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January 10, 2005

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Hilzoy: and one for which both the Bush administration and the evangelicals who have kept this issue on his front burner deserve real credit.

Do they? Why?

I'm not being sarcastic: I really have no idea, and that is naturally my fault for being ill-informed.

Jes: the Bush administration pushed hard for this, and succeeded where no one had before. I'm not completely up to speed on the ins and outs of it all, but my understanding is that this is in large part because the evangelical community made it a priority. While most of the population of southern Sudan is animist, there are a number of Christians there. (The north, and the Sudanese government, are Muslim.) So there's a fair amount of Christian aid work in the South, and thus also serious interest from the evangelical community. Moreover, since they have people on the ground there, they are probably in a reasonable position to tell which ideas are just nuts, unlike Iraq, where we had no good intelligence at all, and were thus in a position to project our fantasies onto a nearly blank screen.

Add to this the following factors: (a) John Danforth, the Bush administration's point person on this, is by all accounts a reasonable guy; (b) this was under the purview of the State Department, not Defense, and thus Colin Powell, not Rumsfeld et al; (c) all the major agendas that might distort Sudan policy line up on the right side (which, according to me, is the side of pushing hard for a peace treaty that does not shaft the South.) Specifically, the Christians about whom the evangelicals are most concerned are in fact getting screwed; the government is not just 'the real bad guys' but also Muslim and a side player in terrorism; the oil is in the South (so if one were to be concerned about oil, the prospect of having it fall under the control of a more friendly government would seem like a good thing); and Sudan is peripheral to the neocons' main agenda, and thus less likely to draw their (counterproductive) involvement.

But for whatever reason, they did a good thing.

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