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Bush Punts on Darfur

At a press conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday afternoon, President Bush sought to explain why stronger action has yet to be taken vis-a-vis Darfur.

We shared our deep concern about the people in Darfur. And I — I share frustrations that the United Nations-AU peacekeeping force is slow in arriving. I made the decision not to put our troops in there on the expectation that the United Nations, along with the AU, could be effective — and they haven’t been as effective as they should be, and we’ll continue to work to help them.

The slow deployment of UNAMID — the peacekeeping force scheduled to reach full deployment in Darfur over three months ago — is indeed frustrating. But the argument that Bush is making here — a myth that he has promulgated before — is deeply disingenuous. The alternative to a slow-deploying UN force was never sending U.S. troops into Darfur; this option was simply never on the table. No U.S. troops have been available for this kind of peacekeeping mission — let alone those in Liberia, Congo, Lebanon, and the other various war zones where the UN is deployed — nor would sending U.S. troops to these places, or to Darfur, necessarily have been a good idea. As Condoleezza Rice reminds Bush in Nick Kristof’s imagined rendition, “you can’t invade a third Muslim country, especially one with oil.”

No, the alternative to U.S. troops in Darfur was, is, and will continue to be putting an effective UN peacekeeping force on the ground there, which the U.S. has been in the most opportunistic position to ensure. By failing to provide more robust support for UN peackeeping, to invest a deeper commitment in Sudan’s tortured peace processes, and to exert more concerted pressure on Sudan and its enablers, the U.S. has consistently watched opportunities for peace and protection in Darfur sail by. Faulting the UN for a slow-deploying and under-resourced peacekeeping mission is a bit like blaming one’s shadow. If the U.S. is going to cast stones at the UN, it would do well to remember that the UN is no more than its Member States, and that the U.S., with the huge amount of influence and funding that it brings to the world body, may well end up looking to itself, with a stone in its hands.

Yet President Bush continues to present this false dichotomy: unilateral U.S. military action, for which the American population largely has no stomach, versus a failed UN mission, which the U.S. can conveniently scapegoat for the continually deteriorating situation in Darfur. The media should call the administration out on this self-exculpatory tactic, and the U.S. should discard its smoke and mirrors and work honestly with the international community to achieve real, tangible progress in Darfur.

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Warren Hoge to Leave NYT UN Bureau

Via News Unfiltered, longtime NYT UN correspondent Warren Hoge is leaving his post to join the International Peace Institute.

The International Peace Institute (IPI) announced today that Warren Hoge, United Nations bureau chief for The New York Times, will be joining IPI in June as Vice President and Director of External Relations.

Mr. Hoge brings to IPI a distinguished career of 32 years in international affairs at The New York Times. In addition to his current position as UN bureau chief, he has served as bureau chief in Rio de Janeiro and London, foreign editor, editor of The New York Times Magazine, and assistant managing editor. As a foreign correspondent, Mr. Hoge has reported from more than 80 countries — covering political turmoil and guerrilla warfare in Central America, the peace process in Northern Ireland, the Blair administration and royal family in Britain, and areas of significant UN presence, including Central Africa and the Middle East.

Read more.

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Warren Hoge to Leave NYT UN Bureau

Via News Unfiltered, longtime NYT UN correspondent Warren Hoge is leaving his post to join the International Peace Institute.

The International Peace Institute (IPI) announced today that Warren Hoge, United Nations bureau chief for The New York Times, will be joining IPI in June as Vice President and Director of External Relations.

Mr. Hoge brings to IPI a distinguished career of 32 years in international affairs at The New York Times. In addition to his current position as UN bureau chief, he has served as bureau chief in Rio de Janeiro and London, foreign editor, editor of The New York Times Magazine, and assistant managing editor. As a foreign correspondent, Mr. Hoge has reported from more than 80 countries — covering political turmoil and guerrilla warfare in Central America, the peace process in Northern Ireland, the Blair administration and royal family in Britain, and areas of significant UN presence, including Central Africa and the Middle East.

Read more.

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Brazil on the Benefits of Biofuels

As food prices continue to rise, various theories have emerged as to the underlying forces driving prices higher. BBC News reported today on the growing debate about the role biofuels might play, and highlighted a vigorous rebuttal from the President of Brazil.

Brazil, in particular finds itself defending the biofuels industry at a conference of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Brasilia. Both Brazil and the U.S. are heavily invested in the production of corn and sugar-cane-based fuels, with Brazil being the world’s largest exporter. BBC News reported Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s comments:

“Biofuels aren’t the villain that threatens food security,” said President Lula.

“On the contrary… they can pull countries out of energy dependency without affecting foods.”

He said that rises in food prices came because people in developing countries like China, India and Brazil itself are eating higher up the food chain–shifting from grain to meat–as economic conditions in those countries improved.

An interesting argument. Could there be a connection between rising obesity levels and rising food prices? It’s something to think about, and it’s another reason to follow through with that diet you’ve been thinking of doing. We already know that our food consumption habits affect far more than our dating prospects.

So Brazil says it’s simply a supply and demand situation, others note that agriculture is highly dependent on petroleum and that skyrocketing oil prices are a primary cause of food price increase. And as I continue to read these kinds of stories, as well as OECD reports that weigh the pros and cons of biofuels, it is apparent that there is no single cause or villain, and that we haven’t seen the last of the debate.

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Brazil on the Benefits of Biofuels

As food prices continue to rise, various theories have emerged as to the underlying forces driving prices higher. BBC News reported today on the growing debate about the role biofuels might play, and highlighted a vigorous rebuttal from the President of Brazil.

Brazil, in particular finds itself defending the biofuels industry at a conference of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Brasilia. Both Brazil and the U.S. are heavily invested in the production of corn and sugar-cane-based fuels, with Brazil being the world’s largest exporter. BBC News reported Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s comments:

“Biofuels aren’t the villain that threatens food security,” said President Lula.

“On the contrary… they can pull countries out of energy dependency without affecting foods.”

He said that rises in food prices came because people in developing countries like China, India and Brazil itself are eating higher up the food chain–shifting from grain to meat–as economic conditions in those countries improved.

An interesting argument. Could there be a connection between rising obesity levels and rising food prices? It’s something to think about, and it’s another reason to follow through with that diet you’ve been thinking of doing. We already know that our food consumption habits affect far more than our dating prospects.

So Brazil says it’s simply a supply and demand situation, others note that agriculture is highly dependent on petroleum and that skyrocketing oil prices are a primary cause of food price increase. And as I continue to read these kinds of stories, as well as OECD reports that weigh the pros and cons of biofuels, it is apparent that there is no single cause or villain, and that we haven’t seen the last of the debate.

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Will We Be Fooled Again?

An unnamed American official is non-too-pleased with the Bush administration’s moves to normalize relations with Sudan, and so leaks to Helen Cooper documents detailing the entente. The United States, reports Cooper, is offering to take Sudan off the list of state sponsors of terror and take steps to normalize relations if Sudan agrees to cooperate more fully on the deployment of the peacekeeping mission in Darfur. Why would this official think this is such a bad idea? Roger Winter, a former USAID and State Department official with twenty-years experience in Sudan explains: “Given the fact that Khartoum has been involved in negotiations repeatedly over the years regarding Darfur and the comprehensive peace agreements and has signed documents and consistently failed to implement what they’ve signed, why are we discussing normalization with them?”

I think this is exactly the point. Khartoum has yet to live up to most of the agreements it has signed. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (which ended a 20 year civil war between the Islamist government in the Khartoum and southern rebels) is on the verge of collapse because the government has decided to unilaterally withdraw from some of its key passages, including on the boundary of the oil-rich Abyei region. The Darfur Peace Agreement was basically dead on arrival–and the government (to this day) routinely violates its obligations contained therein. The President of Sudan, Omar el Bashir has also backed down from personal commitments he has made to the Secretary General to desist from the government’s campaign to retard the deployment of UNAMID.

This “is a fool me twice, shame on me” sort of situation. And we’ve been fooled time and time again. As John Prendergast of the Enough Campaign (and formerly of the NSC) likes to point out, Khartoum tends to respond only under pressure or the threat of pressure. For real progress to take hold in Darfur, the United States should work with the international community to press the government of Sudan to comply with the agreements it has already made–not reward a regime that has consistently failed to live up to its past agreements.

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