President Bush's early morning appearance Tuesday in the Diplomatic Room of the White House to announce new economic sanctions on Sudan underscored just how few tools he has at his disposal to stop that four-year war.

President Bush's early morning appearance Tuesday in the Diplomatic Room of the White House to announce new economic sanctions on Sudan underscored just how few tools he has at his disposal to stop that four-year war.

Bush and much of Western Europe and Africa say that the Sudanese government's actions in its Darfur region - the bombing of defenseless villages, the murder of civilians - is no less than genocide and that it must be stopped.

"I promise this to the people of Darfur: the United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world," Bush said.

A noble sentiment but one hardly matched by the level of the sanctions. The president barred 30 government-run companies associated with Sudan's oil industry and one company suspected of being an arms supplier from the U.S. banking system and from doing business with U.S. companies. He applied the same sanctions to three individuals: a government minister - ironically of humanitarian affairs - accused by the international court of war crimes; the head of Sudan's military intelligence; and a rebel commander.

Bush had intended to announce the sanctions last month but waited in the vain hope that the extra time would give U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a chance to negotiate a settlement.

The U.N. had proposed replacing a small, ineffectual African Union peacekeeping force with a larger, presumably more effective U.N. force but the Sudanese government of President Omar al-Bashir has balked in what has become a pattern of duplicity, disingenuousness and simple stalling.
Bush's best hope now is that Secretary Condoleezza Rice can win passage of stricter U.N. sanctions but that avenue may be blocked by China, which is a major oil customer of Sudan. Indeed, China doesn't see that there is a problem in the Sudan despite general international agreement that more than 200,000 people have been killed.

There aren't a whole lot of other options.

Curiously, some of Bush's harshest foes on the Iraq war tend to be activists in the cause of Darfur and would be delighted if he sent American troops into the midst of that particular Muslim country's civil war.

The preceding editorial was written by Dale McFeatters of Scripps Howard News Service.