"Southern Sudan's Historic Independence Referendum" (The Daily Beast):
“After all of the struggle, loss of life, separation, and killing, we can see that we are now allowed to vote freely for our destiny,” Valentino Achak Deng told me in the southern capital city of Juba, along the banks of the Nile. Deng, the subject of a “fictionalized memoir” by Dave Eggers, What Is the What?, helped tell the story of the Lost Boys and the suffering of Southern Sudan. Now he is both witnessing and participating in a new chapter in the deeply troubled history of the region, this one framed by hope for peace and stability. “We’re going to vote in large numbers, together, and then just look at our faces and our eyes and be happy,” Deng said.
At stake in the seven-day referendum is the separation of Africa’s largest state into two sovereign states. The divisions between the Muslim and Arab-dominated government in the north and the Christian and African tribal populations of the south have been festering since end of colonial rule in 1956. In 1983, those tensions erupted into a 20-year civil war that killed 2.5 million people. As North and South negotiated a peace treaty that would be signed in 2005, Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, began a genocide against Muslims in Darfur, a western province of Sudan; he has since been indicted by the International Criminal Court for his crimes there.
The Bush administration negotiated the comprehensive peace agreement of 2005 and set Jan. 9, 2011, as the date of a Southern Sudan referendum to decide the fate of the two-state solution.
Here's something I would be interested to know: Did the Iraq War improve the Bush administration's negotiating position in arranging this? You can easily imagine how it might. If you're Omar al-Bashir in 2005, you might well think, "If I say no to America; if I try to hold onto southern Sudan by force at the cost of committing more war crimes; will I end up like Saddam? Is it worth the risk?"
The Iraq War did not improve the West's ability to deal with a country like Russia, which (a) is too big and nuclear, and (b) isn't totalitarian/genocidal enough to be a candidate for regime change. But it may have created a decisive credible threat against small-scale tyrants and totalitarians. Time will tell.