In This Review

Darfur: The Long Road to Disaster

Darfur: The Long Road to Disaster
By J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins
400 pp, Markus Wiener, 2006

This book analyzes the emergence of conflict in Darfur through the prism of regional politics, in particular the complex relations between Chad, Libya, and Sudan. The desert borders between the three countries have long been ignored by the often nomadic local populations that have struggled to deal with recurring drought over the last couple of decades. From the early 1960s, the Sudanese government has supported groups opposed to the regime in Chad. More recently, the regime of Idriss Déby in Chad has shared ethnic links to groups in Darfur opposed to the government in Khartoum, complicating relations between the governments. For his part, Muammar al-Qaddafi has shifted his support back and forth between different groups opposed to one of his neighbors, on behalf of grand if somewhat muddled ambitions. All three governments emerge from this account as sorcerer's apprentices, both weak and venal, but also much too ambitious from a tactical point of view given their very limited capabilities and the huge difficulties of operating in a region with few roads, a horrendous climate, and complex tribal, religious, and environmental conditions. Burr and Collins' account constitutes an excellent history of the region's politics, providing many useful insights into the current conflict.