May 15, 2008

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, examines current and looming crises in Sudan—including the ongoing humanitarian emergency in Darfur, last weekend’s attack on Khartoum by armed fighters of the Darfuri Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and the breaking down of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that was supposed to end the decades of civil war between the Arab-dominated Muslim north of the country and largely Christian and animist South Sudan—and suggests that there may be three strategic opportunities for the United States:

First, a North-South bloodbath can be averted—or at least greatly mitigated—if the effective elements of the South Sudanese government are empowered to defend themselves and their people…

Second, given not only the tragic history of the sufferings they have endured at the hands of successive governments in Khartoum, but also the more recent and repeated violations of the CPA and the failure of the international community to hold President Umar al-Bashir and his regime accountable for them, it is not only certain that South Sudanese would opt for secession in the 2011 referendum promised to them in the peace accord, but it is increasingly likely that they may just precipitate matters and declare independence sooner, especially if they take the botched census as an indication that, even now, the 2009 election results are being manipulated… If the South Sudanese succeed in striking it out on their own, they will deprive Khartoum of the very resources which it has up to now used to fuel it violent oppression of other parts of the country, including Darfur…

Third, the United States stands to gain in this process, if policymakers will look at the broader picture, rather than continuing to pursuing endless dialogues aimed at preserving an artificial state that is not only congenitally illegitimate for the harm it has wrought on its own people, but has been a source of regional and global insecurity.

Reviewing the political, economic, and military dynamics presently at play in Sudan, Dr. Pham concludes:

If the United States is serious about seeking not only an end to the current conflicts in Sudan, but also a sustainable security balance in the strategically vital Horn of Africa subregion, policymakers and analysts would do well to begin thinking outside their habitual boxes and broaden their horizons to encompass the unprecedented opportunities presently opening before them to support the building of a future that not provides only freedom and prosperity for the long-oppressed peoples of Sudan, but also secures a geopolitical advantage for America and her interests.

To read the full text of the article, “ Sudan: Looming Crises, Strategic Opportunities,” click here.