For most of the past few years, liberals who claim to care about human rights have pointed to the disaster in the Darfur region of Sudan as the prime example of the failure of the international system to act against genocide. The Bush administration's halting efforts to isolate Sudan were consistently branded as insufficiently militant despite the rhetorical lip service that Washington paid to the need to do something about stopping the killing there during this period. Sanctions were enacted, but making it difficult for Sudan's threadbare economy to interact with the West did not constitute much leverage. Sudan retained the support and the patronage of the Muslim world. In the absence of a real threat to the regime from either the West or concerned African nations, Sudan had no reason to worry.
But now the chief liberal icon of the moment has taken his philosophy of "engagement" with dictators to the next level by a policy of outreach to the government that the United States has accused of genocide in Darfur. On Monday, after months of internal arguments about the best way to deal with Sudan, the administration announced it would reward the country's murderous dictator, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir — a man currently under indictment by the International Criminal Court for his role in directing the murder of hundreds of thousands of people — with economic incentives to try and bribe him to stop behaving in such a beastly fashion.