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  Gustav
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I’ve been thinking about Africa

A lot of people are these days, it’s all over the news – this famine, that genocide. It’s gotten so it’s hard to keep track. It’s just always there, in the background, the white noise that’s unpleasant, but you live with it.

Tony Blair is in Washington today to try to convince George Bush to give more money to Africa. Bush won’t do this, because he and his ideological ilk believe that handouts, whether to countries or individuals, are inherently evil, and only create dependency. In the case of Africa in particular, they believe that the donations are eaten up by corruption, and do nothing to help those really in need.

That’s true, of course – to an extent. We all know that aid doesn’t necessarily have to go to governments, that there are plenty of successful extra-governmental programs, independent aid groups and the like. Heck, we could even use our own people – increase investment in the Peace Corps., for starters.

Conservatives also argue that the US gives more money in aid to Africa than any other country on the planet - US aid to Africa has tripled since Bush has been in office. Liberals argue that the US gives just 0.025% of its GDP in aid to Africa – one of the lowest rates in the world. I would wager that which measurement you favor could predict who you voted for last November.

So, let’s agree. Corrupt governments in Africa fritter away aid dollars – making direct aid to many of the governments in the region useless.

But can we also agree that Africa is in a deep, deep mess?

OK, great, I think most of you are still with me. Now, here’s where I get controversial:

Helping Africa is not only morally good, but also in our interest.

I was just watching a review of a recently released (or soon to be released) documentary film which tells the story of Lt. Gen. Roméo A. Dallaire, the general who commanded the UN “peacekeeping” force sent to Rwanda to stop the genocide there. In his own words the general said he had “failed” in his mission, and that he had “tried his best” gave him no consolation. He puts the blame squarely on an ineffectual UN.

Just as conservatives say: the UN has lost its relevancy. It’s powerless. Except that his argument was that the national interests of member countries (he uses the plural, and doesn’t mention the US explicitly) got in the way of more UN action.

Conservatives say that the US shouldn’t send soldiers to this region of Africa or the other because “that’s the UN’s job”, and then turn around and tell you that the US shouldn’t donate more troops to the UN because they wouldn’t be under the command of US generals. They know that the UN would be handicapped without US troops, and I think they realize this. Which is why they throw up their hands and say, “Aw heck, they’d go on killin’ each other anyway. They’re just crazy. Let them go on killin’ each other.”

This of course is not true, and in no way solves the problem.

But really, in 1994, while the Rwandan genocide was happening, we all were resigned to that attitude to one degree or another. Hand-wringing doesn’t count as fighting for a cause. At the time I hardly knew it was going on.

That is my fault. I should have done more. I couldn’t have written a letter?

Dear Bill,

Send more troops to Rwanda!

Yours,
Gustav

Truth is, most of us weren’t in the mood after what had recently happened in Somalia. But 800,000 people were slaughtered because of it. We could have stopped it, and because we didn’t we all bear responsibility.

[Bush and Blair are now on television, giving their statements. Blair makes his argument convincingly, and I hope that his clout with the American people can help him convince a few folks. Bush, taking a question about why the US doesn’t double its aid to Africa, blathers on about those countries trading fairly and opening their markets when he knows full well that the US doesn’t trade fairly with those countries either.]

The deep, deep shit that Africa is in doesn’t bode well for the continent, but it endangers the rest of the world too. In conditions of dire poverty, little education, and military chaos, religious extremism prospers. There are well over 600 million people in Africa. That makes for a lot of future terrorists. Do our grandchildren deserve to pay with their lives for our inaction?

Of course, if you’re looking for a positive incentive, look at it as 600 million potential trading partners we could gain.

It seems to me then, that even conservatives should agree that Africa needs both military aid – to halt current conflicts and prevent future ones – and financial aid – to alleviate hunger, fight disease, raise education standards and build infrastructure.

The question is: How do we do it?

I’m not picky. I understand that conservatives are wary of trusting an organization not fully under US control – and nobody wants to entrench our boys in some gigantic African quagmire. So how do we get the troops there?

I also don’t care how the financial aid gets to the people, so long as it translates into tangible improvements in life. Whether it’s through responsible governments or compassionate aid organizations doesn’t matter, but it’s got to begin making a much larger impact. Africa will need some 60 billion dollars in aid by 2015. How do we pay for it?

Under what conditions would you support increasing aid significantly more than what the US is now giving?

Under what conditions would you support sending a significant contingent of US troops to halt a conflict in Africa?

How do we make sure that Africa doesn’t become one giant boiling cauldron of terrorism? And how do we improve life there?

6 Comments:



Blogger Redneck Texan said...

My brand of honesty does not translate well to African issues. There are a million bloggers out there telling the world how they really feel about Arab culture, but when the same logic is applied to Africa our society is programmed to label the truth as racism, so I usually avoid Africa issues like I avoid herpes.

But here's my take, and most, what you call conservatives at my blog will disagree with me as much as you will.

Africa has been a impoverished, genocidal shithole for a hundred thousand years. It wasn't our fault before we became the most powerful economy in the world, and it isn't our fault now. We don't owe them anything.

Pouring your hard earned money in a cesspool does nothing but cover your money in shit. Their culture is what they made it, our money is not going make them a self-sustaining culture, its just going to artificially alter their natural attrition rate and at no point in the future will it be politically acceptable to stop the aid. We will be the asshole whenever we do cut them off, so why not be the asshole first and not squander our hard earned money in the first place.

As far as your logic about "In conditions of dire poverty, little education, and military chaos, religious extremism prospers. There are well over 600 million people in Africa. That makes for a lot of future terrorists". I find that ridiculous. So we should go ahead and pay them now so they want attack us later, yeah right, the Arab world was impoverished until we spent our money developing their natural resources, that investment didn't work out too well did it.

Investing in Africa is not my problem, we cant abolish poverty and illiteracy at home, what to hell makes us think we can do it in Africa.

Under what conditions would you support sending a significant contingent of US troops to halt a conflict in Africa?

When they are required to go kill a bunch of them without having to distinguish between friend and foe. Thats what US troops are for. They are not a aid distribution organization, they are trained to kill people that are attacking them. In Somalia, we went in to help to stupid assholes, and the entire city was trying to kill us, and we would have been the asshole if we had killed them back. I don't want to ever put our troops in that position again. When we send our sons and daughters into a hostile environment I want them to be able to kill whatever they perceive as a threat without having to justify every bullet. Putting them between 2 warring tribes will just get a bunch of them killed and force us to choose sides in an eternal conflict with will never be resolved.

6/08/2005 03:25:00 AM  


Blogger Gustav said...

Most would make the argument that Africa is in the mess it's in today because of European colonialism in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their cultures are actually very different now than before Europeans came. How else do you explain South Africans speaking Afrikaans and people in Mozambique (Mozambicans?) speaking Portuguese? Before that they were a collection of rival tribes, as was most of the world, except Europe, and Europe too, not much before that. The Egyptian Empire, for example, shows that Africa, and Africans aren't somehow unable to build a prosperous, strong state.


Investing in Africa is not my problem, we cant abolish poverty and illiteracy at home, what to hell makes us think we can do it in Africa.

Because it has been done, and is being done, through various effective programs. I think both you and I know that the poverty and illiteracy problem America has is far, far different than Africa's, and that Americans have gone a long way towards abolishing both in the US, although it's true there's still a lot to be done. Can't we do both at the same time?

I find it surprising that you don't believe we should try to prevent terrorism from Africa, but then again, since you believe this is a lost cause, it fits perfectly with your desire to completely seal US borders -- it will come in handy when the inevitable wave of African terrorism begins.

But they'll still find a way in, won't they? Would you rather fight a smaller enemy now or a bigger enemy later?

6/08/2005 07:16:00 PM  


Blogger Redneck Texan said...

Most would make the argument that Africa is in the mess it's in today because of European colonialism in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Thats because most people have been programed to think that all the world's shortcomings are "our fault", and that we should try to "fix it".

Look dude, western society could sink every spare dollar and troop we have into saving Africa for the next 25 years and it wont make a major long-term difference. As soon as we stop sending money and withdraw troops due to the loss of political will that accompanies every election we have here, nature is going to equalize itself again, and the region will fall back into a corrupt tribal strongman system, thats its natural state.....and it ain't our fault. Truth is man, and you know you just cant bring yourself to admit it....they are stupid people. They rub dried cow shit on themselves and fuck monkeys (Documented), thats not something European colonialism taught them to do, its nobody's but their own damn fault they are hopelessly uncivilized. No amount of my hard earned money is going to change that. I would be only lying to myself, and trying to make myself feel better about the guilt associated with my culture being more prosperous than theirs. Fuck em man, lets let it be somebody else's problem this time, America is not responsible in any way for their cultural deficiencies.


it will come in handy when the inevitable wave of African terrorism begins.

But they'll still find a way in, won't they? Would you rather fight a smaller enemy now or a bigger enemy later?


Shit Gus, what about South America, man its going to Socialist shit fast. No ocean between then and us, how are we going to prevent the third world's jealousy of us from making us a target in the future?

If you're really worried about future terrorists coming from Africa, the solution is not forcing our son's to stand between perpetually warring tribes like sitting ducks, the answer lies in reversing the tide of Islamic expansion into the continent by targeting the religion directly, and assuring they never reach the technological level with which they can make weapons that can really hurt us. Your never going to be prepared to deal with the threat effectively, so why get a bunch of American kids killed in another un-winnable situation where we don't have the political will to succeed.

Your suggesting we should insert troops into Africa and kill some of them in order to bring long-term Democracy and improved standards of living to their culture which has never been able to achieve it on their own, so they wont breed future terrorist, and yet you have spent the last 3 years crying and bitching about us attempting to do the same thing in the middle east with reforming Iraq into a Democracy and a beacon of freedom....how utterly bizarre partisanship can be.

6/09/2005 05:07:00 AM  


Blogger Gustav said...

Who said European colonialism was "our fault"? I wasn't even born yet. That most people come to my conclusion is because history supports it. European colonialists came up with the borders you now see in Africa. They divided tribal homelands into pieces, enslaved the population looking for diamonds, and then when they decided the continent wasn't worth it anymore, they picked up and left it in chaos -- later supporting dictators that were either favorable to their interests or who stood a good chance of providing short term stability. This is not my fault or yours, but it is our problem, because it's the world we live in.

Truth is man, and you know you just cant bring yourself to admit it....they are stupid people. They rub dried cow shit on themselves and fuck monkeys (Documented), thats not something European colonialism taught them to do, its nobody's but their own damn fault they are hopelessly uncivilized.

As a matter of fact that is not some sort of sneaking suspicion hiding somewhere in my subconcious. Many Africans are uncivilized -- to make a hugely broad generalization; many Africans are also nothing of the sort. Anyways, as I said above, these (shit-smearing and animal-fucking) are all things Europeans could have been accused of a not so long ago (and don't rednecks still do all that? ;-)). Europeans developed, so can they. I once again remind you of the Egyptian empire, as well as strengthening republics in places like Kenya and Tunisia as demonstrations that dire poverty and chaos is not Africa's natural state. A long history of something does not a "natural state" make, and I think you use this terminology to make yourself feel better about your "fuck them" attitude.

And here is another place where you and I agree, and then disagree. I'll agree with you that America is not responsible for any "cultural deficiencies" in Africa. But just because we're not responsible doesn't mean it's not our responsibility to help. I can see that you believe an impoverished and chaotic Africa poses no threat to US security (despite the evidence), but how you can sit back and say "Fuck 'em man" while literally millions are dying from preventable diseases, idiotic economic policies and vicious wars is beyond my comprehension. That you and others then have the gall to go and call liberals "immoral" because we support abortion or are against prayer in school is the ultimate hypocrisy.

South America? I think they're going through a natural political cycle, they've always been more socialist than the US by far anyways. Bolivia is a very troubling spot, and I hope it doesn't come to the nationalization of the gas companies, or worse, civil war -- but just look to Chile for a heartening capitalist example in South America. Somebody like Uribe in Colombia who is a conservative, and is getting tough with the rebels is somebody who should be right up your alley. The whole continent isn't going to hell in a handbasket.

As for sending troops to Africa -- I don't support it necessarily to bring American style democracy there, although if American troops end up overthrowing any government there, that's what it should be replaced with (ala Iraq, but with more troops please) -- I was simply asking a question to find how conservatives (who I now believe to be the majority of readers of my site) view military intervention in specific places. I personally would support (UN) troop involvement in Darfur specifically, if the forces were large enough. I agree with conservatives that current UN troop deployments have left something to be desired, which is why I oppose their hamstringing, and would like to see a MUCH STRONGER UN military force.

Also germane is the fact that bin Laden has visited and been supported by Sudan. I would have supported US militarty action there to initiate regime change. "Documented" support of terrorists, in addition to the moral grounds, is reason enough for me to support such a war. Overthrowing Saddam was payback for old grudges.

6/10/2005 07:13:00 PM  


Blogger Redneck Texan said...

That you and others then have the gall to go and call liberals "immoral" because we support abortion or are against prayer in school is the ultimate hypocrisy.

.
.

Thats odd, since I support abortion rights and oppose prayer in school, I cant imagine that I would have the gall to say that. Sorry I don't fit into your stereotype.

And since I am pro-abortion, and anti-prayer in school, you got to ask yourself what do I and millions others find even more repulsive about your liberal ideology that we would vote with the conservative block when we clearly disagree with them on many issues.

Me and my wife are watching Hotel Rwanda tonight on DVD. When the UN pulled out and left them to slaughter each other, my wife's reaction was "thats bullshit, how can we not stay and stop that, they are people too". When I asked her if she wanted our son to go over there and stand between the tribes.....she changed her tune immediately.....when she thought it through a little more.

Thats what it boils down to Gus. Would you want your son to go over there and get between the perpetually warring tribes, when he wont be allowed to take an aggressive posture, only play defense.

The only way we are going to "stop the killing" is kill the ones that are killing the others, and thats another kind of genocide altogether.

Why does it have to be American children dying Gus? Why cant the UN, or the decedents of that great Egyptian Empire clean up their own backyard. Russia, China, they carry equal weight as the US at the UN, how bout they carry their own weight in Peacekeeping? I am tired if being the universally hated world's policemen. Let Amnesty International recruit volunteers and go "fix it". Were a little busy right now.

6/13/2005 02:47:00 PM  


Blogger Gustav said...

On the abortion/school prayer issue -- My mistake RT.

The questions you pose are tough ones, and boil the issue down to its roots, which I appreciate. Would I send my son? I'm sure I wouldn't want to send any son of mine to war -- but the question is whether we have a choice. You and I simply disagree about what type of future threat Africa represents, and that determines our disagreement over UN troops to clean up African messes.

I haven't seen Hotel Rwanda yet, but it seems to me that your wife's initial reaction was the appropriate one.

6/15/2005 11:37:00 AM  

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