Next time you want to stop a bloodbath, don’t send a war criminal to report on human rights abuses. In a bizarre turn of events, the head of the Sudanese military intelligence has been tasked with ending the crackdown on protesters in Syria as the leader of Arab League observers.Perhaps it doesn’t matter; the Arab League has a long tradition of irrelevance and, so far, its observer mission in Syria is keeping tradition alive. The impact of the observers has been negligible. At least 49 people have been killed by the regime in the past 5 days, according to Bloomberg. The Arab Parliament, an advisory body to a talking shop, announced on January 1 that the “fact-finding” mission of Arab League monitors has failed.Lieutenant General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, the head of Sudan’s military intelligence since 1989, has for decades, it is widely believed, personally overseen what most now recognize as genocide in Darfur. And now he is expected to help end the bloodshed in Syria? Tellingly, he declared to Reuters after visiting Homs: “some places looked a bit of a mess but there was nothing frightening.”Al-Dabi’s appointment was a mistake but it reflects the weaknesses that beset the Arab League as a whole. For most of its history, involvement in wholesale human rights abuses was more a badge of courage than a mark of shame in what was mostly a dictators’ club. Ignoring or even conniving at and enabling widespread, massive violations of human rights throughout the Arab world while screaming to high heaven about everything and anything Israel did has been standard operating procedure in the Arab League for decades.The Arab League will change only after its member governments change. Even then, change won’t come quickly. It lacks the standing, the skills, the resources and the leadership to play the kind of role Syria needs. Naming a notorious genocidaire to a humanitarian mission is only one symptom of this much deeper disease. The Arab League can bless initiatives of the west (as in Libya) or perhaps of Turkey and others in Syria; it is a very long way from having the capacity to act on its own.