- The Scramble for Africa: Darfur—Intervention and USA
For all the media coverage on the Darfur crisis, little attention has been paid to the political climate that spurred the conflict in the first place. Instead, news sources tell the Darfur crisis from a humanistic perspective, which often ignores the marriage of politics and history. The public hears more about how celebrities (George Clooney comes to mind) raise money and awareness for the crisis, and less about the international community's involvement in perpetuating the conflict and the consequences of human intervention. Furthermore, the media have paid scant attention to the Sudan's relations to other countries, particularly the United States, and how those countries have furthered their political and economic interests in their attempts to end the violence.
In light of this discourse, Steven Fake and Kevin Funk's book, The Scramble for Africa: Darfur—Intervention and the USA, explores the political relationships that perpetuate the Darfur conflict. They turn a critical eye toward U.S. involvement in the crisis, asserting that the U.S. government has not provided enough support for peacekeeping forces, and that like other Western countries, the U.S. has been more invested in its own interests than in solving the conflict.
Fake and Funk offer a dynamic approach to studying the Darfur conflict. They ruminate on important factors underpinning the conflict, including the history of civil unrest in the Sudan, the impact of colonialism, U.N. peacekeeping in Darfur, the pitfalls of human intervention, the definition of genocide, and the danger of misguided activism. This multilayered approach permits the authors to be especially critical of Washington's foreign policies. For example, they note that the U.S. declaration of genocide in 2004 "was clearly made for domestic political reasons," and instead of preventing the horrors, the government has engaged in "meaningless rhetorical displays" (p. 13). They criticize Washington's support for the Darfur Peace Agreement, noting that only one of the rebel groups—Minni Arcua Minnawi's Sudan Liberation Army—signed it, strengthening the conflict in Darfur (pp. 7–8). Most importantly, they assert that the aims of the United States in addressing the Darfur conflict are not solely altruistic: Africa's oil reserves play a role in U.S. economic interests (p. 55). [End Page 94]
Fake and Funk's take on the Darfur crisis is a welcome change from the media's narrow analysis. Instead of focusing primarily on human-interest stories, Fake and Funk place the crisis in a larger context, showing readers a complicated intersection of politics and history. Armed with sources, they provide examples showing Washington's apathy toward the crisis.
The book is not without its limitations. The analysis is informative, but it makes for particularly dense reading. Nonacademic readers will find it easy to get lost in footnotes, facts, and names, which, despite their importance, interrupt the flow of the narrative. Furthermore, the authors rely too heavily on footnotes to explain their findings. Researchers will admire the extensive research that supports the authors' claims, but the book could have done a better job of incorporating the research into the narrative.
All in all, readers will gain greatly from the book's grasp of the politics and history that underpin the Darfur conflict. Fake and Funk have presented facts in a refreshing perspective, calling readers and scholars to acknowledge the complexity of the issues. The book is light but fairly accessible to readers who seek a richer understanding of the Darfur crisis. Maybe the knowledge gained from this book will compel readers to hold their government accountable and bring about necessary change in Darfur.