CONFLICTS SUCH as Darfur are never simply about what happens in a local area.
The US has long been interested in Sudan. It will come as little surprise that the motives have always been US power and oil.
In the 1970s Sudan was a prized Cold War ally, as the government of Jaafar Nimeiri moved Sudan from ties with the Russian bloc to embrace the West.
It became the biggest recipient of US foreign assistance in all of sub-Saharan Africa.
In the 1980s US oil firm Chevron invested $1 billion in drilling for oil in the south of Sudan.
Even after the fall of Nimeiri in 1985, the US backed the Sudanese government to advance its oil and strategic interests.
The US kept channelling assistance and debt relief to Sudan, even though it was carrying out an even more destructive war in the south than the present one in Darfur.
But in 1989 the Cold War ended, and around the same time the Islamist movement of Omar al-Bashir seized power in Sudan.
It clashed with the US because it refused to support the 1991 war with Iraq. The US responded by halting food aid at a time of desperate famine.
Sudan was now marked down as a “terrorist” country. But money again talked, and Bill Clinton’s administration began to make deals with the government to exploit its oil reserves.
Policy changed again after the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
In 1998 Clinton announced that Sudan was helping terrorists and launched a wave of Cruise missiles, destroying the country’s only pharmaceutical plant.
It produced 50 percent of the country’s medicines and veterinary vaccines.
The destruction of the al-Shifa plant condemned many thousands of people to death, and the US has to this day refused to compensate either the Sudanese government or the plant’s owners.
Now Bush has swung back again to more friendly relations with the government to clear the way for more oil deals.
Until very recently the US squashed all mention of Darfur’s turmoil in case it imperilled the peace settlement between north and south. This deal would allow greater stability for the oil multinationals.
A decade ago the US went to Somalia in the same region, backed by images of famine and fighting between brutal warlords.
Within months the US was hated by the Somalis who had welcomed them.
The US troops did nothing to stop famine and ended up entrenching the power of the very warlords they were supposed to disarm.
It is very unlikely to be any different if British forces go into Sudan.