The Obama Strategy on Sudan: How to Downplay the ICC

by Julian Ku

Looking at the long-awaited new Obama Sudan Strategy, there is much to admire.  It is sensible, forward-looking, and realistic.  It also appears to be pretty much the same policy President Bush pursued, which then Obama campaign adviser Susan Rice (and current UN Ambassador) trashed back in 2008.  For instance, it emphasizes ending the violence and war through a peace agreement, and barely mentions the elephant in the room.  How do you make a peace deal with a government headed by an individual wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity?

It is too much to simply jettison past tough rhetoric, but the document admirably downplays the importance of international efforts to achieve justice.  In bullet point four under the strategic objective one of ending the violence and genocide, the document reads:

Support Accountability. In addition to supporting international efforts to bring those responsible for genocide and war crimes in Darfur to justice, the United States will work with Darfuri civil society to support locally-owned accountability and reconciliation mechanisms that can make peace more sustainable.

This is it on “accountability”.  No further discussion. No ringing rhetoric about the importance of international justice and the end to impunity.  I think this leaves plenty of wiggle room for a deal down the road to get the ICC warrants withdrawn. Note that domestic efforts are emphasized, despite an existing judgment by the international community that international justice is necessary.  The ICC (not directly mentioned) will be “supported”.  One assumes that NSC staffer Samantha Power did not draft this language and that Angelina Jolie does not quite approve.

3 Responses

  1. The most striking thing about Julian’s post, which takes such delight in defending impunity, has to be this comment: “How do you make a peace deal with a government headed by an individual wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity?” Not: “how do you make a peace deal with a government headed by an individual who has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale in the past and who continues to commit them on a smaller scale today.”  Julian’s faith in Bashir sincerity and committment to peace is touching, but it’s also both remarkably ahistorical and profoundly naive.

  2. I am struck by the fact that your continuous posts on the U.S. Administration’s Sudan Policy seem to have a recurring outline to how they are written:

    – First: Capture the audiences attention with a new development; mention how admirable you find it and the potential it has.
    – Second: Suddenly turn a 180 when the reader least expects it and start lambasting it using a small snippet of text.
    – Third (and most importantly): Use a bit of a stretch to link the foregoing analysis to a gavage of your political views concerning a discussion of Obama v. Bush.

  3. I am strongly disinclined to celebrate administration decisions just because they’re inconsistent with prior statements, or more like what was being done before. 

    That said, I didn’t read this use of “wanted” as denying what Bashir has done or is doing.  (If the word choice was deliberate, I’d presume it was used the way the ICC itself might use “suspected” or “reasonable grounds” or “alleged,” and in any case not to quarrel with widely-reported atrocities.)  I am also unsure how the post demonstrates a “faith in Bashir sincerity and committment to peace,” rather than one side of a good-faith debate as to whether ICC proceedings are a constructive way of dealing with someone who lacks those qualities.

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