement seems to be the advocates' own version of carrots and sticks.