Let's Bullshit! Arguing, Bargaining and Dissembling Over Darfur
European Journal of International Relations, May 30, 2013, DOI: 10.1177/1354066113476118
26 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2014
Date Written: May 1, 2013
The crisis in Darfur led to one of the most powerful advocacy campaigns in recent US history. Responding to intense political pressures from this campaign, the US engaged Sudan in a heated public confrontation, increasingly echoing the rhetoric of an advocacy campaign that was surprisingly indifferent to realities on the ground in Darfur. This article examines how the exceptional mobilization around Darfur affected US policy and diplomatic outcomes, using the case to explore larger theoretical questions around deception and truthfulness in International Relations. There was a curious disconnect between the exceptionally strong language US leaders used during the crisis, and the failure of these public claims, promises and threats to achieve the desired diplomatic outcomes. Such strong language should have bolstered US arguments to persuade allies to support measures against Sudan, given the US bargaining leverage with Sudan, and opened opportunities for activists to rhetorically entrap US officials into defending the norms they publicly invoked. Instead, I argue that US leaders bullshitted their way through the crisis in response to advocacy and the demands it generated. Far from being a harmless form of moral posturing, this complicated US diplomatic efforts and undermined the prospects for a political solution in Darfur.
Keywords: bargaining, arguing, bullshitting, Darfur, intervention
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