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Jonathan Diamond Headshot

On Sudan and Iraq

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So I'm driving my son to an after-school program yesterday, moving slowly along the freeway and listening to the news on the radio, when the newscaster started talking about "the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Now, he's a pretty perceptive seven-and-a-half year-old, and he pipes up, "There's a war in Afghanistan?"

It's a measure of how far we've come. He was just starting to speak when we were dropping bunker busters on the Afghan mountains, and thanks to the endless repetition on the radio, "Afghanistan" was one of his first words. He, like so many adults, has had it slip from memory.

I'm not going to rehash how we botched that war, a war one can make a pretty solid case for, or how profligate we're being with both lives and money in a war we were lied to about; I thumbnailed that for him yesterday.

But it is a testament to how far off course this country has been driven, how deeply we've damaged our moral standing in the world, that we're stuck in this Iraqi quagmire even as we could be doing some real good in the world.

Like in Sudan.

October was supposed to be another pivotal point in the years-long effort to bring peace to the region.

An electoral bill was to have been in place, part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in 2005 and a step toward national elections in 2009.

Not only is the bill not in place, jeopardizing elections, but the government has not yet implemented troop pullbacks agreed to in the CPA, virtually assuring the bloodshed in Darfur will continue and likely spread to Kordofan.

The UN has started to ratchet up efforts, but even there the chief of mission position, vacant since December 2006, was just filled this month after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon came back from Sudan.

And for all President Bush's talk of genocide, talk is pretty much where we've drawn the line. Indeed, there's little hope of the U.S. doing anything of substance to bring an end to the carnage; as far as I can tell only two of the Democratic candidates for president have anything at all about Darfur on their campaign Web sites.

Joe Biden is calling for sanctions, for NATO "to declare and police" a No Fly Zone over Darfur and for an international peacekeeping mission if Khartoum balks at the No Fly Zone.

John Edwards, too, is calling for a NATO role in the form of a No Fly Zone and logistical support for UN forces to police the region, and he sees a larger role for the US as well, including "using American airlift capabilities, logistical support and intelligence operations ... to assist U.N. and African Union peacekeeping efforts in Darfur."

It's a great idea, but we're spread too thin - both in terms of our military power and our diminishing ability to care about what's happening in the world around us. That, and before we can insert ourselves in a humanitarian crisis in Sudan, we have to extricate ourselves in some fashion from the humanitarian crisis we've created in Iraq.