Austin Bay

Another information campaign has created a "Chinese problem" for Sudan. Though Hollywood hand-wringing over social evil usually serves publicity-hungry stars more than the victims, it inevitably grabs headlines. In the case of Darfur, celebrity activists have hit a celebrity target: the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China values its Olympic opportunity, perhaps more than it needs Sudanese oil. Movie celebs advocate an Olympic boycott unless China supports a U.N. peacekeeping force and place diplomatic pressure on Khartoum. The celebs also advocate boycotts of private corporations and investors doing business with Sudan. Corporations are far more vulnerable to economic sanctions than sovereign governments.

A "South Sudan" political opportunity is emerging as a competitor but also an ally of Khartoum. That's a curious -- but a politically encouraging -- combination. Here's why: The 2005 peace agreement in South Sudan gave the south a high degree of autonomy. South Sudan has offered to broker negotiations between Darfur rebels and Khartoum. These negotiations are potentially a "win-win-win" political outcome for Khartoum, Darfur and the south, but Khartoum would have to offer Darfur an autonomy deal similar to that of South Sudan.

The third ongoing effort is the United Nations' "phased" peacekeeping plan. The plan is being implemented, slowly adding U.N. personnel and equipment to the outgunned African Union force currently in Darfur. The United Nations' ultimate goal is a "hybrid" peacekeeping operation, with a strike force manned by highly competent soldiers and supported by helicopters and aircraft providing the core of a larger multinational effort.

Khartoum calls the U.N. plan a "Western imperialist invasion." That means the Sudanese government fears its presence will halt the genocide.

These developments are not a recipe for instant peace. They do represent political, economic and military power being slowly brought to bear, with the intent of stopping mass murder.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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