Unlike the Washington Post reporter who assured us that the U.S. had been vindicated on its approach to Sudan, the AP has figured out what’s going on:
The words of the Obama administration were unequivocal: Sudan must do more to fight terror and improve human rights. If it did, it would be rewarded. If not, it would be punished.
Nine months later, problems with Sudan have grown worse. Yet the administration has not clamped down. If anything, it has made small conciliatory gestures.
Activists say the backtracking sends a message that the United States is not serious about confronting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whom an international court charged with genocide on Monday.
The report highlights that there has never been any real method of measuring whether our “engagement” is working, despite the promise by UN Ambassador Susan Rice that there would be “significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still.” In practice, the Obami have done nothing:
“There will be no rewards for the status quo, no incentives without concrete and tangible progress,” said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. “There will be significant consequences for parties that backslide or simply stand still. All parties will be held to account.”
Since then, there has been backsliding, as the administration has acknowledged. It issued a statement Friday, together with Norway and the United Kingdom, criticizing Sudan for worsening human rights violations throughout the country and for breaking cease-fires in Darfur, noting its use of aerial bombardment and the deployment of local militias.
Yet the U.S. has not punished Sudan. Instead, it has offered small incentives. The State Department recently expanded visa services for Sudanese citizens in its embassy in Khartoum. It also sent a low-level representative to al-Bashir’s inauguration.
Administration officials say Sudan is regularly discussed at high-level meetings. Officials say they use indicators to measure progress in Sudan, but have declined to say what those indicators are. Even a top lawmaker dealing with Africa issues, Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., said he has difficulty getting information.
“I haven’t heard what the benchmarks are or what specifically will be done if they are not met,” said Payne, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Africa subcommittee.
The White House’s top Africa policy adviser, Michelle Gavin, said the administration never intended to have specific metrics that would automatically prompt a reaction. Instead, the White House would use the indicators to continually reassess its policy.
But there has been no reassessment. I don’t often agree with the Center for American Progress, but the head of its anti-genocide program is spot on when he concludes that giving Sudan a “pass” was a mistake:
“If the parties, particularly the ruling party, do not understand that there will be real consequences for a return to war, and real benefits for peace in the country, then the U.S. has lost its biggest point of influence in the effort to avert the worst-case scenario.”
In other words, whether by design or execution, the Obama policy has been a complete failure. Sounds like the Middle East.