President Bashir of Sudan has more in common with former Liberian President Charles Taylor and former Yuoglav President Slobodan Milosevic than a penchant for committing war crimes. President Bashir, like both Taylor and Milosevic, has grown accustomed to defying the international community through outrages both large and small; a practice I refer to here as ‘poking the bear.’
All three men genuinely came to believe that they could continue to defy the world without paying any substantial cost, in large part because the international reaction to their actions had been so weak for so long. All three men genuinely came to see themselves as a colossuses sitting astride their respective domains. Yet, if you poke a bear long enough, he invariably wakes up and responds. In trying to expel relief agencies from Darfur, and callously placing more than a million lives at risk, Bashir is making the same kind of mistakes that both Taylor and Milosevic made toward the end of their respective presidencies. The international community has slumbered a long time with regard to Sudan, and even now is slow to lumber into action. But if the Obama administration can galvanize a common diplomatic position, and move with real resolve, President Bashir will soon be left wondering why anyone would think it was a good idea to poke a bear in the first place.