I would like to think that Secretary of State Powell's trip to Darfur (NYT, BBC, etc.) will cause the situation there to be thrust into the national limelight, spurring action to prevent what can already be considered a humanitarian crisis, but I think that I know better by now. Consider these three factors:
- The Bush Administration does not care about Africa (for example, the events surrounding the end of Charles Taylor's reign in Liberia). Not because there are too many difficult problems, but because there are not enough "strategic assets" (like oil). I suspect there is a racist component as well, but that is difficult to prove.
- Our military and national attention is focused elsewhere.
- It is an election year.
Unless we exert subtle yet strong diplomatic pressure upon the Sudanese government, I do not see how things can get better in Darfur. Currently, I am not sure that anything significant will happen, as there is still discussion going on about whether what is happening is "genocide" or simply "ethnic cleansing." In the early 1990s, the UN dispatched peacekeepers to Bosnia because of ethnic cleansing. Now, we are waiting for genocide before we act. Having seen both Bosnia and Rwanda, we have no excuses.
There is an essay (which I cannot find on Google, since I do not remember its exact title) that I heard once on the radio about how death is one of the few things that can command public attention. The essay (if I remember it correctly; it has been a number of years since I heard it) focused on domestic events, where even a singular death can attract attention. Despite how the interconnectedness of the world today, the fact remains that the majority of the public (regardless of geographical location) does not care if a million people who live halfway around the world die. If we do not see ourselves as having ties to those who are condemned, it is as if we are uncaring strangers. "The world is cruel," we rationalize, not realizing that we collectively make it so.