This is not the Africa you're looking for
January 1, 2013 9:52 AM   Subscribe

What Susan Rice Has Meant for U.S. Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa Right now, Africa is changing with extraordinary speed and in surprising ways, but American policy there remains stale and stuck in the past: unambitious, underinvested and conceptually outdated.
posted by infini (13 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Of all the foreign policy that the Obama Administration copied from George W. Bush, the only one worth copying - Bush's policy towards sub-Saharan Africa - was the only one he seems to have abandoned.

"Travelling to the continent with the president in February last year, Bob Geldof concluded: "The Bush regime has been divisive - but not in Africa. "I read it has been incompetent - but not in Africa. It has created bitterness - but not here in Africa. Here, his administration has saved millions of lives." Instead of Bush's progressive engagement with sub-Saharan Africa - his initiatives on HIV/AIDs, his support for the cancelling of sovereign debt, his initiatives on fighting malaria - we have Susan Rice is giving cover to dictators.

“Old wine in old bottles — that’s how I see it,” declared Emira Woods, an analyst at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies. Ms Woods was referring specifically to the possibility of UN ambassador Susan Rice being appointed secretary of state.

At least insofar as getting Ms. Rice to withdraw her name from consideration, the GOP did Mr. Obama and his country, a good service for all the wrong reasons.
posted by three blind mice at 10:35 AM on January 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

I guess I missed it when Obama ended PEPFAR, which is a shame since they fund my position.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 10:48 AM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

President Barack Obama’s continuing stewardship of the program originally launched by President George W. Bush, have shown the world that this is a vital, durable element of our foreign policy.

Thanks Gringos without Borders, I stand corrected on this particular George W. Bush policy towards Africa that Obama continues.

As for Susan Rice, the liberal case against her being secretary of state (now obviously a moot point) was compelling.

She would seem to be another intelligent, hard-working, obviously-devoted public servant (with the last name of Rice) who has sold out the public to her own career advancement. As the East African article I linked to describes her:

"Prof Samatar associated her with “a new generation of African-Americans in the US government who are less driven by the ideals of Martin Luther King and former UN ambassador Andrew Young than by career goals.”
posted by three blind mice at 11:18 AM on January 1, 2013

"Prof Samatar associated her with “a new generation of African-Americans in the US government who are less driven by the ideals of Martin Luther King and former UN ambassador Andrew Young than by career goals.”

Just because you are labeled "Black", does it mean you are more obligated than others to advance the ideals of Martin Luther King (whose ideals, after all, are universal values)?

Skin colour and the artificial construct of "race" do not dictate a person's political values, or how they act, and to bring the race card up just because you don't like what someone does seems condescending at best.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:19 PM on January 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yeah, she sucks and I'm glad she won't be the next Sec of State. (But I'm sure that Kerry will also disappoint. You can't stray too far from the standard Washington/CFR consensus.)

I just wish she hadn't been denied the position in such a stupid and mendacious way by a thuggish Republican opposition and a callow media and that Obama, as seems to be his nature, caved so willingly.
posted by Auden at 1:16 PM on January 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

jesus people, don't you know how to read a political hit piece?
Howard W. French - Howard W. French is the co-author, with Qiu Xiaolong, of Disappearing Shanghai: Photographs and Poems of an Intimate Way of Life, and is completing a book about China's relationship with Africa.

Howard W. French is an associate professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is a former senior writer and correspondent for The New York Times, where he was bureau chief in Shanghai, Tokyo, Abidjan (West and Central Africa), and for Central America and the Caribbean.
First, who wrote this: NYtimes reporter. You don't get to be a nytimes reporter by having strong opinions, you get their by figuring out who's opinion is the most bankable. They don't call them stenographers for nothing... so the question is: who doesn't like Rice?
China, the United States' preeminent global rival, clearly gets this, and treats Africa not just as a place from which to extract mineral wealth -- which of course it does -- but also as a vital source of growth for the world economy going forward. China also views Africa as a geopolitical space of rapidly developing markets and huge business opportunities, including a nearly endless supply of new and underserved consumers.

China is not alone, either. Brazil, India, Turkey and Vietnam, to name just a few of the other fast-growing players, see Africa in much the same way, and are racing to establish a new, mature style of relations with the continent -- one driven by promise, and not by the pity and strong paternalism that have characterized so much Western engagement for so long.
Well, gee... this is an ex-nytimes reporter, Shanghai desk, writing a book on China's relationship with Africa. Guess he's making sure he doesn't have any unexpected visa problems when he wants to hang with his cronies in Shanghai.

Wait, China has a huge interest in Africa, you don't say. Wonder what the Chinese think about Susan Rice? But lets not get caught up in Cold War obsessions...
According to Samantha Power, Rice's advice to the Clinton White House in the critical early phases of the killing there was to avoid any public recognition that actual genocide was being committed, because to do so would legally require the United States to take action, and this (echoes of Benghazi?) might affect upcoming congressional elections.
So, basically, according to Power, who was forced out of the Obama administration, Rice is accesory to genocide. I bet they got along real well when Power was inside. Could it be that he just threw in a gratuitous accusation by a former rival of Rice's? Naww, a nytimes reporter would never do that.

so finally, we hear from Prof. Seay:
As the United States' representative to the United Nations, Rice worked hard last year to block the release of a U.N. experts report detailing Rwandan atrocities in the Congo, reportedly drawing pushback over this even within the State Department.

When blocking the report proved impossible, diplomats and human rights experts who were involved in this struggle say that she sought to have it sanitized. In the end, it was leaked, which amounted to an end-run around Rice and assured its publication.

"It ultimately comes down to why would the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. not want things that are true [about that part of the world] to be reported," said Laura Seay, an assistant professor of political science at Morehouse College. "It is really not clear why it was worth it."
Who knows what Seay's political affiliation is and why she seems to be The Atlantic's "Africa source." On the other hand, she seems pretty blase about the use of child soldiers by the government of Congo:
I'm not in a position to comment on the use of child soldiers in Libya, South Sudan, or Yemen, nor do I know enough to know if the Obama administration has effectively leveraged its power to stop the use of child soldiers there, so my comments here are limited to the DRC. Here's the thing: this is a situation in which all the policy options are bad. When you work in the DRC, you don't get to exist in the world of ideals. Choices always have to be made, and they aren't always pretty. The dilemma in the Congo is this: while everyone agrees that the use of child soldiers is a horrible, inexcusable human rights violation, it is far from clear that disengaging from the Congolese government on military issues will end those abuses.

In fact, pulling out AFRICOM trainers - whose work in DRC largely focuses on professionalizing the FARDC national army (which, let's remember, is undisciplined to the point that they generally can't walk in straight lines during parades), including training soldiers to not violate the human rights of the civilians they ostensibly serve - would likely produce the opposite effect. AFRICOM's work in Congo is far from the sinister caricature some make it out to be; US soldiers in the mission spend most of their time teaching Congolese troops basic skills, like how to aim weapons at targets and actually hit them (as opposed to sporadically killing random civilians with uncontrolled gunfire. Longtime TiA readers will remember the delightful spring of 2007 when the Kinshasa fight between the FARDC and forces loyal to Jean-Pierre Bemba resulted in ordnance landing across the river in Brazzaville, 2 miles off-target.). In other words, American military training is badly needed in the Congolese army.

But does the government deserve this training, given its lack of movement toward protecting children from being coerced into military service? Perhaps not, but there are a few complicating factors. For one, pulling out of Congolese military affairs takes away an important leverage point for changing norms of behavior within the Congolese military forces. American military training in the DRC includes a focus on protecting human rights, with special emphasis on not raping civilians.
Which is convenient because:
Some have argued that steadfast American support for a circle of autocrats is justified by their reputation for strong public administration or fast economic growth, but this has always been a specious justification. If the United States says it favors countries with booming economies no matter how undemocratic or repressive their leaders are, then we have curiously embraced a position not unlike that of China, which has always said it is not its business how other countries conduct their internal affairs. Besides, there is simply no lack of fast-growing economies in Africa now.

There are two obvious ways for the United States to help Africa consolidate its recent gains and move forward into an era of greater prosperity and representative government. This, at the same time, would position Washington to advance its interests and preserve its influence and prestige on this continent in the decades ahead.

The first involves engaging much more strongly in the Congo crisis, helping one of the continent's biggest countries to finally establish control over all of its territory and begin delivering services to its people for the first time in history.
It's time to "engage much more strongly in the Congo crisis" even though the Congolese military is a porrly trained rabble which employs child soldiers and is only loosely controlled by the government. I'm sure more US military training and support will fix that?

Notice how French manages to state the official Chinese view on African governments without saying anything explicitly critical. That's how you get to be a nytimes reporter.

Also, Samantha Power got pushed out of the Obama administration because she was too unyielding an advocate for using US military power to push "moral" agenda's around the world. If Rice stood in her way that was a good thing. Not that Rice isn't an amoral shithead, you can bank on it, but this is just a hit piece by other amoral shitheads who think we should deepen our military involvment in the Congo.
posted by at 5:52 PM on January 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Guess he's making sure he doesn't have any unexpected visa problems when he wants to hang with his cronies in Shanghai.

you might be right in what you're saying generally, but this is an incredibly weak argument. like, totally feeble.
posted by facetious at 6:01 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

you might be right in what you're saying generally, but this is an incredibly weak argument. like, totally feeble.

I'm not trying to argue that French is some sort of Chinese puppet.

The point is that you don't go from a rather airy critique of US policy in Africa as being based on "pity and strong paternalism" as if you were at some sort of college bull-session and then throw out that China has a "mature" relationship with Africa, " one driven by promise."

It's just this little kernel of patent dishonesty which shows you where the rest of this essay is coming from.

All of the criticisms laid out here are for the sort of generic moral compromises i.e. "lies" any Foreign Service officer at Rice's rank would be engaging in. He's basically criticizing her for being a professional and relying on the gullibility of his audience. It's the sort of stuff which got "liberals" to stand up for Cheney's War against Iraq. Because Saddam was evil...
posted by at 6:08 PM on January 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

ennui, that's interesting analysis, and I agree - as I was reading through the piece I was surprised at the positive take on China. I don't know what it is with foreign correspondents, and why they write the crap that they do.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:15 PM on January 1, 2013

I've been tracking China in Africa, and I don't find this part unbelievable at all.

China has a "mature" relationship with Africa, " one driven by promise."

Part of the challenges the OECD nations are currently facing in their attempts to (rebuild? maintain? engage?) with many of the Sub Saharan nations whose economies are growing (all 52 of them are not Congo nor failed states) is the fact that they need to overcome their long standing view (as demonstrated primarily by older reports in the English language media) that China is a big fat booby in Africa. That's probably where the "obsolete cold war" observations comes from - if China is running around actually building trading relationships, as are Brazil and India, then why are the OECD still trying to uplift the "poor and downtrodden"? The contrasting approaches have been obvious.

Is one country better than the other? I don't think that's the case here. Instead, what's happening is that a frontier market has emerged visibily and its one which the "rich" world ignored as a basket case or charity for decades. Now when they notice that its a huge economic opportunity, they find themselves the last out the starting gate. Thus naturally, everybody else is "bad" or "evil" or "neocolonial" or "resource hungry"... they themselves are angels.

Here's one snippet just for starters,

UK MP Mark Simonds said: “The conversation has definitely moved from why Africa, to how Africa.” Mr Simonds has recently travelled across the continent with European private and public investment in mind. “More needs to be done to spread the word of Africa as a land of opportunities and ambition,” he said.
Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the mastermind behind Nigeria’s effort to become the first African nation to balance its budget. She was one of the most anticipated speakers at the conference.

Her message was one of unilateral investment in Africa, but one that included the continent itself. She said: “Africa has gone from lost cause to hot prospect.”

We are no longer waiting for the US and Europe to invest, Africans are increasingly investing in Africa, and have the capacity to do so.”

Okonjo-Iweala is not wrong. For example, the biggest investor in Nigerian companies is South Africa. More than $1 billion per annum flows into Nigeria from South Africa, into projects largely connected with telecoms and other emerging industries.

posted by infini at 4:27 AM on January 2, 2013

> Um... about that AIDS/HIV thing...

Yeah, that's one of the legion of infuriating things about Dubya's administration: even when they did make attempt to put in place needed and useful programs, their ideological baises hamstrung those efforts. Bush gets credit for putting PEPFAR into motion, but promptly loses it for trying to live in a dogmatic fantasy land where contraceptives, prostitution, and intravenous drug use doesn't exist.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:41 AM on January 2, 2013

Also, Samantha Power got pushed out of the Obama administration because she was too unyielding an advocate for using US military power...

Power was forced to resign from the Obama campaign in 2008, after referring to Hillary Clinton as "a monster". After the campaign, she joined the administration as a Special Assistant to the President -- and still is one, unless I missed something during my recent Tryptophan coma.
posted by steambadger at 9:24 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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