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No to a Darfur No-Fly Zone

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A no-fly zone over Darfur, advocated by retired Air Force Gen. Merrill A. McPeak and Kurt Bassuener ["Grounding Sudan's Killers," op-ed, March 5], certainly "would change the dynamic on the ground," but not in the simplistic way that these authors suggested.

In Darfur's civil war, only the government has aircraft, so a no-fly zone would tilt the military balance and thereby embolden the rebels to go on the offensive. The government would retaliate by unleashing Arab militias to attack civilian areas perceived to support the rebels and by interrupting vital humanitarian aid to these areas.

The net effect of imposing a no-fly zone, therefore, would be more dead civilians in Darfur.

The Obama administration should focus instead on persuading the remaining rebels to join the Darfur Peace Agreement, signed in 2006 by the government and one faction of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army. Such hard-nosed diplomacy, not shortsighted military intervention, offers the best hope for ending Darfur's tragedy.

ALAN J. KUPERMAN

Austin, Tex.

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