August 24, 2019

Fudge the analysis, fudge the policy

I think what surprises me most about the Sudan Policy Review is that a document that contains so many of the basic principles found in any “policy 101” textbook (mix of carrots and sticks, escalating series of responses, verification before acceptance etc.) took so long to be concluded. But the length of time it took (and the reports of internal disagreements about it over the period) highlights what may be the most important aspect of the endeavor – there is now, finally, a single script for U.S. government officials to follow on Sudan. Compared to the depressingly confused scenes coming from the Press Briefing Room earlier this year, the ability to tow a single line, in public at least, is reassuring.

The press briefing did, however, show a few wobbles in this regard. Secretary Clinton spoke of the “dire human consequences of genocide.” Ambassador Rice, almost imperceptibly, re-characterized Clinton as having talked of the need “to end the genocide that’s taking place in Darfur” [note the present tense]. And for his part Gration got through the whole thing without using the word g-word at all.  [My favourite media line of the day came from Gration on NPR. The interviewer noted that, while claiming to be on the same page as the President (who continues to call the situation in Darfur genocide) Gration had not spoken of genocide during the briefing: “You would say, then, that there is an ongoing genocide in Darfur?” she asked. Gration responded: “I’m saying … just exactly the way the president said it … yep”]

My hunch is that the genuine conflicts that were reported to have emerged between, in particular, Rice and Gration, during the Review process have not actually been resolved. In lieu of genuine agreement between them, the single public line is a welcome second best. But I can’t help thinking of something that former head of UNDPKO, Jean Marie Guehenno, said to me in my first interview with him: “Fudge the analysis, fudge the policy.”

Rice clearly analyzes the situation as an ongoing genocide. Seemingly consistent with this view, the wording of the Review’s first strategic objective [“A definitive end to . . . genocide in Darfur“] also describes a genocide that is ongoing. One would expect the policy prescriptions in the document to flow from that analysis. But they don’t.

Since when has the policy approach to ending an ongoing genocide been engagement with the regime currently conducting the atrocities, or seeking a negotiated solution? What would we have thought if the Clinton Administration had released a document saying its plan to end the Rwandan genocide involved engagement with Hutu Power and support for a negotiated settlement between Hutu and Tutsi? If I had been given those policy points on an exam and asked to guess what the situation was that they sought to address, “ongoing genocide” would not have been my pick. “Dealing with the consequences of genocide” or “ending a civil war” would have been closer to the mark. And if that is what the Review is really addressing, then why not come out and say so?

I imagine part of the reason is the certain backlash from the advocacy community that would follow if the Administration backed away from referring to Darfur as a situation of “ongoing genocide.” But if the policy itself is not calibrated towards ending an ongoing genocide, then what value do advocates get from having administration officials talking about it being an ongoing genocide? None.

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  1. […] released as being basically sound policy. I have to say, I agree (although see my irritation some fudging between the description of what the policy is trying to do in Darfur and what it actually tries to […]

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