This is exactly what is meant by us liberal hawks when we wonder what Kerry means by his talk of rounding up the allies. The U.S. has roundly and forcefully condemned the killings in Sudan (though only the Congress, not the White House, has called it genocide). And then there's the Security Council, which passes resolutions in a sort of perpetual diplomatic inertia.
Today, the Council is voting on a revised resolution on the "situation [diplomatese for war] in Sudan." I can't find the text of the revised version, but here is the version immediately previous to that currently being considered. Salient points include the use of the phrase "acts of violence of an ethnic dimension" (a phrase used, I suppose, when "genocide" is considered too strong), and the lack of any estimates of the number of dead to this point. The main difference between the current version and the previous version? The one being voted on today lacks teeth, namely the sanctions that had been suggested by the U.S. as an incentive for action by the government of Sudan against the Janjaweed.
In its place (or so I've read), a statement that actions will be taken according to Article 41 of the UN Charter:
The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.
In an interview with the BBC, Britain's ambassador to the UN tried to put the best face on the weakening of the resolution -- there's no difference, he says, between the words "sanctions" and reference to Article 41. I think not. There's always more power to direct statement than to bureaucratic language, and, it appears, Article 41 allows action weaker than direct sanctions: in fact, anything the Security Council decides. So the new resolution, in effect, is threatening that the UNSC will take measures that the UNSC will decide upon. Bold, this.
Where now is the incentive for an international team of military observers, much less a significant force of peacekeepers to help stop the conflict? The resolution places full responsibility on the Sudanese government, which might be happy to take responsibility but do nothing, or rather, continue to mislead international aid organizations.
A recent article in the New York Review of Books reviews the history. I'll try to read it. Maybe it will give me an answer to the question: What could have been done earlier? When should the U.S., or the U.N., have foreseen what would happen in Darfur? Why did the previous killing in the south of Darfur not merit as much attention in the press, and why was that massacre not prevented (or not preventable)?
Postscript: The Forward has a good summary on the inability of the U.N. (or any subset of the international community, the U.S. included) to commit a peacekeeping force to the Sudan or to agree on the threat of sanctions. According to human rights observers quoted in the article,
bitterness over Iraq has stymied the America's push for
"The bad feelings that have occurred because of U.S. unilateral action in
Iraq have lessened the receptivity of other countries to the U.S. now talking
about multilateral action," said Roberta Cohen, a fellow at the Brookings
France and Germany skeptically eyed the United States's efforts, slowing
down the process until recently. While European countries have begun of late to
act more aggressively, China, Pakistan and Algeria continue to hold out against
any resolution calling for sanctions against the Sudanese government.
However, the article doesn't cite any evidence to show that France, Germany, et al. are refusing to back sanctions because of U.S. unilateral action in Iraq. It could very plausibly be that France and Germany are reluctant a priori to get involved (I don't think we've heard much from their respective prime ministers). China and Pakistan have their own reasons for not rocking the Sudan boat.