I wanted to pull out three quotes from the column, but since one of them is kind of long, I recommend just reading it. Oh wait, you're here persumably for my commentary so read this before/after... thanks!
“If the result of the referendum is independence, there is going to be war — complete war,” predicts Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, one of Sudan’s most outspoken human rights advocates. He cautions that America’s willingness to turn a blind eye to election-rigging here increases the risk that Mr. Bashir will feel that he can get away with war.
“They’re very naïve in Washington,” Mr. Mudawi said. “They don’t understand what is going on.”As I fear, despite the relatively blood-less elections Bashir will feel emboldened by his new found *cough cough* "legitimacy" (excuse me while I cough up a lung) that he'll believe he has a mandate or the power to forcibly keep Sudan together regardless of next year's referendum for southern independence. Seeing that the referendum is likely to pass overwhelmingly any such action would lead to civil war as Mudawai suggests.
Although as Kristof says, "On the other hand, a senior Sudanese government official, Ghazi Salahuddin, told me unequivocally in Khartoum, the nation’s capital, that Sudan will honor the referendum results."
Perhaps American "diplomacy" is working and while the elections were not free or fair in the least, Bashir will be content to be the "legitimate" (here comes that coughing again) leader of Sudan without the oil rich south. From all the commentary out there that sounds unlikely, but I suppose let's keep our fingers crossed?
Kristof ends the article with a statement that may sound like the same old calls for action, but rings more true now: "My own hunch is that the north hasn’t entirely decided what to do, and that strong international pressure can reduce the risk of another savage war. If President Obama is ever going to find his voice on Sudan, it had better be soon."
Did we need Obama to act and appoint a special envoy a lot sooner in order to deal with ICC backlash in 2009? Yes. Have we done far too little to respond to recent violence in Darfur? Yes. But now more than ever do we need leadership by the United States along with other international actors to prevent a civil war? YES!
The adminstration plan to simultaneously be lukewarm regarding the election's legitimacy while continuing to defacto legitimize a genocidal dictator by engaging him as a negotiating partner may be a gamble that pays off. Even if that is the case, though, holding Bashir's feet to the fire (while we hold Obama's) will be necessary to keep him from another of his notorious 180s next year.
If the gamble doesn't work out, than alternative plans must be made to avoid civil war AND Sudan will at least for now will be stuck with Bashir and the NCP. But to end here's a bonus quote that made me vomit a little (see if you can keep down your lunch):
“Even America is becoming an N.C.P. member. No one is against our will.” -President Omar al-Bashir, indicted war criminal, suspected instigator of two genocides.