FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thoughts on French's Thoughts on Rice or The Geography of Intervention

Thoughts on French's Thoughts on Rice or The Geography of Intervention

First of all, you should read French's recent Atlantic article on Susan Rice's history with the continent.  You would also be well-served to follow him on twitter.

Howard French's article is linked here:
What Susan Rice Has Meant for U.S. Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa

My comments:
This is a timely and well put summary of issues to consider concerning Susan Rice. Hopefully there's a sharp pro-staffer on one of the Congressional committees that can push the questions outlined here to the right Congressman.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to "help [ing] Africa consolidate its recent gains and move forward into an era of greater prosperity and representative government" is that assumption that we can help "Africa" as a whole.

I doubt that French meant it in this way (no doubt more a product of word limit constraints) but the danger here is that some neophytes to the continent might take it THAT way.

I don't think the U.S. will ever have a policy towards 'africa' but instead must decide the strategic partners to work with on the continent (bilat) or the broader regional institutions. There is of course danger here in neglecting certain nations.

Then of course the US must determine how thick (i.e., overlapping or close to it) its lines of efforts will be (DOS, DOS and private capital)--I say this because it would be great for this to be a holistic effort but effecting that is likely too formidable an obstacle--so maybe if the lines of effort are 'thick' enough, the stovepipes can merge (a little at least).

I would be curious to hear from French how the US could/would/should intervene in the Congo crisis to "finally establish control over all of its territory and begin delivering services to its people for the first time in history." This would require a Marshall-esque economic input and an Eisenhower-esque infrastructure project for a nation 1/4 the size of the US with only about 1400 (!) miles of all weather paved roads (see second picture below). Not saying that it would not be worth it, just saying that (for once) the U.S. should consider what it's getting into so it can make good on its promises and follow through.

French's last sentiment: "The other requires treating African democracies as our real friends, matching our diplomacy for once with our rhetoric and values" is a nice one to which we should aspire, however, we should probably add a fair amount of qualifiers to what constitutes a democracy for our purposes.

An added note: When I first started studying the continent, my gut reaction to China's blind (*gasp) capitalism that placed money ahead of human rights was outrage. My outrage has since been tempered when I consider that while U.S human rights policies/requirements may "send a message" to dictators or other derelict authoritarians, it also "sends a message" to the long-suffering inhabitants of that state: we don't care about you, the common citizen--we care about your institutions (which you may only understand obliquely at the village level) and 'sending messages.'

On more thing: Hats off to French for pointing out Rice's malfeasance concerning the genocide in Rwanda--the administration's actions before, during and after were awful. The scheming and blocking in the UN alone sicken me to my stomach even today.

Want to read more about the geography of intervention?  See my post here about the U.S. response to the MASS RAPES carried out in the DRC in the summer of 2010.

A "road" in the DRC


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