Foreign Policy

Beyond 'Engagement'

For months, Sudan activists around the United States, deeply concerned about the apparent direction of U.S. engagement with the Sudanese government, have anxiously awaited the release of the Obama administration’s official policy toward Sudan. A coalition of anti-genocide organizations launched the Sudan Now campaign with the goal of telling President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton to uphold the numerous promises they have made for strong, immediate U.S. action in Sudan. In October, the administration announced its new Sudan policy. Now the hard part—implementation of this policy—can begin. We are optimistic about some elements of this new policy, and we continue to call for the Obama administration to follow through on its promises on Sudan.

The stakes are enormous. The Sudanese regime in Khartoum, which cannot sustain a military offensive on two fronts simultaneously, is shifting its war tactics from Darfur to southern Sudan. This poses an immediate threat to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended—for a time—more than two decades of war in southern Sudan between Sudan’s north and south. With the so-called lull in Darfur today, there is an upsurge of violence in the south. But the war is not “over” in either place.

Against the backdrop of this gathering storm, the Obama administration must take resolute, practical action to back up the policy outlined on paper and in speeches. Sudan activists are in favor of the attention that the administration is devoting to Sudan, but for the new policy to be a success, the administration must make good on its intentions to balance its use of carrots and sticks for Khartoum based on “verifiable changes on the ground.”

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Sojourners Magazine December 2009
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God's Security Strategy

Jesus asks us to love our enemies, to do good to those who harm us, and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. What does this mean for U.S. policy in Afghanistan?

It means we should imagine what it would be like to be an Afghan civilian, with legitimate grievances about the corruption of the current Afghan government, along with a continuing sense of repression and humiliation by both external forces and the Taliban. What if a foreign government dropped bombs on our towns in its effort to kill terrorists among us? How would we want to be treated if Afghanistan were our own country?

The Taliban are rightly condemned for their intolerance to pluralism, as well as for their discrimination and violence against women and others who don’t follow their interpretation of Islam. To love our enemies means that it is also right to imagine ourselves in the shoes of even the Taliban—or, at least, in the environment where they took root: the cold and windy refugee camps where, over decades, poor, landless children of a nation ravaged by imperial powers grew up angry, defiant, humiliated, and ready to fight for revenge.

Jesus also tells us to pay more attention to the log in our eye rather than the speck of dust in our neighbor’s. There is no doubt Afghanistan is full of dust. But what are the logs in our own eyes? Elements of U.S. policy in Afghanistan simply don’t make sense.

First, there is widespread evidence that the presence of U.S. troops and bomb-dropping drone aircraft ends up fueling the insurgency and helping the Taliban and al Qaeda recruit new members. We need to question the strategic, as well as the moral, rationale for the U.S.’s militaristic approach.

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Sojourners Magazine November 2009
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