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Intervene in Darfur? Cakewalk Is Spelled, IED

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Another in the series, How to Think About Darfur, by James North:

Here's a
link to the most important single magazine article I have read over at
least the past 5 years; it appeared in the British publication Prospect.     Bartle Bull
describes the IEDs — improvised explosive devices — which were (and
probably still are) responsible for 80 per cent of the American
casualties in the Iraq War
IEDs are homemade roadside bombs, detonated with wires or even by
cellphones, that the Iraqi guerrillas have used with such terrible
success against American armored patrols.

Bull explains: "The IED might seem like a relatively low-tech piece of
weaponry in a military epoch of lasers, unmanned drones and smart bombs.  And it might appear a humble opponent for a U.S. military establishment 3 million strong that consumes $400 billion a year.  But it is the defining weapon of America's war in Iraq. . ."

Most
of Bull's article is technical, describing the ongoing deadly duel;
each defensive innovation by the Americans prompts successful
adjustments by the Iraqis.  First the Iraqis buried artillery shells,
then they shifted to anti-tank mines, then they switched from the
roadbed itself to the side of the road.  Bull says, "It's like pest
control, or the antibiotics business: one side develops a response, and
the other side innovates around it. . ."

He brushes past the human element, but you can easily imagine what is
happening here.  Most Iraqis may be not planting the explosives
themselves.  But they do know where their neighbors are hiding the
bombs.  And the sight of foreign troops patrolling their streets for
more than 5 years now is not making them likely to issue any warnings.

Part of the Darfur solidarity movement wants the U.S., or NATO,
to send troops to the western Sudan.  Such a provocative invasion would
have been questionable even before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq; see Somalia 1992. 

But the IED has changed everything.  The potential resistance in Sudan
– a nation with plenty of people who already know how to use weapons
— recognizes that it could bury these relatively low-tech devices and
inflict awful casualties on Western soldiers. 

The American neoconservatives who predicted an American "cakewalk" in
Iraq have a lot to answer for.  Shouldn't the Darfur solidarity
movement be paying attention?

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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