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Itís time for a new International Brigade Print

 January, 5 2007
An international mercenary army could save the people of Darfur, says tim collins

Imagine a scenario where Sir Bob Geldof is on stage, urging a crowd to 'give me yer focken money - for guns'. The crowd is rocking to fund a war, while celebrities, writers and intellectuals flock to drill in an International Brigade.

Unlikely? Sadly, for the people of Darfur, cursed to live on the wrong side of a predominately Arab boundary drawn by long-dead British and French empire-builders, it is only too improbable. But as the talking drags on and the slaughter continues, force - or the threat of force - is almost the only hope for these hard-pressed people.

The Africans in Darfur share their plight with the common fox here in the UK: their lives are not about getting enough to eat, they are about the right to exist without being hunted down and killed. Luckily for the fox, hunting them is now banned. But surely someone Force – or the threat of force – is the only hope of salvation for Darfur’s suffering people cares about the humans too? Why not rise up as a movement and stop the slaughter of these people? Is that not why we have the United Nations?

Sadly, the UN is a paper tiger. It is only as effective as the nations that form it want it to be - ie not very. The history of UN deployments has been an unhappy one with toothless contingents, indecisive command and the stench of corruption surrounding it. A Native American acquaintance of mine, Steve Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy tribe from Virginia, said: "If [the people of Darfur] had oil and gas they'd be safe - [the West] would find a reason to help."

Well, let us take a flight of imagination and decide that we do care and we do want to help. What would it take to intervene against the Sudanese bully?
Related links The UN needs a new taskforce Darfur in pictures Caught in the Darfur storm ragtag army. To take it on, and then to hold the region, would require a force of less than divisional strength - that is to say some 10,000 men in three brigades with logistics back-up. The force would need to have armour and air power to deal with Sudan's army and air force before turning to peace enforcement to ensure that, once driven off, the army and militias did not return.

For such an operation there would need to be a logistics base in a neighbouring country from which to launch the operation. The choices are Egypt, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, Congo, Uganda, and Ethiopia. Chad, where 200,000 Darfurian refugees live, would be the best as it is closest to the Darfur Mountains and would give the most sustainable base. (This, of course, pre-supposes the permission of the host nation.)

A rough estimate suggests it would cost in the order of $120m to $200m to mount the logistics effort and send soldiers to Darfur. And this assumes that a force could be assembled - no mean feat in itself, but A Darfur force might cost $1.3bn - but Live Aid raised more than $300m in a single concert to buy food for starving Ethiopia distinctly possible. Just suppose one goes for an armoured brigade, a mechanised brigade and an infantry brigade to do the job with artillery support.

That adds up to a minimum of 120 tanks and 120 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) with 100 guns of various calibres and associated vehicles. Along with command and logistics vehicles, one would need a further 300 lorries and 100 jeeps.

Many of these can be bought on the open market. With ex-Soviet T90 tanks and BTR80 APCs - far outclassing anything the Sudanese could field - costing $800,000 and $400,000 a pop, the armour would total $150m with spares. Add a further $150m for the guns, logistics, vehicles and command and you have a vehicle bill of $300m.

Related links The UN needs a new taskforce Darfur in pictures Caught in the Darfur storm assembled for something like $800m - for a full year.

Add $100m for the air component of a handful of air superiority SU27 warplanes, ground attack SU25s and some helicopters, plus logistics airlift, and you are there.

So, for $1.3bn - approximately £700m at current exchange rates and half of Sudan's military spend - you could field, feed and sustain an army for a year that could beat anything in Africa , permitting you to deal with the Sudanese forces and their attendant militias.

A cost too far? Well Live Aid raised $300m in a single concert to buy food for a starving Ethiopia in 1985. In the UK alone we've apparently just drunk more than £1bn in booze over Christmas. So put in those terms it is not so much.

Of course, in my little indulgence I have ignored international law, national laws and the complexity of international relations. Certain dictators might not react kindly to Westerners funding the most effective army in Africa. And how would it make our own Force is the only real solution. Our forefathers - those with brains and a conscience - left their homes to fight fascism in Spain

Government look, with our own overstretched forces running hot while Gordon Brown indulges in incoherent ramblings about Third World debt to enhance his humanitarian credentials?

But force is the only real solution. When our forefathers - those with brains and a conscience - detected the stench of a movement that threatened not just decency but civilisation itself, they left their homes to fight fascism in Spain (left). Abandoned by France and Britain, the democratically elected government and the International Brigades were defeated by fascism. It wouldn't have mattered a jot except - as predicted - we were next.  

 
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