Mr Blair is said by his aides to believe the ethnic cleansing to be a defining moral issue.
"It's very important [President Bashir] doesn't believe he can renege on his agreements. We can't allow the status quo to be locked in after the ethnic cleansing there," a Downing Street source said.
"The prime minister believes in a values-driven foreign policy and believes you have to evenly apply those values to have any credibility. He sees Darfur as a test of the international community's commitment to its own values."
A few things are immediately obvious, and the first is that Mr Blair does not believe you have to "even apply" any "values". I suppose it is part of the derangement of our current affairs that we have to put up with a man who is murdering Iraqis and creating millions of refugees, arming the murderers of Colombians and the ethnic cleansers of Palestinians, supporting the murderers of Chechens, while remaining a staunch protector of the Saudi regime, telling us about "values" he thinks he holds dear. The enforcer of murderous neoliberal programmes will also detain you on the topic of poverty and starvation if you give him long enough, and you'd be a fool to take that seriously either. Secondly, ethnic cleansing is an interesting term for what is happening in Darfur, for if Blair can't quite say 'genocide' as he surely would like to, then that is obviously the next best thing. Yet, as any fule kno, the Khartoum regime is undoubtedly pursuing a vicious counterinsurgency, but this does not have clear ethnic dimensions to it. Thirdly, there is clearly no desire for 'regime change', here: it looks more like a disciplinary operation designed - as is openly admitted - to pave the way for bombing raids. It has the advantage that liberals and centre-left think-tanks like the IPPR have been calling for such measures. However, as Alex De Waal pointed out last week while supporting the principle of a no-fly zone, a bombing campaign would "in reality be a declaration of war on Sudan, with incalculable consequences". He concluded that it would be better to focus on "reconvening talks on Darfur, alongside new attention to salvaging the Naivasha Agreement". Finally, it isn't going to come to anything if the British military leadership doesn't fancy it, as the Ministry of Defense says it doesn't. I don't see that much can remain of Blair's bargaining power within the British state, even for the dearest causes of his heart. Anyway, the MoD could surely point out that the British state has paramilitaries and mercenaries to keep local statesmen in check when that needs to be done.
Another small point of interest. The Guardian goes on to quote the International Crisis Group favouring such a strategy. That group possibly sounds like an authoritative humanitarian monitor of some kind, but in fact it is an outfit of the Brzezinski-Soros wing of the American foreign policy establishment (also includes the former Khmer Rouge apologist, Stephen Solarz), which receives its funding from such companies as Credit Suisse First Boston, JP Morgan, Chevron and BHP Billiton (respectively, an investment bank, a financial services firm, an oil company and a minerals and petrochemicals dealer). ICG therefore represent not only a political alignment, but a network of interests with every reason to wish for local statesmen and rebel movements to be subdued: have to keep that Chad-Cameroon pipeline open, plenty of gold and oil to sustain a massive multi-billion-dollar mining industry in Sudan. I lie, brothers and sisters - it is pure coincidence that from West Africa to the Greater Horn, there are vast deposits of diamonds, gold, uranium, copper, coltan, nickel and - of course - gas, oil and timber. Western corporations only wish to move Beyond Petroleum, advance the United Colours of Human Rights, and keep women's liberation Coming a Long Way, Baby. Yes, the capitalist unit represents more of a 'value' system than anything else. And western states, angelic and conscientious as they always are, have probably been reluctant to acknowledge the great riches that are at stake in these conflicts. You can imagine Bush, Blair and Chirac agonising over how to avoid getting involved in such impure matters, counselling one another that they must at all costs to themselves avoid cost to others, and certainly keep their hands free of any petty trades that happen to be going on - whether it is arms and mercenaries from the Western states, or minerals and fossils from Africa.
Incidentally, while we're on the topic of pure hearts and beautiful souls, has anyone noticed a campaign to sign up an international brigade to go and support the JEM rebels? Can't something be done about it? Could we not see eager young volunteers of Enlightened liberalism lining up to fight for the shura, as would be so fitting?