When I drafted "Sudan's Perfect War," it was the summer of 2001. The thesis of the article was that Sudan's 18-year-old war could easily go on forever without outside intervention. When oil came on line in 1999, the war was in effect made perfect: oil revenues could pay for the war, and the war itself was necessary to take and hold the land from which the oil came. Moreover, oil made Sudan less dependent on the world's rogue nations for material support, while earning it friends among oil-dependent states, including some members of the Security Council. There was a danger that international pressure to resolve the war would dissipate. U.S. policy toward Sudan was teetering. The Clinton administration had sent cruise missiles. The Bush administration had sent a special envoy. The religious right pushed for arming the south to overthrow the regime in Khartoum, the oil industry pushed for engaging the regime.
The attacks of September 11 forced me to rewrite the article before it was published. The emerging war on terrorism changed the scenario for Sudan. The Bush administration began to engage the Khartoum regime by appointing John Danforth as its special envoy to Sudan. And the war on terrorism -- with so many of its roots in Afghanistan, whose faulty peace process had been abandoned by the United States in 1993 -- led many policymakers to conclude that countries like Sudan could not be left to fester. Sudan was already under U.S. and UN sanctions for its support of terrorist groups in the mid-1990s, but it appeared to be on the mend. Yet, in the midst of all other international turmoil over the ensuing three years, Washington redoubled efforts to nurture the Sudan peace process, actively engaging with other nations in the process. The agreement that was signed on January 9, 2005, is a testament to that effort.
But wars that have lasted for generations are not brought to a close with the signing of a peace agreement. The Afghan peace agreement
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