May 19, 2012

Regarding Andrew Natsios’s May 13 Outlook commentary, “To give South Sudan a chance at peace, supply it with weapons”:

Mr. Natsios’s suggestion that U.S. military support to South Sudan is “the only way to foster peace talks” is mistaken and dangerous.

While it is tempting to believe that the United States could end the conflict with a single act, sending more weapons will only add fuel to the fire, in fact making talks all the more difficult to achieve. The relief group Oxfam has worked to mitigate the impact of conflict in Sudan for 30 years. Military might has never achieved peace in Sudan’s many conflicts nor addressed the underlying causes of conflict.

There is still a path to peace away from full-blown war. Talks can happen now, but to be successful, they require both countries to end the political and military one-upmanship of the past months and put the needs of their populations first. The failure to do so already has caused the humanitarian situation on both sides of the border to deteriorate severely.

The United States should focus on bringing Sudan and South Sudan back to negotiations, not erode trust even further by arming one side against the other. The United States helped bring peace in 2005. It now needs to protect that peace, not trigger a new arms race.

Raymond Offenheiser, Washington

The writer is president of Oxfam America.