SECRETARY OF STATE Colin L. Powell goes to the Senate today to testify about the agonizing subject of Darfur. He is likely to stress the U.S.-led effort to airlift relief supplies into this vast, landlocked territory: According to the United Nations, the United States has given $278 million so far this year, accounting for two-fifths of the world's response to the crisis. He may also speak about the State Department's deliberations on whether to label the systematic destruction of ethnic African villages "genocide" and, if so, whether to ascribe responsibility to the ethnic Arab Janjaweed militia or also to its sponsor, Sudan's government. But that is not the full scope of U.S. policy in Darfur. Although the United States has been generous financially, it has not expended the diplomatic capital necessary to achieve a solution.
Earlier in the summer, Mr. Powell argued that the violence against Darfur's civilians could be ended by Sudan's government, even though that same government had invented the policy of attacking villagers with helicopter gunships, then sending in the Janjaweed to burn their houses, kill and rape inhabitants, and poison wells. This mistaken belief conveniently absolved outsiders of the moral responsibility to provide peacekeepers. Sudan's government, however, showed no inclination to stop the killings. It also lacked the means to rebottle the Janjaweed genie even if it had wanted to; besides, there was no way that traumatized Darfuri villagers would return home in the absence of foreign peacekeepers, just as Kosovo's ethnic Albanians would never have returned home as long as the surrogates of Slobodan Milosevic remained in control.
Now U.S. officials have drafted a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls on Sudan's government to accept an expanded force that would probably consist of 3,000 troops and a bit over 1,000 police officers from the African Union. This is a good idea, and we have advocated it -- even though nobody should expect that a force this size can guarantee robust security in a territory the size of France. But the problem with Mr. Powell's draft resolution is that Sudan's government has little incentive to pay attention to it. In its current version, the resolution includes no deadline for Sudanese compliance. Its vague threat of sanctions is undermined by the fact that the United Nations issued the same threat in July but seems to have forgotten it.
The United States must propose a tougher resolution that delivers on July's threat of sanctions and then threatens more if Sudan's government fails to accept the African Union force. This sort of resolution would not win easy acceptance from Sudan's sympathizers on the Security Council, and Mr. Powell would have to work hard to secure passage. But at least this approach might force Sudan to pay attention. The alternative -- the milquetoast resolution that the State Department has put forward -- creates the appearance of action without the substance.