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Saving Darfur: Seductive Analogies and the Limits of Airpower Coercion in Sudan

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The humanitarian crisis in Darfur is a tragedy. In 2003 an unexpected rebellion in the remote states of Darfur drove the Sudanese government in Khartoum to initiate a brutal counterinsurgency campaign destroying thousands of villages and killing hundreds of thousands of Darfuris, many of them women and children. In a region of over 6 million people, nearly 2.7 million Darfuris remain internally displaced persons with an additional quarter of a million eking out their existence in refugee camps across the border in Chad. Thousands of humanitarian workers risk hijacking, abduction, and attack from armed assailants to care for and feed those affected by the conflict. Although the level of violence has declined drastically since 2004, attacks on villages in Darfur by janjaweed militia and government forces continue. The atrocities and tactics of the government of Sudan have received significant attention from the media, humanitarian organizations, and Hollywood celebrities, yet the international community remains focused on diplomacy rather than decisive actions. The purpose of this analysis is to examine Americas most recent humanitarian interventions where no-fly zones facilitated peacekeeping operations and to explore how they could shape courses of action, theories of success, and potential policy options for Darfur. After a brief introduction to the history of the Darfur crisis and the role of analogies, airpower, and coercion in humanitarian interventions, this article compares the presumptions, likenesses, and differences of the current conflict to three seductively similar humanitarian operations in the 1990s Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq, Operation Deny Flight in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Operation Allied Force in Kosovo. Unless there is an immense shift in the nature of the Sudanese conflict and the overarching geopolitical landscape, a no-fly zone and air strikes are unlikely to provide the results desired by the Obama administration.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Humanities and History
  • Unconventional Warfare

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