(By Mark Leon Goldberg. This item originally appeared in the American Prospect online)
In the coming weeks, Darfur will reach yet another crisis point when the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues an arrest warrant for President Omar al Bashir of Sudan. When this happens, President Bashir has all but promised retaliation — against United Nations personnel in Sudan, against Darfuris, and against southern Sudanese separatists. This much we know. What is still unclear is how the Obama administration intends to respond.
Susan Rice, the new United States ambassador to the United Nations, once aptly described the previous administration’s Darfur policy as “bluster and retreat,” “bluster” for the lip service paid to the issue, and “retreat” for never following up its tough rhetoric with meaningful political, diplomatic, or even military action. Now, with Rice at the U.N. and Hillary Clinton at the helm in Foggy Bottom, one would suspect bumbling Bush-era policies would come to an end. Both women have been strong advocates for a more robust approach to the Darfur crisis. Clinton was an early sponsor of Darfur legislation in the Senate. Rice has written on numerous occasions about the issue, at one point even endorsing U.S. airstrikes.
Still, the forthcoming ICC arrest warrant will pose an early test for the Obama administration. And if approached with the kind of deft diplomatic touch that the previous administration clearly lacked, the prospects for peace in Darfur may suddenly become brighter.