Why the US Government Won’t Stop Arming South Sudan

A recent FP article asks, “Why had Susan Rice been blocking [an arms embargo against South Sudan]?” 

What the FP article doesn’t touch on is what has become lost in the South Sudan Narrative: that one of the main reasons the Bush Administration pushed for South Sudanese independence was to retard military support for American enemies. It’s not unlike why the Reagan Administration helped the South Sudanese rebels in the 1980’s – they didn’t want South Sudan’s rebels going Soviet like the Ethiopians. Moral considerations *do* play a role in both instances, as far as opposing the wretched treatment of Black Christian South Sudanese, but States think like States, and States don’t believe in God.

In this case Sudan/Khartoum had supported Osama Bin Laden (that’s why we bombed a factory in Sudan) and Muslim Brotherhood activity against U.S. ally Mubarak in Egypt. Now Sudan/Khartoum is happy to trade in arms, intelligence, etc. with the Iranian government, militants in Libya, and other groups Washington D.C. sees as opposed to U.S. interests.

South Sudan has an overt and a covert role in this situation. Overtly, an independent South Sudan keeps Sudan very busy. Sudan/Khartoum has toned down their “bad guy” behavior towards the USA since South Sudan’s independence because (a) the USA promised to take them off of the “supporter of terrorism” list and open up U.S.-Sudan trade, and (b) South Sudan has all of Sudan/Khartoum’s oil.

Remember that just two years ago South Sudan *invaded* one of the oilfields in Sudan, and South Sudan’s government is supporting anti-Sudan militants in areas like South Kordofan (and even in Darfur).

So I imagine it’s a very difficult situation for whatever portion of the U.S. Government’s brain is looking at South Sudan. They can’t support a civil war, and South Sudan certainly has that on some level. But Big Issues get priority and the War on Terror is still a bigger issue to Washington D.C., and they don’t want South Sudan completely shifting over to the Chinese.

They also don’t want South Sudan’s government to fall to a rebel military takeover, because there are too many “baddies” that want to nibble at South Sudan’s fringe: the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda/Central African Republic, Janjaweed militias in Darfur, militants in in the Central African Republic, and even some honest-to-goodness Islamist militants coming up from the Congo/Uganda area.

Of course, this kind of crisis is why people like me burn all their brain cells trying to get more attention/investment/support for the rural communities. If people are growing food and can participate in economic growth (i.e. not just see their country’s GDP grow with oil revenue while they sit out in the cold), they don’t support militias and criminal organizations.

With that in mind, it is especially irritating that the U.S. Government can’t block South Sudan from getting weapons as easily as it could drop South Sudan from AGOA (when there is no U.S.-South Sudan trade, and when AGOA trade could actually directly engage rural communities with constructive benefits for everyone).

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