The Post's May 7 editorial "Sudan: The Unending War" brought to light two critical points about that barbaric war of "ethnic cleansing." One is that our actions in Kosovo emphasize our failure to act in the much larger war in Sudan. Without Kosovo, the war in Sudan would continue in obscurity. The other is that it is time for the United States to redouble its efforts toward bringing the war to a conclusion. As bad as the situation has become and intractable as the conflict may seem, we may have a small chance for peace.
But the United States must redouble its efforts strategically with a realistic understanding of our strengths and limitations. What may seem like minor differences among our options actually can represent fundamental differences between success and failure. The appointment of a special envoy may bring needed attention and diplomatic weight to that effort, but it would represent neither a clear understanding of our limitations nor a strategy that can maximize our effectiveness.
A strategy that does so requires three basic steps in the coming months:
We must recognize the conflict for what it is: a calculated and sustained effort by the regime in Khartoum to subdue, eradicate or forcibly convert to Islam large segments of their own population. The fact that it is not exclusively a Muslim against Christian or Arab against black African war must not distract us from its barbarity. Even without a clear "good guy," the war is indiscriminate and patently evil. As the editorial pointed out, it already has claimed more lives than the wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya and Somalia combined.
We must conduct our relief operations so they address the roots of the humanitarian disaster, not just the symptoms. We must continue to change our operations so they do not inadvertently abet the agenda of Khartoum by allowing the government to use our food donations as a weapon -- as it does with its calculated denial of access to relief flights that carry our contributions through the United Nations.
We also must change the nature of our generous contributions, moving away from simply food, literally falling from the sky into starving villages, to one where we seek to help establish the most basic civil and economic institutions in the areas outside the government's control. It is the near absence of those institutions in some areas that prevents the Sudanese from sustaining themselves. I plan to introduce legislation that will address those shortcomings, both in our own programs and in the United Nations. Congress can urge the president to continue implementing those changes, but we also must be prepared to support him fully as he does.
We must work harder to reinvigorate the existing multilateral peace process and bring significant pressure to bear on the warring parties and supporters to come to the peace table. Khartoum uses seductive diversions -- "confessions" of war-weariness and other hints that a "breakthrough" is at hand -- to avoid a process in which it would actually have to produce results.
The rebels continue to be fractious on their endgame. A strong peace process based on an airtight list of principles and measures of success can encourage both to deliver tangible results. A special envoy alone, secret "diplomatic missions" or any other effort that does not bring the combatants and their supporters to the table cannot provide three essential elements: the elimination of a scapegoat for a failed process, sustained pressure on all parties to show progress and a healthy dose of embarrassment for the world regarding the situation.
The tragedy of Sudan has been perpetuated by shameful, worldwide neglect and a stunning lack of resolve. Until Khartoum succeeds in its goal of ethnic cleansing, the war will never go away on its own. Short of military intervention or comprehensive U.N. sanctions, for which there is no political will, a coherent, cooperative and realistic strategy offers the best chance for progress -- albeit 16 years late.
The writer, a Republican senator from Tennessee, chairs the Foreign Relations subcommittee on African affairs.