Recently, we saw a spate of globally coordinated demonstrations about the requirement for people to do something about Darfur. There are no questions about the situation in Darfur. The Sudanese rulers sitting in Khartoum are essentially conducting genocide in Darfur and because they were stupid enough to start this off and not manage it properly, it has now become a nightmare concoction of genocide, regional war, insurgency, oil interests, colonialism, imperialism, religion, you name it, it's represented in the mixture.
The various rallies and demonstrations in the UK were aiming to get the UK to intervene in Darfur by putting boots on the ground. And the UK has started the process, by introducing a resolution in the UN Security Council to debate the situation. This is a very bad step and the UK is making a big mistake in getting involved. It is a big mistake because (1) we cannot do anything; (2) if we do something, we won't do what we were doing before; (3) we have no moral right to intervene and (4) why is this our business?
Let me deal with the last problem, first. Why is the situation in Darfur the responsibility of the UK to resolve? Is it because we were the colonial power? But we gave them independence, apologised (well, at least kind of!) for our conduct there, helped them with money and other resources, wrote some nostalgic novels and books on General Gordon and that was the end of it. Sudan also made it very clear that it wants nothing to do with us.
Plus, only severely conspiracy laden theorists will be able to draw a line from the time of British occupation to the current Darfur situation. "Nowt to do with us, Guv". Is it because we should get excited because of the general humanitarian situation? Well, we have contributed officially, as well as privately, for humanitarian aid and help. The newspapers and airwaves are full of private appeals for help and funds/aid is flowing to them. And if people point to Sierra Leone as an example, then that was a one off situation. If the argument is that the colonial power has to help out, then the next time there is a fight in Iraq, they can ask Mongolia to help out on the grounds that it was the imperial occupying power for hundreds of years. Or the next time there are problems in Spain, they can ask the Berbers or Moroccans for help on the grounds that the Moors were imperialists in Spain, or the Spanish in Mexico, or the Aztecs in southern Mexico, etc. But why should our squaddies be on the ground?
Forget about boots on the ground, why is that the UK needs to utilise our scarce diplomatic capital (after Mr. Tony Blair wasted it with his Iraq War?) on Darfur? Why have we not heard France take the lead when it has defence treaties with a clutch of Sudan's neighbours? Or why not China which has invested so much in Sudan? Or the Arab League, which has Sudan as a member? Or the Organisation of Islamic Countries? Or the African Union? Here's a radical idea, how about the OIC/AU provide the money for a combined AL/OIC/AU peacekeeping force? Why are we being chosen to be the chumps to be killed? Even if it was our problem, what are we going to do? Who has the manpower? We are cutting our regiments down to the bone, most of our poor troops are currently under accelerated rotational policy to cover Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the hundreds and thousands deployed elsewhere ranging from Northern Ireland to the Falklands. If we pull out our troops from Iraq, the floodgates for genocide there are wide open. If we pull out our troops from Afghanistan, those hairy-bearded Taliban goons win and we will have to go back in again later anyway to kick them out once more. We also don't have sufficient money in our defence budget; our defence equipment is creaking and before people think we can send in our coppers, please remember that the affected area is near the size of Western Europe. Even the fully mobilised German Army couldn't hold Europe. And all we have are some off duty policemen, some walking wounded, some retired squaddies plus the Guards. So, no, sorry, no troops available!
Let us not forget the moral imperative. Just what is the moral justification for the UK to again get involved and bogged down in that miserable place? I mean, we, of all people, don't have any reason to get involved. Our recent interventions and deployments have been challenging already, and I mean it from the moral perspective. The threadbare reason behind the Iraq intervention was that Saddam Hussein could launch missiles at our boys in Cyprus. So you could draw a moral imperative that our intervention was a pre-emptive strike to remove this threat. What's the threat from the Sudanese goons? Al Qaeda has long since decamped from Sudan. So there simply is no moral imperative and frankly, till we have resolved the bloody Iraq quagmire, we will not have any moral justification to intervene anywhere else.
For people forgetting our rather sad history with little wars, here's a very good reference ('Queen Victoria's Little Wars' by Byron Farwell, ISBN-10: 0393302350) (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Queen-Victorias-Little-Byron-Farwell/dp/0393302350). This book is a lovely little book, which lays out the hundreds of little fights and wars the British fought during Queen Victoria's reign. Our boys died in their thousands on long forgotten battlefields, jungles and seas, leaving old mouldering bones in Davy Jones Locker or in ancient cemeteries. A century later, we wonder why. And yes, Sudan includes some of those little pointless scraps. While we cannot change our history, we can learn from it. Deployment of armed force is not a decision made in haste or without having an awfully good reason. I cannot see any reason to go in.
But say for argument's sake, the next prime minister turns out to be a bleeding heart and agrees to deploy our troops. Okay, then I would ask on what basis would we exit that country? Remember it is a huge country, our supply chain will be gigantically long (most probably need to operate out of Egypt, Cyprus or off the coast in the Indian Ocean), so reinforcements will be difficult and expensive to get to. Shades of General Gordon and reinforcing him emerge. So if the entire populace rises up and massacres a couple of emplacements, what will the government do? At what level of casualties will the government decide to pull out? What defines success of the peacekeeping mission? Do we stay till a Kosovo happens for the Darfurians?
The Southern Sudan Civil War took forty years to settle down. How long will the mandate be for? We need an exit strategy and proper scenario planning to handle unexpected situations such as intervention by Eritrea and Ethiopia going off, a religious war breaking out (there is a very high chance of that – as soon as our squaddies will land – the internet and air waves will be full of foaming statements, such as that the crusaders are back on hallowed land!!!), China might be sending in their own special forces to guard their own infrastructure, etc. For people thinking about exit strategies, please think about how long we have been in Cyprus, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Sierra Leone etc. Our troops will be killed if they get deployed there. What will the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defence say to the father / mother / wife / son of any of our killed soldiers? What are they saying to the families of our troops killed in Iraq? Big Fat Nothing! Our squaddies did not sign up to get killed for an unknown reason. If you are sending somebody out to die, you at least should tell him why. And as we have shown above, there is simply no reason.
If nothing else, think about how silly you will look in front of these bereaved families. It is always better to do few things right, rather than do lots of things badly. And it is not lots of things such as painting or fixing cars. If you do things badly in cases like this, people do get killed, and that in large numbers too! So no, ours IS to reason WHY? And there is simply no justifiable answer to convince us that we should intervene.
All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!