US policy on Darfur and the Moral Obligation to Suppress

Eyal Mayroz

This paper explores normative influences of ‘genocide' on US foreign policy, particularly in relation to the crisis in Darfur during 2004. Of the different ways that such considerations may affect American policies, the paper focuses on indirect effects of morally-driven public opinion on the policymaking process.  These effects are seen as normative despite the fact that they manifest, politically, mainly as practical electoral concerns. The choice of focus is based on the supposition that political and other factors which tend to weaken the impact of ‘idealistic'[1] concerns in the political public sphere are likely to be less dominant in the private sphere. Therefore, there is more room in the private domain for the allegedly strong normative character of ‘genocide' to make an impact on peoples' attitudes. This still leaves the question of how much influence public opinion can exert on policy making in relation to what are mostly low salience conflicts.

Martin Mennecke has written in relation to Darfur that ‘the only place where the ‘‘G-word'' seems to retain...moral superiority... is within domestic politics', and he gave the United States as a prime example.[2] Obviously, the moral duty to ‘prevent or suppress' should not be reserved to ‘genocide'. Neither should action on ‘genocide' be promoted on the expense of so called ‘other crimes'. The question is how strong this normative influence really is.  And whether this power could be used effectively without being significantly constrained by the ‘genocide debate', as pointed out by David Schaffer,[3] Gareth Evans,[4] and others?[5] But before addressing these questions, we need to first consider some of the processes through which ordinary Americans form their opinions on how their country ought to respond to external situations of mass violence.


How the Public Forms its Policy Preferences

Most Americans formulate their policy preferences on foreign crises based on information they get from, or through, the media.[6] It is widely agreed today that the way the information is framed has an impact on how large parts of the public form these opinions.[7] Whereas there is little disagreement over the argument itself, the extent and circumstances of these influences are less clear.[8] Research suggests that whoever controls the framing of a conflict in the public domain (origins, causes, parties, fatalities, etc); the discussion of policy options and their viability; and the nature and potency of constraints to action, is well-positioned to influence Americans' policy preferences.[9] Control of these frames can also influence the ability and motivation of the public to endorse or, alternatively, sanction government policies. The indexing model describes how elite consensus or collusion leaves the media framing of a policy issue to the administration.[10] On Rwanda as we all know this resulted in a little contested American policy of blatant disregard for the lives and fate of the victims.  The indexing model, however, is also challenged, mainly on the argument that at least in the elite media, some journalists could and would resist political attempts to control the frame.[11] They may also provide their own frames which, in the case of genocide, may very well be more ‘idealistic' than pragmatic. Yet, because most information on foreign conflicts comes from official sources, such a counter-frame will have to be very dominant to be picked up by key outlets in the mass media. Salience of a conflict is thus also important here. The more salient a policy issue is, the more likely it is that the public will form opinions independently of elite cues.[12] But at the same time, the more politically salient the issue, the more effort the elites are likely to put into controlling the frame.


How Policymakers Know what the Mass Public views Are

It is widely agreed that perceptions of public opinion matter more than what the public actually thinks. Politicians have been found to form their perceptions mostly by using Congress and the news-media as proxies, or surrogates, of public opinion.[13] Opinion polls are also used to construct this image, although many policymakers profess distrust of their results.[14] These three indicators are used bellow to try to form a rough picture of what public opinion on Darfur may have looked like for American officials back in 2004.

Congress- Members of Congress are said to form their views of what their constituents want through networks of personal contacts (the ‘vocal public')[15] as well as via the news media.[16] Forceful Congressional activity concerning Darfur constituted early on a strong departure from past patterns. The unanimous joint genocide determination in 22 July 2004 (including calling for a US military action if the UN failed to act) was unprecedented.[17] It is quite likely that ‘genocide' did play an important normative role here, and it will be interesting to see exactly how that came about. In any event, as a proxy to public opinion the picture from Congress would have indicated a public mindset in support of strong American action on Darfur.

Opinion polls - National polls have consistently supported an American action on genocide - mostly in principle, but also in actual cases.[18] The influence of moral imperatives, according to both polls and focus groups, has been strong.[19] But there is also some evidence to suggest that suppression of genocide has been in itself interpreted by many Americans as a ‘hard' national interest.[20] We have to be careful with polls however. Support in principle for the idea that the US has some sort of obligation to genocide suppression is consistent and firm. But the extent to which Americans are willing in specific cases to back such an ‘obligation' with concrete action is much less simple to interpret. There are, for example, significant differences in Americans' support for different types of missions, depending on how survey questions are worded. Explicit or implicit referrals to multilateralism (which implies legitimacy); to burden sharing; to whether or not the mission is consensual; and to whether or not US ground troops are to be used, have been shown to greatly influence polls' results.[21]

In July 2004, principled support for using US military forces to suppress genocide was very high. These views existed among both policymakers and the mass public and, despite significant differences, held true not only in relation to multilateral but also for unilateral action. According to one poll, 70% (vs. 24%) of the American public and 73% (vs. 22%) of surveyed political elites[22] believed that states should have the right to use military force to prevent severe human rights violations such as genocide even without UN approval.[23] A record 94% (vs. 4%) of American leaders and 85% (vs. 9%) of the public also said that the UN Security Council should have the right to authorize the use of military force to prevent severe human rights violations such as genocide.[24]


Global Views 2004: American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy (CCFR, p. 24)

Global Views 2004: American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy (CCFR, p. 24)

Principled support even existed for the use of US troops to stop genocide although, importantly, the question in the poll did not specify whether in a unilateral or multilateral capacity. Here, 75% (vs. 22%) of the public and 86% (vs. 7%) of American leaders favored in principle using U.S. troops to stop a government from committing genocide and killing large numbers of its own people.[25]


Global Views 2004: American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy (CCFR, p. 29

Global Views 2004: American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy (CCFR, p. 29)

Unfortunately, I could not find so far surveys from 2004 in regards to US troop deployment in Darfur. This makes it difficult to assess the actual support (in the polls) for a US military action on the crisis during that year, in distinction to a principled one concerning ‘genocide'. A poll conducted a year later on Darfur (ICG and Zogbi International, June 2005) shows a marked difference to the strong principled support in 2004. Majority support for multilateral or even unilateral action without using American troops was less high but still existed. Support for sending in the marines to Darfur however was low at 38% vs. 55% who objected.[26]

Africa Briefing No. 26: Do Americans Care About Darfur?, ICG and Zogby International

Africa Briefing No. 26: Do Americans Care About Darfur?, ICG and Zogby International

A third poll, from June 2005 also, got a higher support of 54% (vs. 39%) for US troop deployment as part of a multilateral force.[27]


The Darfur Crisis: African and American Public Opinion, PIPA/KN June 2005

The Darfur Crisis: African and American Public Opinion, PIPA/KN June 2005


As a comparison, in July 1994 (that is, 10 years earlier), the support in a PIPA poll for a multilateral deployment of troops, including Americans, in Bosnia and Rwanda was 62%. But when Americans were asked how this support would have been affected had the UN was to determine ‘genocide' on these crises, 80% in both cases supported multilateral and American military response.[28]

The results of the opinion polls on Darfur, therefore, should be analysed against a range of other factors, including external factors, such as Iraq and the war on terror; other national interests, both for and against intervention; the salience of the crisis; feasibility and estimated success of an intervention; perceived risks; multilateralism in terms of both legitimacy and burden sharing; and cultural factors, for example, identification with victims, dehumanisation of perpetrators, etc.[29] I have not yet seen this kind of research on Darfur. My analysis so far of the crisis confirms previous and more generalised findings by Steven Kull and others (discussed above) in at least one important sense: That although Americans continue to acknowledge an obligation to suppress genocide, when actual US action is discussed their support is conditional. In other words, they no longer see it as an ‘obligation'.

The news media - If media coverage and media content do offer a reading into public moods, then this image during 2004 was a vacillating and overall a muffled one. It took almost a year for the elite papers to take up the story. Once they did, the salience of Iraq and Afghanistan;[30] the 2004 Presidential elections;[31] lack of a significant American angle in the Darfur ‘story';[32] advertising economics and the disproportional preoccupation of news organisations and audiences with trivia on the expense of more serious stories;[33] foreign-news budgetary constraints (largely to do with the costs of the coverage in Iraq);[34] journalists' difficulty to get into the region,[35] and an alleged slowness of the American media in covering mass killings when the victims are not white;[36] all had a share in reducing the frequency and quality of coverage. This was true of most of the print media, with a qualified exception of a few elite papers (notably, the ‘Washington Post' and the ‘New York Times'[37]).

Network coverage, where most Americans still get their foreign news from, was extremely poor. The combined Darfur reporting in the nightly newscasts of the three major networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) for the whole of 2004 was merely 26 minutes.[38] (The distribution was ABC 18 minutes; NBC 5 minutes; and CBS only 3 minutes). Darfur was a small intermittent side show in the evening news. Compare these 26 minutes, for example, with the coverage of some of the infotainment ‘hits' of 2004 (the inside trading story on Martha Stewart received 130 minutes of coverage). On the whole, although Darfur was the most ‘visible' African conflict during 2004, media coverage was far from enough to turn it into a salient policy issue.[39]


The Impact of the Mass Public on US Policy on Darfur

An analysis of public views based on the three indicators of Congress, opinion polls, and the news media, would have likely shown policymakers a clear but conditional support for a strong American action on Darfur. But the low salience of the issue would have implied that avoiding strong action on the crisis was also within the range of possibilities. This raises the question of the role of the ‘mass public' in policymaking. Consistent support for strong action in past polls, for example, does not correspond well with Samantha Power's description of a ‘society-wide silence' in the face of insufficient government action during the 20th century.[40] The same is evident in the lack of electoral repercussions of inaction for presidents. As Power puts it, ‘No US President has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no US President has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence'.[41] It will be interesting but difficult to try to judge the impact of administration inaction on presidential approval ratings.

My work here is still ongoing but I'd like to raise three points. First, as already noted, salience is important. This includes salience of ‘genocide' to the public. If the low prioritisation of ‘protection of human rights overseas' can be used as a partial indicator of the salience of ‘genocide', it is then not very high at consistently three quarters down the list of important foreign policy goals.[42] In ‘salience' I am also talking about the prominence of the Darfur issue to both the public[43] and policymakers. It is often said that foreign policy neither wins elections, nor loses them.[44] In fact, a CCFR 2006 study based on three decades of polling data has found significant divergences between public and official positions in no less than 25% of the policies that they tested.[45] However, the more salient a policy issue is to the public, the higher will be priority it will be assigned by policymakers. A key question here is how to increase the public salience of crises involving mass murder? The anti Apartheid movement in the US was successful back in the 1980s by establishing a link to an important domestic American issue: racial inequality.[46] Can we learn something from that?

Second, the contradiction between Americans' professed preferences on ‘genocide' and official policies also raises the question of accountability for inaction. Power famously wrote that ‘[i]f everyone within the government is motivated to avoid "another Somalia" or "another Vietnam", few think twice on ... allowing "another Rwanda"'.[47] It is difficult for domestic constituencies to assess government policies on foreign interventions. This is because the most significant decisions about responses are made trans-nationally, mostly at the UNSC. It is therefore hard to judge the performance of national leaders in circumstances over which these leaders themselves have only a partial control. Also, public access to information on these decisions is largely controlled by the very actors that are being judged. It could be argued, therefore, that once the genocide determination was made by the Bush administration and Darfur was referred to the UNSC, a domestic backlash would have been unlikely regardless of the policy pursued.

Third, at the end of the day, public opinion does matter to policymakers, for practical reasons if for nothing else. Managing it successfully through the media gives them leeway to push preferred policies and also, political advantage over the competition.[48] I will be studying whether and how the public was managed in the case of Darfur, using a theory titled ‘sham compliance'. The argument behind ‘sham compliance' is that governments often try to appear as if they are complying with international or domestic norms, whereas, in fact, they are doing little of what the norms actually prescribe. For example, in the case of humanitarian intervention they send military aid as a substitute for other actions; or send troops, but with a weak mandate.[49] Instead of a focus on official justifications for inaction, sham compliance conceptualises ‘inaction' as a consciously ineffective action.

To sum up: As the polls show, majorities of Americans favour in principle a firm US action to suppress genocide.[50] These preferences are motivated both by humanitarian concerns and by views that putting a stop to an ongoing ‘genocide' servers in itself an American national interest.[51] The public's support for action, however, seems to be conditional and prudent. While offering an explicit support for strong action, it also provides an implicit legitimacy for inaction. This legitimacy is motivated, among others, by the low salience of conflicts to the public and by official management of public opinion. The imperatives for action are not powerful enough to offset the guaranties that the public would like to have in relation to military action, but cannot get. Assurances for high prospects of success; low risks of casualties or of quagmire; international legitimacy; and multilateral sharing of burden, are indeed difficult, if not impossible, to offer in advance. Next to these hindrances, the perceived benefits associated with suppressing mass violence - both practical and ideational - just don't measure up for both publics and policymakers. The prospects of failed interventions therefore constrain altruistic tendencies among the public; they diminish the influence of the public on policymakers in favour of intervention; and they also provide officials with ready-made justifications for inaction. Accountability also, is not likely to be imposed by a public that is undecided and largely disinterested, especially if crucial decisions are not believed to be under the control of the US government. The process therefore gets stuck not at the level of principle but of implementation.

At this stage my analysis does not support the idea that labelling a crisis as ‘genocide' could lead to a significant shift in public attitudes, or officials' calculations. Americans have learned to live with what Huntington called in the early 1980s the gap between the ideal and the (political) reality.[52] It is argued here that as long as military intervention is presented to the public, or perceived by them, as ultimately the intervention of choice, the difficulties outlined above make a stronger difference to them than the label imposed on the suffering of victims.

I would nevertheless argue that if the conditions and political interests did dictate a political decision to send in the Marines to suppress a ‘genocidal' situation, the American public would have probably supported such a decision; especially if international legitimacy for action existed. Moral rhetoric by the President which would combine ‘American exceptionalism' with ‘genocide' themes, is likely to ensure such attitudes. Alternatively, if political will for intervention in a crisis would have been considerably higher than it has been so far, successful framing of the situation as ‘genocide' coupled with promoting low risk policy options could have possibly helped tip the scale in favour of intervention.

The ‘genocide' label can also stimulate media interest in a crisis, and make it more salient to the public and to policymakers, even if this is insufficient by itself to change the policy. The difference in ‘visibility' between Darfur and other concurrent African crises during 2004 attested to this significance of the word. It is also worth asking how important public management was in allowing President Bush a relative freedom on Darfur.[53] This is because countering the management of the public is, arguably, within our realm of possibilities.

Other ways to try to address these problems is by promoting a more pervasive public focus on, and discussions of, non military measures at both national and transnational levels, as well as continued encouragement of research pertinent to non military options. Shifting focus away from the military option may help change public (mis)perceptions about the necessity of high risks in taking strong action to suppress genocide. More emphasis on other measures may also encourage publics to increase the pressures they will be willing to put on governments, and simplify mobilisation of international consensus for action. Evidently, these alternative measures would have to be feasible, efficient, and cost effective enough to ensure that governments will see and use them as viable solutions rather than as measures of ‘sham compliance'.


[1] The word ‘idealistic' is used here rather than, for example, ‘moralistic', because moral arguments could be employed in support of both interventions and non-interventions.

[2] Martin Mennecke (2007) "What's in a Name? Reflections on Using, Not Using, and Overusing the ‘G-Word'", Genocide Studies and Prevention Vol. 2, No. 1, p. 60.

[3] David Scheffer, ‘‘Genocide and Atrocity Crimes,'' Genocide Studies and Prevention 1 (2006):

229-50, 238.

[4] Gareth Evans (2005) "Genocide or crime? Actions speak louder than words in Darfur," The European Voice, February 18.

[5] Gerard Prunier, Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), pp 129, 156; Scott Straus, "Rwanda and Darfur: A Comparative Analysis", Genocide Studies and Prevention Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 51; Juan E. Mendez, in an interview: "United Nations Report from the Special Advisor on Genocide Prevention," Voices on Genocide Prevention, February 16, 2006; Mennecke, "Whats in a Name", pp. 62, 66; Samantha Power, "Dying in Darfur: Can the Ethnic Cleansing in Sudan be Stopped?", 2007, The New Yorker, 23 August, available at URL:, viewed 27/11/06.

[6] See more about the process of attitude formation in a discussion of ‘purposive belief systems' model in Benjamin I. Page with Marshall M. Bouton (2006)  The Foreign Policy Disconnect: What Americans Want from Our Leaders but Don't Get, Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 104-5.

[7] Even those who do not follow the media may be indirectly influenced by it through family members, friends, or work colleagues who do. See Shanto Iyengar and Jennifer McGrady Media Politics, A Citizen's Guide, New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company

[8] See a good summary in Christopher Gelpi (2009) "Performing on Cue? The formation of Public Opinion Toward War", A Paper prepared for the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association February 15-18, 2009, New York, NY., pp. 8-15.

[9] For example, hegemonic theorising could argue that the stronger the influence of political elites through partisan cues, agenda setting, and other types of framing on the public is, the more likely it is that the same constraints on moral concerns which affect the political elites will also indirectly affect public opinion through these framing effects. It is also possible, however - as discussed below - that the frame will be controlled by journalists, or other elites, which hold more moralistic attitudes.

[10] See Jonathan Mermin (1999) Debating War and Peace: Media Coverage of US intervention in the Post Vietnam Era, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, pp. 7, 26, 151-2; Iyengar & McGrady, Media Politics, p. 7.

[11] See Robert Entman's Cascading Activation model, which both builds on and challenges the indexing theory, in Robert M. Entman, (2004) Projections of power: Framing news, public opinion, and U.S. foreign Policy, Chicago: Chicago University Press.

[12] ‘Salience' is defined as "the relative significance of an issue to an actor...relative to all other issues". See Stuart N. Soroka, "Media, Public Opinion, and Foreign Policy", Press/Politics Vol. 8, No. 1, p. 29. See also discussion of ‘salience' in Maxwell McCombs (1997) "Building Consensus: The News Media's Agenda-Setting Roles", Political Communication, Vol 14, p. 441; Maxwell McCombs (2003) "The Agenda-Setting Role of the Mass Media in the Shaping of Public Opinion",  University of Texas at Austin, available at URL: (viewed 12/7/10).

[13] Bernard Cohen, (1973) The Public's Impact on Foreign Policy, Boston: Little Brown and Company, pp. 111-113; R. Entman, Projections of power, pp. 12-6; Steven Kull and M. I. Destler (1999) Misreading the Public: The Myth of a New Isolationism, Washington D.C. : Brookings Institution Press, pp. 219-221; Philip J. Powlick (1995) "The Sources of Public Opinion for American Foreign Policy Officials",  International Study Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 4, pp. 434-7, 446-7.

[14] B. Cohen, Public's Impact on Foreign Policy, pp. 115-117; Kull & Destler, ‘Misreading the Public', pp. 208-213; P. Powlick, "Sources of Public Opinion", pp. 434-5, 438-9, 446-7. Officials can also disregard the public views, either because they don't trust their ability to judge them correctly, or because they don't trust the opinions of the mass public on foreign affairs.

[15] S. Kull & I. Destler, ‘Misreading the Public', p. 212-9.

[16] Ibid, p. 220.

[17] U.S. House of Representatives, "House of Representatives Resolution 467: ‘Declaring genocide in Darfur , Sudan'", Library of U.S. Congress, 22 July, 2004 (see also Senate resolution 133)

[18] See below.

[19] S. Kull & I. Destler, ‘Misreading the Public', pp. 95, 104-5.

[20] For example, in a June 1996 PIPA poll, 78% agreed (50% strongly) that the US should contribute to UN peacekeeping because "if we allow things like genocide or the mass killing of civilians to go unaddressed, it is more apt to spread and create more instability in the world so that eventually our interests would be affected (cited in Kull & Destler, ‘Misreading the Public', pp. 52-53). Notably, it is difficult to separate in the polls national interest and humanitarian imperatives or to test causality between them. For example, explicitly stating absence of US national interests in a question about US intervention to stop genocide could not prevent respondents from being influenced by, and therefore factoring in, such a belief.

[21] In July 2004 (shortly before the genocide determination at the US Senate) public support for a multilateral peacekeeping mission consented to by the parties to the conflict, stood at 57% against 32% (PIPA/NKP). In the same poll, 84% against 8% supported the argument that the US could not tolerate genocide and should use its military assets, again short of sending US troops. (This question, however, was somewhat flawed as respondents had to choose between this assertion and the argument that the US had no responsibility to intervene in genocide and crimes against humanity taking place in Africa). Steven Kull et al, "Americans on the Crisis in Sudan", The Pipa/Knowledge Networks Poll, July 20, 2004, p. 6. In a June 2005 poll (ICG & Zogbi International) 79% vs. 15% agreed that the international community and the US had a responsibility - short of sending US troops - to take action to stop the killing. ICG & Zogbi International, "Africa Briefing No. 26": Do Americans Care About Darfur?", International Crisis Group, 1 June 2005, p. 3, available at URL:, (viewed 12/7/10).

[22] See description of surveyed elites in S. Kull & I. Destler, ‘Misreading the Public', p. 25.

[23] Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (2004) Global Views 2004: American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy. Chicago: The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, p. 24, available at URL:, (viewed 12/7/10).

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid. p. 29.

[26] ICG & Zogbi International, "Africa Briefing No. 26", p. 4. These are the earliest poll results about US military action I currently have.

[27] Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) (2005) The Darfur Crisis: African and American Public Opinion, June 2005, available at URL:, (viewed 12/7/10).

[28] Cited in Steven Kull et al, "Americans on the Crisis in Sudan", The Pipa/Knowledge Networks Poll, July 20, 2004, p. 6, available at URL:, (viewed 12/7/10).

[29] Five common conditions for American public support for the use of military force cited in the literature include: multilateral legitimacy, a sense of burden sharing; high chances of success; low risk of casualties; and elite consensus.

[30] Sherry Ricchiardi (2005) "Déjà vu", American Journalism Review, February/March Issue, pp. 38,40, available at URL: (viewed 16/9/07); Carrol Bogert (2004) "Another Africa Calamity - Will Media Slumber On? ", Human Rights Watch Website (originally published in L.A. Times 28 April), available at URL:, viewed 13/9/07.

[31] Ibid, p. 39.

[32] Also, more specifically, lack of interest of American audiences in Africa and their total unfamiliarity with the region - on one hand, and ‘excuses' that ‘Sudan is not the only tragedy taking place in Africa' - on the other. Notably, Where a local slant was found (as in the case of the local Kansas City Star - with two local Senators active on Darfur), the coverage begun earlier and was more substantial. See Ricchiardi, "Déjà vu", pp. 37-40.

[33] Ibid, p. 36.

[34] Bogert, "Another Africa Calamity"; Ricchiardi, "Déjà vu", p. 39.

[35] Ricchiardi, "Déjà vu", p. 35. See on the Sudanese effort to seal off media access to Darfur E. Reeves (2006) in an interview: "A Comprehensive Approach to Sudan", Voices on Genocide Prevention, 26 January.  Available at URL:, viewed 27/11/06; S. Chin (2006) in an interview: "No Power to Protect: The African Union Mission in Darfur", Voices on Genocide Prevention, 5 January.  Available at URL:, viewed 27/11/06.  See also Flint and De Waal, Darfur: A short history of a long war, pp. 115-6. Power, in A Problem from Hell, also describes efforts to seal off leakage of information on atrocities, or their denial, by perpetrators in Turkey (Armenian genocide), Nazi Germany, Cambodia, and Iraq (Kurdish genocide).

[36] Pointing to Rwanda as another example, and to Bosnia as a contrasting case Bogert, "Another Africa Calamity"; Ricchiardi, "Déjà vu", pp. 38-9.

[37] Ricchiardi, "Déjà vu", pp. 38-9. Nicholas Kristof in the N. Y. Times and Emily Wax for the W. Post were among the few journalists committed to the coverage of the story. Richhiardi also highlights the crisis' coverage by National Public Radio. See a good analysis of the two dailies in Antal Wozniak (2007) "Genocide in the News: Media Attention and Media Framing of the Darfur Conflict", Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, San Francisco, CA.

[38] American Progress Action Fund (2005), available at URL (viewed: 12/3/2007). According to the APAF, the gap between infotainmant stories and the coverage of Darfur was even larger in June 2005, with CNN, FOXNews, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS running 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide. These tendencies bring back to memory the total overshadowing of the O. J. Simpson trial on the coverage of Rwanda ten years earlier.

[39] In the future, I plan to study more closely the content of this coverage, mainly into public discussions of America's obligations and of policy options.

[40] Samantha Power (2003) ‘A Problem from Hell': America and the Age of Genocide, London: Flamingo, p. xxi, p. 509.

[41] S. Power, ‘A Problem from Hell', p. xxi.

[42] During the past three decades American citizens have ranked the importance of ‘altruistic' policy goals consistently lower than more self-interested foreign policy goals. In 2002, for example, the goal of ‘promoting and protecting human rights in other countries' was ranked as a ‘very important foreign policy goal' by 39% of respondents, situating it in the fifteenth place in a list of twenty ‘very important' goals. Notably, though, when adding together the ‘very important' and ‘somewhat important' categories, the combined percentage jumps to 90%. B. Page & M. Bouton, The Foreign Policy Disconnect, p. 43. Interestingly, this ranking was not significantly different to ranking of pervious years despite the fact that this survey took place after 9/11: 39% was also the result in the 1998 poll (see The Foreign Policy Disconnect, pp. 40-43, 258n2 based on CCFR/GMF combined data set, 2002).

[43] In the July 2004 Darfur PIPA poll, only 14% knew ‘some or a lot' about the situation, 28% ‘not very much' and 56% ‘nothing at all'. In the June 2005 poll, already 64% were either ‘very' or ‘slightly' aware of the situation and 35% ‘not very aware' or ‘not aware at all'.

[44] S. Kull & I. Destler, ‘Misreading the Public', p. 230.

[45] See Page and Bouton, The Foreign Policy Disconnect.

[46] Audie Klotz (1995) Norms in International Relations: The Struggle Against Apartheid, Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press.

[47] S. Power, ‘A Problem from Hell', p. 510.

[48] Shanto Iyengar & Jennifer A. McGrady (2007) Media Politics: A Citizen's Guide, New York, WW Norton, p. 11; S. Kull & I. Destler, ‘Misreading the Public', p. 233.

[49] Cara Vanayan (2008) Humanitarian Intervention and the Failure to Protect: Sham Compliance and the Limitations of the Norm Life Cycle Model. (Dissertation: University of Ottawa), pp. 11-2.

[50] Steven Kull et al, "Americans on the Crisis in Sudan"; B. Page & M. Bouton,  The Foreign Policy Disconnect, pp. 104-5 (based on 2002 CCFR/GMF public survey combined data); ICG & Zogbi International, "Africa Briefing No. 26"; The Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2006 Global Views poll, available at URL: (viewed 12/7/10); The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and, "Publics Around the World Say UN Has Responsibility to Protect Against Genocide",, 2007,  available at URL: (viewed 12/7/10).

[51] Notably, it is difficult to separate in polls or even in focus groups the humanitarian imperative's influence from that of interest. Respondents understandably are tempted to project altruistic reasoning instead of self-centred ones in defending their views.

[52] Samuel Huntington (1981) American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 3-4, 42, 72.

[53] The argument that US Presidents enjoy high level of discretion in framing policies on complex low salience crises, especially in situations of policy uncertainty, is supported by the following studies: Louis J. Klarevas (1999) American Public Opinion on Peace Operations: The Cases of Somalia, Rwanda, and Haiti (Dissertation). American University; Robert C. DiPrizio, Armed Humanitarians: U.S. Interventions from Northern Iraq to Kosovo (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), pp. 157. DiPrizio argues that since few humanitarian crises threaten vital national interests, thus leading to ‘widespread consensus on the appropriate response', the decision-making is usually left in the hands of the president.


MayrozUSPolicyonDarfurrev.710.doc972 KB