Why Africa Is Finally Getting Attention





Mr. Catsam is Assistant Professor of History at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

In recent months Africa, that most overlooked of continents, has been getting some attention from those of us in "The West." Liberia, the West African state colonized by former slaves and in recent decades beset with ruthless dictators and a devastating civil war was for a while a hot spot worthy of American intervention. America and Great Britain are gingerly trying to deal with the increasingly untenable situation in Zimbabwe, where megalomaniacal president-for-life Robert Mugabe manages to garner the support of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders even as he pillages, destabilizes and malignly neglects his own country. Previously ignored Niger became a name rolling off of the tongues of Americans in the wake of revelations that President Bush's assertions about that country's involvement in enhancing Iraq's nuclear program had been false, even falsified.

And then there is AIDS in Southern Africa, ethnic and religious conflicts in Nigeria, and the attempts to bring about reconciliation in war-torn Congo. The problem, of course, is that these stories are almost universally negative. Rarely do we read about African successes, and even less rarely do they register. And yet . . .

Curtailing future acts of terrorism. Expanding our access to available oil. Protecting human rights. These are goals that cross the ideological spectrum. And there is one continent where we can do all of these things. That continent is Africa, perhaps the part of the globe that Americans most overlook, except to catch a glimpse of the latest disaster coming from its shores, like rubberneckers straining to see the gore after a highway accident.

The time is ripe for Americans to start getting to know Africa as more than the sum of its grisly events. Many experts believe that the United States will get 15-20 percent of its oil exports from West Africa in the next decade. Large parts of the continent are vulnerable to exploitation by radical fundamentalist terrorists, some of which already have a foothold on the continent. Whether we like it or not, American attention will focus increasingly on what many still patronizingly see as the Dark Continent, a seemingly mysterious and dangerous land of poverty and violence and malarial infestations. But America must act now. We cannot afford to sit aside and wait for Africa to open its doors to us, nor can we assume that those doors will open simply because we are the United States.

The United States needs to establish a clear engagement, on mutual terms, with responsible African leaders. It has to develop with those leaders workable policies to help develop - not exploit - Africa's vast natural resources, including oil, while also promoting industry and development that we have to realize may one day compete with American companies. We need to move toward eliminating the noxious subsidies that protect American agribusiness and undermine any hopes of African farmers to compete on a level playing field. This will require vision and planning and not a little political courage.

It is thus important for the United States, its leaders and its citizenry, to develop a more sophisticated understanding of this continent that is almost four times the size of the continental United States. The crisis-du-jour approach not only of policymakers but also of the media has fueled stereotypes and unintentionally has perpetuated misunderstanding. More important, it has served as a barrier to promoting our mutual interests. While it has not been demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that poverty breeds terrorism, it is a certain bet that desperation does. If we help perpetuate African desperation, we are sowing the seed for a generation of potential terrorists who can wreak untold damage not only in Africa, but also on the United States and our allies. If, however, we help alleviate such desperation, not only will we be doing the right thing for Africans, we will be doing the only wise thing for our own security.

In the past, the mantra of the realpolitik crowd, those who insist upon a clear self-interest before America gets involved in foreign affairs, has always been predictable: "What's in it for us?" But with the massive oil interests we have on Africa's Atlantic Coast and with the clear and present danger of terrorism a daily factor in American lives, a lack of demonstrable interests is no longer an acceptable cry. But beyond this, Africa, for all of its misery, for all of the demagoguery of some of its leaders, for all of the seemingly inscrutable violence, represents both hope and opportunity.

Supporters of the war in Iraq have claimed that one of the main reasons to support our actions was that we could bring democracy and justice, in short, a better life, to Iraq's people. For many of these proponents this justification was mere revisionism, a convenient fallback position when WMDs and links to Al Qaeda proved elusive. But at its essence, there was a kernel of truth in the minds of many of the war's proponents. They truly believed that for all of its flaws, the United States can do good and do well at the same time. This should be a foundation for our approach to Africa: Do good. And then, when possible, do well.

On initial inspection, there seems to be tremendous hostility about American actions and intentions in Africa today. Many Africans (Nelson Mandela comes to mind) condemned our incursion into Iraq and tied it to the long legacy of colonialism with which too many south of the Sahara are well accustomed. Whatever the merits of their arguments, their distrust is understandable, stemming as it does from a colonial and neo-colonial past that proved ruinous to much of the continent.

At the same time, beneath the fear and recriminations is also hope. If one listens to the African Street, ambivalent messages abound. Distrust and fear linger, to be sure, but not the sort of loathing that one finds in other parts of the world. The African street is probably kinder to the United States than the French street, even though the latter owes a whole lot more to America than the former. Africans want our help. They admire and respect what the United States represents. They also fear what the United States can mean to them. Africans are well aware of their vulnerability, and know that they cannot compete with the United States government, its military, or its industrial and economic might.

What many Africans desire, therefore, is a partnership. Not a partnership based on the premise of equality, but one based on respect. They want American know-how and the dollars that come with it to fight AIDS, for example, but they want an acknowledgment that on the ground, there might be feasible solutions that, while impractical or undesirable in Boston, may be necessary and proper in Bulawayo. They do not want policies foisted on them from those with an agenda based on American culture wars. Africans have enough wars of their own.

Africans want a solution to their dictators and kleptocrats, but in turn they fear that they will replace the known devil with an unknowable master. They want to be able to partner with the United States to gain from our resources and technology, to be able to produce for the marketplace while developing their own economies, and to be able to look to the United States as a kind and trusted ally, as the last best hope of man on earth rather than as a Laviathan able to crush the hopes of a people so accustomed to broken dreams.

The first step in garnering trust is to be trustworthy. This means fulfilling promises - of aid, of loan relief, of troop support, of protection from genocide. It means occasionally setting immediate self-interest or electoral politics aside for the sake of development. It means speaking with, not down to, those leaders who have the respect and legitimacy of their people.

If we want cooperation in accessing Africa's tremendous oil reserves, we need to be prepared to do so as partners. If we expect to be able to rely on African support in the war on terror, we need to convince Africans through our deeds as well as our words that human rights are truly our concern, and not merely a smokescreen for baser instincts. If we want to influence African politics for the better, we cannot allow that influence we have to be for the worse.


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Derek Catsam - 12/7/2003

David --
Though most academics who work on Africa, and certainly who do serious scholarship, have lived and worked there. We may return to our "comfortable" offices (haven't been on campus lately, eh david?!?) but when we are not here we may well be on the ground. ztrust me when I say I've lived in, worked in, and seen enough of Africa to at least have some modicum of legitimacy. Now you may think I am full of it. Hell, I may be -- but it is not because of some distance or remove.
dc


Jesse Lamovsky - 12/5/2003

Way back in my second post, I referred to Ian Smith's government as the "Popular Front".

The correct term, of course, is "Rhodesian Front".


Jonathan Dresner - 12/5/2003

Mr. Thomas,

I could quote Dr. Seuss ("Marvin K. Mooney..."), but Gilbert and Sullivan seems more apropos. I don't mind you posting (I don't like it, but then you don't like me either, so it's fair), and I don't mind you leaving in a huff, but this constant barrage of "I'm leaving now" is a little, well, toddler-like. You haven't called anyone a "poopyhead" yet.... oh, wait, you did, actually.

You can't have the last word if you leave. And if you stay, then you may not actually have better things to do. Make up your mind, sir.

For what it's worth, there's a relatively new member on the boards, going by the unimaginative handle "Homer Simpson" whose diatribes are so similar to yours that I had to really read them over a few times to be sure I didn't think it was you. He doesn't have your class, or sense of reality, though. But your wailings of our empty heads and silly ideas, bemoaning the state of higher education, etc., will not be gone from HNN even if you leave.


Derek Catsam - 12/5/2003

Well, he and I settled this one some time ago, but I will rebuke you nonetheless: Let's just say I get squeamish about those who venerate Ian Smith's Rhodesia. Maybe roxman does not know much Zimbabwean history -- not many do -- but I think if he did, he might at least know where I was coming from instead of "shaming" me.


Ralph E. Luker - 12/5/2003

Pitiful Stephen. You are disgracing yourself again with epithets. Your earlier instinct to slink away in disgrace was actually the better one.


Stephen - 12/4/2003

Yes, Mr. Catsam, you are an expert at it.

"That you would see it as such, however, does reveal to me that you may well be a racist."

Sometime, long ago, Mr. Catsam, you became completely deluded into believing that somebody has nominated you to play God.

You have now lapsed into complete idiocy. How many years have you been making a fool of yourself in this beknighted fashion?

You are a laughing stock, Mr. Catsam.

And, now, I'm off to live my very interesting an exciting life. I played a very nice gig to a mixed race crowd in Harlem last night. Today, I did a video session on Wall Street, once more with a racially (and sexually) mixed group.

You are the problem, Mr. Catsam. Idiots like you have really become a serious problem. Why don't you go away, and hide your ignorance and your thuggery?

See you around. I've got better things to do. You are just a dumb man with bad manners.


Stephen - 12/4/2003

Yes, Mr. Luker, I always had something better to do with my life than engage intellectual thugs like you.

When do you plan to do something useful with your life?

It is a testament to the wretched state of academia that you can find a job.


Dave Livingston - 12/4/2003

David certainly has a point in stating that frica, deeply divided by tribes has a very difficult road ahead because of those divisions, no mstter whatever else happens. Tribal divisions are magnified by religious ones, as in Nigeria & the Sudan.

NY Guy too has a point in saying because our European cousins muddied the waters in Africa that doesn't make Africa an American problem. But I'll disagree with him to the point that I believe we should keep the Peace Corps at work in Africa.

But of course, because the Peace Corps is maned by volunteers, it is limited by a shortage of qualified people to what it may provide abroad. Which leads me to a tidbit of history, back when the Peace Corps was founded many stuffy unimaginative conservatives, much like Yours truly is today mocked the Peace Corps as the "KKK," Kennedy's Kiddie Korps." Well, screw them too, the Peace Corps has done an outstanding job for nearly, come March, 43 years.

But without the leadership of J.F.K. & Sargant Shriver, the first Director of the Peace Corps plus our drift into an increasingly self-centered society has wrought significant changes upoon the Peace Corps. For instance, in '62 some 150 people who'd expressed an interest in joining the new organization called the Peace Corps were invited to the Univ. of Pittsburg to train to be in the first group to be sent to Liberia. 135 people actually showed up for training. 120 of the 135 made it through the training & screening processes, 106 of the 120 went to Liberia. 99 stuck it out for two years or more in Liberia (Rainforest West Africa smackdab on the Equator). In starling contrast, today 50% or more of the Peace Corps Volunteers sent abroad fail to serve a full two years, IMHO another mark that our culture is in decline.

David is pessimistic about Africa, I'm pessimistic about the ole U.S. of A. as well.

Now the Cold War is over, we haven't the competetive reason to pour the assests we once did into Africa, but our common humanity requires we help out the folks in Africa from time-to-time. But as in Ethiopia (the previous Communist dictatorship), Zimbawe (Mugabe) and in Nigeria (the tribal & religious divides)their problems are largely homegrown.

One way of socking the West with a guilt trip is to blame much of the Third World's problems upon Christian evangelism, but that ducks the admonishment us Christians were handed by our Lord, we are required to evangelize. The secular type telling us not to do us is telling us to abandon our faith. Screw him! It isn't going to happen.


Dave Livingston - 12/4/2003

:-))) "And sure, you can dismiss me as an academic..." Actually, I said that more to rattle your cage, to remind you that others see the world differently than academics. Yes, of course, nearly everyone must work at something to put bacon on the table. Why not in academia? Indeed, having tapped into HNN these past few months my opinion of academics has risen--a tad more than mite. Still, I'm very wary of folks who conceive of solutions to the world's problems from environmentlly controlled comfort. And who mostly are urbanites to boot. Folks too who oft do not realize how well off materially us Americans are than so much of the rest of the world.

Mind, one reason I'm not knocking our being well off I've seen first-hand & close-up that much, if not most, of the world's misery is due to mismanagement & misgovernment. For instance, when I left Liberia in '64 it was far better off than it is today. Of course, the coup of '81, two or three subsequent civil wars & a foreign invasion, the Nigerian led "peace-keeping force" didn't much help improve things there, albeit President Tolbert, killed in the coup led by zSamuel Doe in '81 was not a person whom I admired, as I did the man who preceeded him, William V.S.Tubman.

However much was self-deluded fantasy or how much based on plain ignorance nonetheless I discovered in Viet-Nam, reached the conclusion, that I felt more of a cultural affinity with the Viet farmer, a fellow rustic, than I did many fellow American G.I.s, the ones who hailed from urban America.


roxman - 12/3/2003

Shame on you for playing "the race card!" There was nothing vaguely racist in any of Mr. Lamovsky's comments.


Derek Catsam - 12/3/2003

Oh stop, Bill --
You have so much to say. I'd love to see a piece on Operation Mongoose. I'd love to see a piece based on your experiences that gives your perspective on Iraq, or, Israel. Don't suddenly start being so damned humble. Hell, why start now? I might think you are full of the bullcraop, but when did that stop you? Of course know that once you write something the anonymous ones get to slam you, the mean ones get to pretent they are not the anonynous ones, and the nattering nabobs of negativism (by which I mean me) get to take full aim. But you've seen what I go through on these damned message boards -- I am somehow both a wild-eyed-liberal and a Sharonista chickenhawk. So there you go you Oliver Northesque McGovernite -- sock it to us!
dc


Derek Catsam - 12/3/2003

Er, did you actually read what I wrote? When did I "scream" write" or otherwise place at the center of my piece racism. That you would see it as such, howeever, does reveal to me that you may well be a racist.
Is my strategy -- that we should actually engage with Africa when we develop African policy -- really braindead? -- Again -- did you read my piece? Did I say anything that irrational?
Thganks for the personal and professional advice -- I feel much better hearing it from someone who does not even bother to give a last name. Very brave and heroic.


Ralph E. Luker - 12/3/2003

Stephen, I'm glad that you found something new to do with your life.


Stephen - 12/2/2003

Yes, I'm sorry I returned, too. Every once in a while I look in to see if anything resembling thought has occurred.

No, I wasn't driven off. I spend most of my life around decent, lively people. Nothing decent is going on here.

Mr. Luker, you need to find something new to do with your life. You've made your living screaming "racism" for how long now?

And, yes, it is jerk behavior.

I'm off to live once again among humans who have manners. You may continue to wallow in this filth. You are welcome to it.


Ralph E. Luker - 12/1/2003

Stephen, Sorry to see you've returned -- not as your entertaining self -- but as the name-calling self you were here earlier. "Fool", "jerk", -- do you really think calling someone else such names is likely to help them understand your point. Why not engage in reasonable discussion with other intelligent human beings without all the attack and name-calling. If you persist, I suspect that you will take the same kind of verbal beating that drove you off the last time. Think of yourself in positive terms and you needn't think in such negative terms of others around you.


Stephen - 12/1/2003

Mr. Catsam, don't you ever get tired of this tactic?

I have bowed out of this board, and after this post I will again.

I'm fed up with fools screaming "racism." It's been going on for 50 years.

Why don't you just start every article you write with this disclaimer: "Everybody who disagrees with whatever I say is a racist." Then, you won't have to bother penciling it into your response. We all know it is forthcoming, so why not just put it up front?

Don't you feel a little like a jerk for employing this dead brain strategy again and again and again and again? Do you have anything original to say? I seriously doubt it.

Several other things exist in this world besides racism. Look out your window. Stop behaving this way, Mr. Catsam. You will improve all of your personal and professional relationships by following this advice.


NYGuy - 11/27/2003

Derek
I will try to brush through the standard NYGuy anonymous semicoherence if I can.

NYGuy

You start off with your typical name calling ploy which you so despise. As you have said:

“This war, in many ways, belies some of the traditional labels and traditional schisms. name caling might make you feel good, but it does not exactly advance the dialogue.”

Hope you feel better.

Derek

Indeed, even a cursory reading of my piece would see that I am asserting that we do not have an adequate vision for Africa. I see a decided lack of genius, in other words.

My piece was not part of some blame game; it was rather an attempt to point out that our tendency to overlook Africa can have negative consequences and that we need to start rethinking policy.

NYGuy,

I just find your article a straw man which you then use to get preachy as if no one else knew anything about Africa. I don’t know if you have any knowledge about GW’s vision of Africa since you don’t discuss it. But, his views have been well publized over the past few months.

You suggest that we do not have an adequate vision of Africa, that our tendency is to overlook Africa and we need to start rethinking policy.

Then you contradict yourself when you say:

Derek,

The time is ripe for Americans to start getting to know Africa as more than the sum of its grisly events. Many experts believe that the United States will get 15-20 percent of its oil exports from West Africa in the next decade.

If no one was interested in Africa why are people putting the time and billions of dollars of nvestment in Africa so they can double oil output.

Derek

The United States needs to establish a clear engagement, on mutual terms, with responsible African leaders. It has to develop with those leaders workable policies to help develop - not exploit - Africa's vast natural resources, including oil, while also promoting industry and development that we have to realize may one day compete with American companies. We need to move toward eliminating the noxious subsidies that protect American agribusiness and undermine any hopes of African farmers to compete on a level playing field. This will require vision and planning and not a little political courage.

NYGuy,

GW is already doing the things you advocate. For example, testifying October 21 before the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion, John R. Brodman, deputy assistant secretary for international energy policy at the U.S. Department of Energy said President Bush has "recognized the importance" of the U.S. relationship with the continent. U.S. energy policy, he said, seeks to "promote a more receptive environment for U.S. oil and gas trade and investment and to support more transparent, accountable and responsible use of oil resources in African producer countries to enhance stability and the security of trade and investment environments."

Brodman cautioned however, "West Africa is a conflicted region that is suffering the effects of corruption, political instability, border disputes, ethnic and religious strife, governance issues, and poverty. Conflicts produce risks that have a destabilizing impact on the investment climate, on the social and economic development aspirations of the African people and on our energy security." For that reason, he told the lawmakers, "Finding affordable and effective ways to help these countries overcome these barriers is one of the new challenges to our energy security aspirations."

He explained, Democratization and the development of responsible governing institutions are particularly important in reducing oil-related conflicts and promoting African supply stability.

Derek

The first step in garnering trust is to be trustworthy. This means fulfilling promises - of aid, of loan relief, of troop support, of protection from genocide. It means occasionally setting immediate self-interest or electoral politics aside for the sake of development. It means speaking with, not down to, those leaders who have the respect and legitimacy of their people.

NYGuy,

Sounds like you want another give away program for Africa.

I prefer GW’s policy

"Accountability and transparency are necessary to ensure that oil revenues benefit the population and support economic and social development. Managed effectively," Brodman said, "revenues from expanding oil and gas production could be the engine for national and regional economic development and political stability in West Africa."

Derek, as I tried to explain to you, which you said you did not know or say, there will be billions of dollars going into Africa over the next few years. Africa needs leaders that will take this investment and help its people not steal from them.

It is difficult to say if this new money will be used to benefit the people of West Africa, and the record is not promising
In Angola. The International Monetary Fund, had a leaked report, that estimated more than $1 billion -- nearly half the country's oil revenues for 2001 -- could not be accounted for.

Although human rights groups argue the oil companies have more leverage than they let on this is not always true. BP told the human rights group, Global Witness, it had paid a $112 million "signature bonus" for a block in Angola which brought down the wrath of Angola's state-owned oil company, Sonangol who sent a stern letter to the oil companies operating in Angola, to strictly adhere to the confidentiality of information."

Violence has also been a problem because of clashes with ethnic groups.

It's easy to be pessimistic about West Africa's prospects, but there is some glimmers of hope.

In an effort to make these governments more transparent, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been pushing for new disclosure rules for oil companies and other "extractive industries." But remembering BP's experience in Angola, the oil companies want any rules to be voluntary.

Derek

would argue that we should have gone into Rwanda and stayed until the job was done -- prevented or stopped genocide. If that is a bad thing in your mind, so be it. It also would have been every bit as justified as the current war in Iraq.

NYGuy

Again, wasn’t this when everyone was saying support the UN. So your argument is that because the UN failed you compare it to the justification of the war in Iraq. You are a slippery one. Your comment about Iraq not only changes the subject but fails to address the issue of the UN’s failed vision in Africa which has caused the problems that Africa now faces.

Derek

As for your silly invocation of Clinton, I have no idea what point that serves. I never put Clinton up as any paragon of Africa policy. He deserves credit for being the first to travel there extensively and for getting the ball rolling on some points and he deserves blame for Rwanda and other things. Your bringing him up reveals your own naked and creepily obsessive partisanship and nothing about me. However, had Clinton tried to act more boldly in Rwanda or elsewhere one can be assured that some in the GOP would have been all over him (I recall a few of those Republicans being skeptical of his use of force against Saddam as well, but no matter).

NYGuy

This is just an unreasoned reply to why President Clinton, the so called first Black President did nothing to improve Africa. The reason people opposed the Clinton's action was because it was a cowardly move as he attacked one of the poorest countries in the world.

Derek,

have no idea what the "victim disclaimer" is, and I'd say that patronizing closers like "we've all heard it all before" beyond their meaninglessness probably do not belong in a post so riven by tense inconsistencies and bloviations as to make one question your facility with the language. You say he deserves credit for being the first to travel to Africa and deserves credit for what? I just described why Africa today is still called

NYGuy,

When in doubt bring out the “bloviations disclaimer” makes one sound smart. Sorry, it is boring and another example of substituting bloviations for reasoned thought. Ho, Hum.

Derek,

Maybe you do not think that the West has ever victimized Africa. I do not know. You have not shown an especial depth of unbderstanding or concern about this vast and wonderful continent, so perhaps it is just a function of your ignorance. I am not certain, in any case, why you are so angry and hostile and unreasonable about my piece, which was hardly scathing toward any particular side and which simply said that, among other things, it is in our interest to develop a coherent Africa policy.

NYGuy,

Where do you get these ideas. I never made any such statement about the West. Perhaps you don’t read what I write since you are so anxious to use your word bloviations. Show me where I say such a thing. You can’t. It is just another example of setting up strawmen rather then trying to deal in sensible debate.

Do I know anything about Africa. WEll, it is a continent that has about 13% of the world population, but only accounts for about 2% of world economic output. By contrast North America has about half the population of Africa and accounts for about one-third of world gross domestic product.

Its population is increasing rapidly and its average per capita income is well under $1,000. Not a great record. That is why it has been called the “lost continent.”

I am just an analyst and face the fact that this is a very poor continent with many problems. Yes you are right I don’t rate it up with Europe, Russia, China, Asia, or North America, but that is not something personal as you suggest. And you say this means I don’t have concern for its people. How do you come to this conclusion when I am only stating facts.


Derek,

Settle down. Eat some turkey. Crack a bottle of wine. Ask yourself why you are so mad about people who care about issues expressing their opinions in pieces that may even be interesting and well written even if you do not agree with them. Ask a girl (or a guy, whichever is your preference) on a date. Take a walk. Do something. Because your response to my piece is far out of all proportion to any sins, real or imagined, that I might have made.

NYGuy,

As I read the above “reasoned commentary” it makes me understand why no one knows what you are talking about since your specialty is words not ideas. You often challenge people on the board to “write an article>’ I made my living out of publishing ideas that made money for people. As you can see above I deal with ideas and have presented greater insight to the reader on Africa than you have with a propaganda piece that laces together a bunch of words.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Bill Heuisler - 11/27/2003

Derek,
Your admission of error is classy and appreciated. My admiration for President Bush is political and intellectual; and there's something I like about the guy. You've noticed the President doesn't defend himself and allows events to argue with his critics. That drives me nuts. Particularly when the issues are so clear as in the SOU speech or the non-use of words like imminent and the obvious efficacy of tax cuts. HNN becomes an arena. Catharsis. Also I have seldom been so enraged, offended and amused than when I participate here. HNN intellectual combat is highly challenging and entertaining, addictive too.

Writing for HNN has occurred to me, but the moment never seems to arrive - or the issue my knowledge and experience would illuminate sufficiently for this august audience of Professors and buffs escapes me. You are right it's easier to critique than to create; to defend than to establish a position. Suggestions?

Right now and for another year I will be heavily involved in politics and keeping my businesses afloat. Maybe when things settle down. One thing you should know: You, Professor Dresner, the myriad of pseudonyms and even Gus Moner have taught me more than you all can know and you all have given me many precious moments of confrontation, stimulation...and friendship.
Happy Thanksgiving, Derek


Derek Catsam - 11/27/2003

I will try to brush through the standard NYGuy anonymous semicoherence if I can.
First off, tthe UN alone is not sufficient to deal with major probkems, as we have seen before. All Democrats in fact did not simply say we should work through the UN just as all Republicans did not say we should not work through the UN. (As I recall, we tried to, which had bipartisan support). So that vacuous generalization holds no water with me. If I had wanted to say the UN should be solely responsible, I'd have written that. In any case, even if the UN were more involved, nation states still have policies toward other countries. I put forth what I think should be ours. I wish you'd acknowledge that effort rather than jump right into your shrill hyperventilations.
Your latest canard is "finally you are seeing that GW is a genius." How so, exactly? What on earth would indicate that I am saying that -- indeed, Bush's genius or lack thereof is not at issue. You are so concerned with being a shill and a hack for him that you make every single proposition one about his genius. It is unseemly and it is irrelevent. Indeed, even a cursory reading of my piece would see that I am asserting that we do not have an adequate vision for Africa. I see a decided lack of genius, in other words.
Do I actually say that US trops should go willy nilly into Africa? I supported troops in Liberia -- so too, albeit perhaps too late, did your genius President. I suppose you remember that? I would argue that we should have gone into Rwanda and stayed until the job was done -- prevented or stopped genocide. If that is a bad thing in your mind, so be it. It also would have been every bit as justified as the current war in Iraq.
As for your silly invocation of Clinton, I have no idea what point that serves. I never put Clinton up as any paragon of Africa policy. He deserves credit for being the first to travel there extensively and for getting the ball rolling on some points and he deserves blame for Rwanda and other things. Your bringing him up reveals your own naked and creepily obsessive partisanship and nothing about me. However, had Clinton tried to act more boldly in Rwanda or elsewhere one can be assured that some in the GOP would have been all over him (I recall a few of those Republicans being skeptical of his use of force against Saddam as well, but no matter).
I have no idea what the "victim disclaimer" is, and I'd say that patronizing closers like "we've all heard it all before" beyond their meaninglessness probably do not belong in a post so riven by tense inconsistencies and bloviations as to make one question your facility with the language. Maybe you do not think that the West has ever victimized Africa. I do not know. You have not shown an especial depth of unbderstanding or concern about this vast and wonderful continent, so perhaps it is just a function of your ignorance. I am not certain, in any case, why you are so angry and hostile and unreasonable about my piece, which was hardly scathing toward any particular side and which simply said that, among other things, it is in our interest to develop a coherent Africa policy. Settle down. Eat some turkey. Crack a bottle of wine. Ask yourself why you are so mad about people who care about issues expressing their opinions in pieces that may even be interesting and well written even if you do not agree with them. Ask a girl (or a guy, whichever is your preference) on a date. Take a walk. Do something. Because your response to my piece is far out of all proportion to any sins, real or imagined, that I might have made.


Derek Catsam - 11/27/2003

Fair enough -- In my overheated self-defense I should have said that the administration's assertions had been false, or falsified, which would have been true. I should have further said that I never wrote that Bush intentionally lied. I do not believe Bush himself falsified, but his administration perpetuated bad intelligence, intentionally or not. I did make a mistake in my last post. For that I apologize. The post was wrong, not the essay.
At the same time, I find it interesting that you never actually write anything publishable on HNN and yet you enjoy watching others squirm. Armchair quarterbacks are always right. But they never play, so no one really cares. Must be nice to have the clean uniform and to tell the starters that they played a flawed game. The name I had for guys like you back during the sporting glory days was "waterboy." Or "scrub." Or "human tackling dummy." At least you use your real name, unlike the "He Hate Me" types from New York, Ancient Rome, and elsewhere that populate the list.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving, in any case, be well, and my guess is that while you take issue with a relatively minor point in this piece, you will feel ready to tee off on my next article. I welcome it.


NYGuy - 11/27/2003

Derek,

Have you ever heard of the UN. We are told by the democrats, "UN in US out." Don't you trust the democrats? Are you agreeing that GW is a genius. Finally you have seen the light. But why should US troops go into Africa? You never explained that part of your thinking. Clinton, also called the "First Black President" only though we should cut and run and take troops out of Africa. What is the reason for the turnaround? For 8 years he watch the slaughter and he and the UN did nothing. Are you becoming a democrat and looking for the true leadership of GW?

Please don't post your "victim disclaimaer" one more time. We have all heard it too many times.


Bill Heuisler - 11/27/2003

Derek,
Your squirming is an embarrassment to watch. Even this barely literate observer can discern words like Bush and falsified.
At what point, you ask? Why in the beginning. Have you forgotten?
President Bush's name appears at the end of your first paragraph.
At the end of your sentence calling him a liar.

So, when you write, "just a rudimentary reading, would notice that i never mentioned the President's name...", it is your memory and mental competence that are called into question.

Your words:
"Previously ignored Niger became a name rolling off of the tongues of Americans in the wake of revelations that President Bush's assertions about that country's involvement in enhancing Iraq's nuclear program had been false, even falsified."

President Bush's assertions had been false, even falsified?

Derek, your assertions are false and your flimsy defenses are falsified. Words written in spite do not melt like winter snowflakes, but remain to embarrass their author and entertain his opponents. How can you deny words you've written? Do you lie?
Or perhaps too much Christmas cheer has addled your brain.
Bill


Derek Catsam - 11/26/2003

Jonathan --
I agree with you on the issue of "development" --- my work is far more along the lines of history and politics, and some of the developmental stuff gets pretty arcane and damned theoretical.
No problem not knowing about "constructive engagement" -- no reason why you would neceassarily, and of course the phrase in and of itself does not have to have negative implications except inasmuch as Crocker's policy consigns it to as much.
As for sources on Africa, here are some very accessible books that you can read -- most are not even academic, and some are damned good reads:
Berkeley -- The Graves are Not yet Full (Good overview of contemporary Africa, strong and persuasive argument, great read)
Hochschild -- King Leopold's Ghost (On Leopold's Congo)
Gourevich -- We Regret to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families (On Rwanda)
Davidson -- Black Man's Burden (On the impact of colonialism)
Reader -- Africa: A Biography of a Continent (A Broad overview -- long, dense, but good)
On South Africa I could give you a list that would run on for days, but a good and accessible starting point is Sparks, The Mind of South Africa.
dc


Oscar Chamberlain - 11/26/2003

I'd like to know more about your claim that AIDs is defined (or perhaps diagnosed) differently in Africa than here. Does that mean that HIV positives are being described as having AIDs, or is it something else?


Derek Catsam - 11/26/2003

Bill, you poor, pathetic, poor-reading wretch. At what point did I blame Bush? At what point did I say that Bush had falsified? Indeed, a close reading -- no, actually, just a rudimentary reading, would notice that i never mentioned the President's name, almost exclusively because for all the conspiracy mongering on the left i do not think Bush was responsible for the bad intelligence, and the forgeries were committed far before they got to his hands. Please read more closely before barraging me with nonsensical criticisms. I never blamed Bush, except inasmuch as he repeated bad intelligence, and even that I never said explicitly.
There were no niger claims, eh? Your assertion of this is based solely on the State of the Union. But there certainly were other sources indicating that the uranium allegedly from niger provided a smoking gun. In any case, defend bad intelligence all you want. It isn't what my article is about and your nitpicking is wasting my time. I've written enough and put my work out there for others to see. For once rather than criticize the work of others, how about contribute some of your own? Cheap shot indeed.


Bill Heuisler - 11/26/2003

Derek,
I'm also getting tired of this subject, the article is engaging. But your accusation is nasty. Your lame defense is contradictory and self-defeating and you apparently don't even realize it.
Read your own post.
You wrote:
"the Niger information is known to be flawed and falsified"
Then you wrote:
"admitted...yellowcake claims were based on faulty imtelligence."

There's a big difference between falsified information and using faulty intelligence. Try to imagine being called a liar because you used mistaken references to footnote a paper. Calling the President a liar was either a mistake or an off-handed slap at his supporters. Your "defense" leads me to believe the latter.

Then you ask about the transparency of your reading material.
When you say stupid things like, "the Niger information is known to be flawed and falsified" you leave yourself open to scorn.
Known by whom, Derek? What Niger information? Try to answer these questions before attempting another feeble response.

As to your asking for, "actual egvidence of the Niger claims". Are you paying attention? There were no Niger claims. Read the President's State of the Union address. Read the sixteen words Liberals find so offensive and you might understand. Maybe.
Bill


Derek Catsam - 11/26/2003

What do i mean when I say that my article is at least as much about the future as about the past? Are you serious? this is not complex -- my article is about proscription for the future -- what we should do -- as much as it is purely an assessment of the US policies in Africa in the past. Is this really that complicated?

My article is just an opinion piece and not a goispel. Well, no kidding NYGuy. At what point did I set it up as anything but an opinion piece, albeit I daresay a reasonably informed and supportable one. You say let germany, France and germany provide the leadership? Since when do we expect them to do so? Do you really support French and German foreign policy? This is an opportunity we can and should take. If European countries want to be a part, great, but if terrorism and oil resources are in our interest, why on earth abdicate to the Frebnch, germans, and UN?

According to mey article SAfrica will be getting all the capital investment it van handle? Er, where do I say that? Oh, I don't -- liar or bad reader -- which are you, NYGuy?

How am I starting to understand GW's genius? Is GW really the only one who knows that etrrorism is a problem (hint, Warren Rudman, Joe Biden, and others were fart more prescient than anyone in either the Clinton or Bush White House). You keep asserting that he is a genius. I do not see it. And I'll see it less and lerss if he and his administration do not realize that Africa is a fertile terror training ground.


Derek Catsam - 11/26/2003

Bill --
As of now, the Niger information is known to be flawed and falsified. If things change, they change. Once again you out of nowhere impugn my access to sources -- do you really know what I read? Do you really know that i read only the mainstream media, whetever that is? The Bush administration itself admitted that the yellowcake claims were based on faulty imtelligence. I guess they believe the mainstream media also. In any case, you are obsessing about one line in my essay, a line by which I stand, and one that has the virtue of so far being right -- give actual egvidence of the Niger claims being accurate or let's move on, shall we?
dc


Derek Catsam - 11/26/2003

Although I never "claim to be a thinker" I am rather irked by your then asserting that I am not one -- I find it amazing that you would levy that sort of criticism when it is so unbvlievably clear that you have no idea what you are talking about. Most experts do believe that wer will be gwtting that % of oil, and that an expansion of capacity of Africa's oil reserves will help to do this. What Africa produces now and what most authorities believe to be the case are two different things. Aside from your personalization of the issue I am not sure how the rest of my article "losses" its meaning, inasmuch as oil still is important even if you disagree with the assessments of experts and even if you ignore the terrorism question and others that I bring up. It must be nice to insult other people while remaining anonymous. I can't wait for your own piece on HNN to appear. I have the feeling it will take a while . . .


Derek Catsam - 11/26/2003

It is clear that a couple of thousand troops could have and would have stopped the genocide in Rwanda. America should have been at the forefront of that. Period.
It is also clear that sopme problems require at least some expenditure of money -- or do you, say, oppose providing more money to troops is Iraq? It seems that people levy the criticism of throwing money at a problem when it is a problem they oppose providing money for, but if they believe in providing money for a cause in which they believe, then it is a wise investment.
As for things being worse under Mugabe than Smith's regime, it depends on when you are talking about. That would not be a true assertion in most of the 1980s, but it may well be now. I would argue that the US should use what pressure it can to enforce either Mugabe's abdication or truly fair elections.

dc


Charles - 11/26/2003

Anyone who wants to seriously discuss living conditions in Southern Africa should start by scrutinizing the lurid, racist, and unscientific claims of the AIDS industry. Their flawed and inconsistent definition of an "AIDS case" in Africa is decisievly different than what is called "AIDS" in the USA. Their relentless drumbeat of ABCs - abstinence, behavior modification, and condoms - is eerily reminisecnt of Victorian missionaries intent on colonizing the "natives."

Projects that pinpoint a fight against malaria, TB, and the absence of clean drinking water are all worthy of support. But be very careful not to fall into the ludicrous trap of the AIDS industry junkies.


Bill Heuisler - 11/26/2003

Gus,
The Niger thing is an example of Derek believing what he reads in the mainstream media. Which brings me to the memo from DOD you mentioned. Interesting how the three memos recently leaked from DOD and Senator's offices are being covered by the press. The press is more interested in how the memos were leaked than what they say. It'll all come out though. Slow, but sure.

As to terrorists in Iraq, the borders with Syria and Iran are mountainous and porous. Anybody putting numbers on record is foolish. At least the murderers are going there, and not here.
Bill


Bill Heuisler - 11/26/2003

Professor Catsam,
Demonstrable? What's demonstrable is recklessness.
Your misapplication of the tea references - and your mistaken opinion they're my references - shows your unfamiliarity with the issue you decided to drag into a discussion about Africa. Wilson said he spent a week drinking tea at the Lagos embassy. He's been widely quoted. He specifically said tea, Derek.

Your "evidence from Niger"? I assume you mean forged documents. There were fake documents produced in late 2001 by a diplomat in the Niger Embassy in Rome who sold them to the Italian Secret Service for a few thousand dollars, but the real evidence the President's State of The Union speech referred to was British.

In 2003 the President's exact SOU words were, "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of Uranium from Africa."

MI6 stands behind it's information. Niger's Uranium operations are under the supervision of the French Atomic Energy Commission and there's a distinct possibility the intel was shared from the French with the understanding the source was to be protected.

He said "British". He said "recently". He said "sought". He said "Africa". No one knows what intel MI6 has, but MI6 still insists. Wilson said "no transaction", nothing else. Did Niger become a fixation because everybody knew about the irrelevant Rome forgeries? Rome was 2001. Did you bother to find out before gratuitously accusing President Bush of lying? Probably not. But when a Professor uses words like false or falsify, the usual expectation is the Professor knows what he's talking about. Had I said the same thing about President Clinton, or Eric Foner, or Noam Chomsky, you'd be all over me like stink on manure.
Bill Heuisler


NYGuy - 11/26/2003

Derek

The time is ripe for Americans to start getting to know Africa as more than the sum of its grisly events. Many experts believe that the United States will get 15-20 percent of its oil exports from West Africa in the next decade. Large parts of the continent are vulnerable to exploitation by radical fundamentalist terrorists, some of which already have a foothold on the continent. Whether we like it or not, American attention will focus increasingly on what many still patronizingly see as the Dark Continent, a seemingly mysterious and dangerous land of poverty and violence and malarial infestations. But America must act now. We cannot afford to sit aside and wait for Africa to open its doors to us, nor can we assume that those doors will open simply because we are the United States.

NYGuy

You claim you are a thinker, but you are only a commentator. How can you say Americans should start getting to know Africa and then say that experts say over the next 10 years large amount of capital investment is going into Africa and will generate 15-20% of the U. S. oil needs in 2020. Since Africa’s entire oil output would not be just dedicated to the U. S., then we have to assume that the actual oil output of Africa over the next 10 years is probably double the U. S. number or about 30-40% of the world output. You are suggesting then that huge amounts of capital investment is already being committed to expand Africa’s oil capacity.

Then the rest of you article losses it meaning. The investment you seek is already being committed, unless there is something wrong with your analysis of the world oil output by sector in the year 2020. On balance, this is a weak argument since it is unclear what the author is talking about.


NYGuy - 11/26/2003

Derek

At no point do I deny European responsibility in Africa. But that is beside the point --my article is at least as much about the future as the past.

NYGuy,

What does that mean. I constantly hear that history is necessary to understand the future and when someone points out the failures in the past you say it is beside the point. My point about what should be done in the future has just as much merit as your point. So if you say it is beside the point give reasons why your solution is better then mine.

Your article is just an opinion piece and not a gospel. My comment was just as much about the future as the past. I say let the UN, France and Germany provide the leadership and put up the money, technology and expertise that you suggest Africa is in need of. We are both discussing the future, so your opinion does not carry any more weight than my opinion. At least the US is doing more to make this a safe world, than the countries and organization I mentioned.

Derek,

You seem to think that American oil interests in Africa are not a real thing -- the fact is, most experts predict that we will get 15% or more of our oil from the continent by 2020. That said, should we not do it right?

NYGuy,

If there is going to be large amounts of capital going into Africa then there is no problem. They are getting the attention you suggest they should get.

I do, however, take issue with your comment that Africa will supply 15% of our, (sounds like the U. S. needs) by 2020. Are you saying that the entire output from Africa will only go to the U. S. I doubt it. That is not the way the oil industry operates. If you are right, however, than the capital investment in Africa will be even larger than you indicate and the total output of Africa oil would have to be closer to 25-30% to have your statement be correct. Thus there is not additional investment required. If your statement is just a rhetorical trick than adding 15% to the world oil production would have little impact on the U. S.

Derek

also find it odd that you want to deny this reality because of how you are afraid Bush will be perceived. Talk about politically expedient arguments.

NYGuy,

You come out of the blue with unsubstantiated statements that I never said. I have been saying that GW is being perceived as a genius. There are, however, small minds that like to throw out childish criticism that it is all about oil and say his actions are for his oil friends. That is a fact not a defensive argument.

The fact remains that according to your article Africa will be getting all the capital investment it can handle. So why should the U. S. get involved. Ask Xerox what their experience was and if they would return to Africa.

Derek,

Finally, what about the terrorism question? You have spent a whole lot of time on HNN preaching about 9-11 and terrorism generally. Are you not aware of how fertile Africa is for terrorism, and how a smart Africa policy might be able to counter that?

NYGuy

I am happy you are starting to understand GW’s genius. You are right that terrorism is fertile in Africa, Indonesia, North Korea, Iran, the Philippines, the Mid-East, and many other countries in the world. GW’s leadership is to unify the world to take this threat seriously and have each area recognize the danger and take coordinated steps to crush it. Africa’s leadership is expected to do its part rather than to let terrorism fester and destroy the continent, and have the U. S. spend money we need at home to protect them when we have our own problems.


Gus Moner - 11/25/2003

Mr Heuisler,
I'd have to say the criticism you've made, is a bit overdone on this topic of Niger. There's some wiggling room on this topic, not much mind you, but... it is not central to his argument and I can hardly believe Mr Catsam was trying to revive this topic of false intelligence being used or made up.

On another matter, how is the conservative promotion of the WS article on the Irtaq-al Qaeda connection going? Other than a couple of editorial comments, no one is picking it up yet. Have you any more on that? Today I heard a bewildered IGC member wondering if the CIA knew what was going on given that the CIA had just reduced its earlier asessment of over 3000 foreign terrorists in Iraq to between 200 and 300. Geez.


Dennis Johnson - 11/25/2003

Sorry for the grammatical errors in my long comment.


Dennis Johnson - 11/25/2003

I am not a teacher, but I some interest in the history of Africa. I think to understand current events, one has to also read earlier history. I really do not like lumping the entire African continent (the second largest on the planet) into one general history. I prefer reading books that deal with a region or culture like 'Kingdoms Of The Yoruba', by Robert Smith. Chinuah Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart is a good introduction to Ibo culture. Olaudah Equiano or Gustavas Vassa, the African was a biography written by an Ibo slave who gained his freedom in the 1700s. Sometime anthropology books help in understanding different cultural responses to the modern world.

As an Asian scholar, you could include the Zheng He expeditions during the Ming Dynasty. There was considerable Indian Ocean trade between East Africa and South Asia. There is a group of people in India and Pakistan called the Sidi. They are thought to be the descendants of Africans. There communities are in Gujarat, Maharashtra (around Bombay), and Hyderabad. Linguistically, the Merina language on Madagascar is closer to Indonesian.

There was also extensive trade relationships across the Sahara that brought literacy to the Sahel region of Africa. National Geographic is working with Timbuktu Heritage Institute to save some ancient manuscripts from Timbuktu in Mali. See http://www.timbuktuheritage.org/. Ibn Battua had traveled to the Empire of Mali in West Africa and to East Africa as well as Asia.

I do have a problem finding books in English on former non-English colonies. Gabon was part of the French Empire and had one of the highest GNPs in all of African during the 1980s, but I could never find a book in English about their history. It is very hard to find a book in English about the Merina kingdom and King Andrianampoinimerina (1787-1810). There are more books in English about the Zulu or Ashanti warriors the fought the British.


Jonathan Dresner - 11/25/2003

I wasn't really aware that the term had negative connotations: I wasn't using it in any sort of specific policy sense, but only as a summary of your argument that we need to be actively involved in African affairs without being unnecessarily pushy or single-minded about specifics.

I am more interested in histories and discussions of Africa that are comprehensive rather than purely development oriented. Development studies often have a powerful teleology, including assumptions about the superiority of western-style institutions. (I'm not saying they *aren't* superior, but we can't necessarily assume that they are the best choice for all cases.). Truly successful development in Africa will take account of its tribal traditions (and though the large-scale tribal identities are modern, small-scale tribal institutions and horizontal social integration have a deep history in Africa, if my textbooks are right.) and its diversity, the particular geographic and geopolitical situation, the power of individual personalities and the importance of broad movements.

I am entirely in agreement with you regarding protectionism, and the strategic importance of Africa; a decade ago I read an analysis that suggested that the AIDS crisis in Africa alone had cost the US several percent in total GDP growth, and I'm sure the cost is higher now. But, to be brutally honest, I'm pretty busy being an Asianist, and I'd like a little help with really good sources to deepen my understanding, and my limited teaching, of Africa.


Jesse Lamovsky - 11/25/2003

No, Mr. Catsam, I'm not a partisan of white minority government. Nor should majority rule be an end-all, as it apparently was in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. But there is nothing "racist" about stating that the Popular Front (which was willing to share power; more than can be said of Mugabe) ran the country in a more efficient and humanitarian manner than has ZANU-PF. Anyway, trade sanctions are always immoral, no matter who they are directed against, and seeing as insurgents were getting arms and support from the USSR and Cuba, the Rhodesians should have also been allowed to buy arms in the West. If nothing else, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe provides a nice example of the unintended consequences of active Western involvement in African political affairs.

Anyway, you were wrong in calling me a "racist", and presumably I was wrong in stating that you supported Mugabe's land-restribution policies. Shall we leave it at that?

You say that I "didn't read your piece". Well, I did. And I agree that it would be good policy, and very beneficial to African producers (as well as the American taxpayer) to eliminate subsidies to American farmers that help keep cheaper African goods off the market. American companies should help open up the African oil fields, and assist the indigeneous people in resource development. No argument on debt relief either. But your other prescriptions: billions to "fight AIDS", foreign aid, "troop support"(?), and "protection against genocide" are highly dubious.

First of all, there are better ways to combat the AIDS virus than simply cutting checks for African potenates. It's up to the African people, and their governments, to educate themselves on the causes of the disease, and means to prevent it. It doesn't hinge on the dollars. Ugandans have been very successful in lowering rates of transmission in their own country through local efforts, not by convincing the U.S. government to extort more money out of its citizens. Should we really be so unhesitant to pony up the bucks when there's still so much ignorance about the disease on that continent? How do we know the money will be well-spent? And regarding your haughty comment about Africans not desiring an agenda "based on American cultural wars", well, there are people in this country who have moral issues with contraception and abortion. Why should they have to pay for aid programs that might include these things?

Foreign aid? All foreign aid does is make enemies out of the people that don't get it. Look at the Middle East.

Troop support? To whom? And in what situations? Like I said in my first post, foreign people are angered when the United States intervenes in their countries' internal affairs for any reason. Our reasons for interfering in the Balkans were high-minded enough, but we aren't exactly highly thought of there. Meddling is meddling, no matter the stated reasons. I know that the Rwandan case is usually cited as an example of what could have been positive intervention on the part of the U.S., and I sympathize with this. One crack division of U.S. Marines probably could have shut down the "Hutu Power" perpetrators of the genocide in short order. But then what? We leave a devastated country and go home? We prop up the Kagami government? We expand operations to protect the Tutsis of eastern Congo, and get entangled in that terrible civil war, the world's worst? Would Americans still be dying in Central Africa ten years later? Would the situation there be any better for us being there? And what about the danger in exposing our own soldiers and personnel to the AIDS epidemic?

Free and open trade, as you've said? Yes. assistance from private companies to develop resources? Absolutely. Billions of dollars lining the pockets of dictators? American troops in Africa? No, and no.









Derek Catsam - 11/25/2003

Jonathan ---
You make some good points about short v. long term thinking in Africa. i do, however, cringe at your use of the unfortunate term "constructive engagement," smacking as it does of the moral and intellectual failure of the Chester Crocker years at State.
There is a literature on African development of course, starting perhaps with the classic (if flawed) "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa" and extending to the present. But as important, we need to rethink Africa in light of a range of things, including but not limited to terrorism and oil. I also would point out that the loathsome policy of protectionism of our cotton farmers and other growers is one that has demonstrably effected Africa for the worse.
dc


Derek Catsam - 11/25/2003

Bill, you are wrong. It is demonstrable that the supposed evidence from Niger was not what some thought that it was. It is not partisan to say this. There were documents that were clearly falsified. I do not know whether or not Bush knew this, but he and his people admitted as much later. Maybe they were lying coming and going -- I do not know. As for what has to do with my thesis and what does not, well, I trust my own ability as a writer and thinker. I think it has a good deal to do with my argument that for a moment there Africa was relevent, it was in the news. Indeed, rudimentary knowledge of topic sentences would indicate that the final sentence had everything to do with the gist of my paragraph -- Africa was in the news for a range of reasons, among them Niger. Your hypersensitivity about criticism of this administration notwithstanding (and your snide comments about tea drinking ambassadors as you write from your home in Tucson are surely less relevant than anything I have written -- though I love how you sneer at those Brits you oppose and trust beyond a shadow of a doubt thoe whose views agree with yours. How convenient. I suppose those whose intelligence agrees with yours drink, I dunno, coffee, black?)
In any case, yours are criticisms of style and not substance, mostly based on partisan hypersensitivity. The Niger intelligence was flawed. the administration admitted to that. I have no clue why you would want to revive it now.
dc


Derek Catsam - 11/25/2003

At no point do I deny European responsibility in Africa. But that is beside the point --my article is at least as much about the future as the past. You seem to think that American oil interests in Africa are not a real thing -- the fact is, most experts predict that we will get 15% or more of our oil from the continent by 2020. That said, should we not do it right?
I also find it odd that you want to deny this reality because of how you are afraid Bush will be perceived. Talk about politically expedient arguments.
Finally, what about the terrorism question? You have spent a whole lot of time on HNN preaching about 9-11 and terrorism generally. Are you not aware of how fertile Africa is for terrorism, and how a smart Africa policy might be able to counter that?


Derek catsam - 11/25/2003

Gus and NYGuy --
To NYGuy -- -- Inever said we should exploit Africa for oil or anything else. I am going to tell you what i have told a couple of others -- read my article before making criticisms that any even vaguely conscientious reading would reveal have no grounds. If you read myt article and then proclaim that i am arguing for exploiting Africa, well, you miss the point 100%.

To Gus -- You make many good points. I do in fact walk almost everywhere -- admittedly because the car has up and died on me, but also because I live about a mile from ampus and it is a good and not that difficult thing to do (though when it was 17 degrees out yesterday I was not thrilled.) And many of my students do walk.But many simply cannot -- our university draws students from across not only the state and region, but particularly the area. Many students come from nearby or not so close towns and driving is their option. Further, shifting our oil source in part from the Middle East to Africa is not simply shifting the problem -- this is a shift that is happening; it is not some theoretical construcytt.That being the case, I think we should do it in a way that is good, not bad for Africa. Sanctimonious preaching about oil dependence does not interest me-- I've already said i agree with working toward other options -- so much as the reality on the ground being good for those who have otherwise been exploited whenever their resources have been an issue. In other words -- this is a reality on the ground, and I want it to be as non-exploitative as possible.

dc


Gus Moner - 11/25/2003

Mr Catsam,
Thanks for the reply to my comment. I do think I was either not explicit enough or you have erroneously taken it as a knock on the article, which is not what I meant to do. Looking at your reply, however, makes me think I ought to have had a more critical eye.

In my reply I had not meant to criticise your personal opinion about developing Africa economically: Rather, I was aiming for the trend in government (which apparently you seem to support) for the failed policies of oil dependence. Where, I ask you, is the strategic advantage for the USA of changing its oil dependence from the Middle East to Africa? It only benefits the Israeli-US desire to sort out the Middle East to their liking, which cannot be done with US dependence on Muslim oil. The other part of the blueprint is to enrich joint ventures in poor African nations.

Emphasising the conflicting goals of African oil development on the one hand and energy independence through hydrogen on the other (in speeches) translates to oil dependence in reality and no hydrogen energy in the foreseeable future. The African development plot you have supported is not new and has been in the works for some time. Look at the Israeli plan (developed with people now in the US administration) to give the US a free hand in the Middle East by replacing it with Africa as a source of oil.

Instead, I would draw your attention to what there is in the way of resources. There are more than enough known oil reserves and distribution from operating wells now to satisfy our needs in the foreseeable future, three decades minimum. Having grown up hearing about the finite resources of oil, its pending extinction and the ever pending supply crisis, coupled with the instability in the Middle East, oil was a critical resource for which we dearly paid and pay. Meanwhile, oil companies gouged us for a decade in the 70’s and again in the early 90’s. We are seeing it again with the second Iraq War. Frankly, enough is enough.

You needn’t fret about going cold in Mankato. I am not advocating you ride a bicycle to work (although you should consider a life style where the automobile is not indispensable) or that your students come in rickshaws today, even though they ought to be riding bikes too, at least when the weather is not inclement, some six months a year in your region. But that’s off topic.

You are not going to run out of oil for decades at least, just taking into consideration current sources. In the early 1970’s we were told we were going to be out of oil by the mid 1990’s. It is all too familiar, this running out of oil bit. Instead, with my comment I wanted to emphasise that the nation must get serious about going hydrogen, which in the medium term, can be developed to supplant oil, eliminate it as a major pollutant and obviate all the need for involvement in the Middle East to ‘defend our national interests’, (read our oil firms and our economic dependence on oil).

As we did in the 50’s and 60’s with the Interstate road system, the man on the moon project and then the development of information technology, we need a total all out commitment to hydrogen (from non-mined sources, not gas and coal as the energy firms pretend to cash in on the subsidies and grants while grinding development to a halt) to eliminate the US involvement in other people’s affairs in Africa or Eurasia.

Let African economic development be determined by economic opportunities and not on our oil dependence, which will merely transfer our instability, interference in internal affairs and eventually the conflicts and oil dependence further west, not mitigate or eliminate it. Your proposition, based on the article and reply, seems to be that we change one set of goons in Eurasia for another set in Africa, an even more poverty stricken, disjointed, artificially divided, restless and unstable region than the Middle East!

Is that the best our new generation of university educated thinkers can do?

It seems that if we are serious about becoming energy independent, relying on clean resources and ridding ourselves of involvement in the Middle East’s intricate politics as an economic survival issue, it is time to get serious and stop paying lip service, as you have done in your reply (“I am all about developing alternative sources of energy” yet not a word of it in the article promoting the transfer of our dependency from the Middle East to Africa) and the administration does with its lies, (“a child born today will have his or her first car powered by hydrogen” ) to developing alternative resources. This and the AIDS assistance were perhaps the most dynamic aspects of the Bush 03 message. Both seem to have been mere sops to the audience.

The time is now, sir, not at some ambivalent future date. When everyone gets the message and the government gets serious, all these oils satrapies will become irrelevant. Or, do you actually think we have a real, non-oil national interest in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan Equatorial Africa and the lot of them? I hope my comment is clearer now.


Bill Heuisler - 11/25/2003

Professor Catsam,
Your off-handed sneer, "revelations that President Bush's assertions...had been false, even falsified", is unnecessary to your theme, needlessly insulting and very sloppy history.

Almost a year before President Bush's SOU speech, the US was rightly interested in all possible aspects of Saddam's potential WMD development. In early 2002 Vice President Cheney asked the CIA to investigate a Niger-Saddam connection and Tenet's CIA sent Wilson, not an agent, but former Gabon Ambassador. Mistake. Wilson reported that "it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had taken place." He didn't say Niger didn't sell UO2 to nearly anybody who had money; he didn't say Iraq didn't seek the uranium, but said it was "highly doubtful" that Iraq received or paid for UO2. Supposedly he proved there were no attempts by Iraq to get the uranium from Niger during a one week trip consisting of a series of "lunches and many teas". Also, since Uranium in Niger is controlled by a French consortium, one might wonder about Wilson's sources.

Later when Wilson added calumny to imperfect information by alleging the White House knew the SOU statements about Saddam seeking uranium in Africa were false, he asserted information he could not have known and never sought. Think about it: how would he know what the White House knew? How would this tea-drinking Ambassador know about MI6 intel? Why believe him, Derek?

The British insist they have intelligence supporting President Bush's statement. The White House speech asserted independent intelligence from a reliable ally (British MI6). Possibly the US had additional intelligence about attempts with other countries. The President specifically mentioned British Intelligence had furnished the information. "false" or "falsified" doesn't fit.

The end of your first paragraph is a partisan cheap shot, a gratuitous sliming that had nothing to do with your thesis.
Bill Heuisler


NYGuy - 11/25/2003

Derek,

We have been through this before. The French, Germans, Dutch and others exploited Africa and now it appears you are advocating the U. S. exploit Africa for oil so we can be warm in the winter. Europe has shown this to be a mistake, particularly for the Dutch.

The Europeans were thrown out of Africa, and many were killed. What has changed that you think Africa is in our national interest, beyound your concern to see businessmen make profits.

The world is changing so fast that areas such as Africa will only fall further behind, their people will become more angry at anyone who goes in to exploit their oil properties and it is more likely that it would present a dangerous area for the U. S. and probably only lead to another quagmire.

I still don't see any redeeming value in Africa for the U. S. to get involved at this time. Democrats have long failed to recognize the problems in Africa even thought they were more serious and dangerous in the past when millions were dying. As they say "the UN in and the U. S. stays out", certainly a position supported by may Americans.


Jonathan Dresner - 11/25/2003

It seems to me that there is a short term and a long term problem here. In the short term the US needs constructive engagement with Africa, including business and education partnerships, flexibility regarding intellectual property and policy dictates, and a willingness to act -- as we did in Liberia, though much too late -- to support positive political developments. We can do that, pretty easily.

In the long term, those of us who teach World History and International Politics and Global Economics, etc, need to more fully integrate Africa into our concept of how the world works, and give it the prominence it deserves. That's going to be a challenge: I'm an Asianist, and I freely admit that my knowledge of African history and development is sketchy and shallow. What do I need to know that I don't know from the World History surveys and close attention to the news (World Press Review, for example)?

And then there's the historical process. Most of the time, when I do teach Africa in the World survey it is as an example of World Systems Theory in action. Africa is a classic periphery: exporting labor and raw materials, importing advanced goods; weak capital accumulation; shallow educational systems and technology base; formal and informal colonialism and imperialism, including the tribal division-national border disjunction. The implication of this theory is that it is very unlikely that Africa will stop being a periphery anytime soon: is there any scholarship which addresses the process of transition from periphery to primary type regions?


NYGuy - 11/25/2003

The Derek the answer is simple. If the risk is higher than than the reward why do you want to go to Africa for Oil, which would only lead to further cries that Bush is all about oil for his friends.

There are many other more profitable investments around the world with less risk so why do you want to go into Africa. It has no infrastructure, the natives have made it clear they want no part of white people and even less interest in European technology. That is why they chased out the Europeans.

Then why should the U. S. go in and risk the lives of our soldiers and spend billions of dollars on Africa when we have many needs that have to be met for our own people. Charity begins at home.

We already see how skitish the anti-war people are about our losses in Iraw and Afganistan where we and the world have a more immediate and longer term interest.

I admire your concern over Africa, but it seems your words should be aimed at the French, Germans and the UN all of whom exploited Africa. It is these countries and organizations that should be putting up the money and sending in soldiers to achieve the goals you want.

America has already done enough to make the world safe. Let's get the free-loaders to stand up and be counted.


Derek Catsam - 11/25/2003

Where you get the idea that South Africa is "hanging on by a thread" is beyond me. As for the continent being beset with tribalism -- well, that is Colonialism's legacy, where it created most of the idea of tribe and then through indirect rule fostered ethnic rivalries that never existed before. I do not think that problems in Africa are "insuurmountable," as my piece makes clear. Indeed, I would reckon that what tentative propoisals I do make are indicvative of problems that are imminently surmountable. As for your pronouncement from on high that I am fooling myself, and thus you are the font of wisdom on this topic, well, I don't buy it. Only if we choose to consign Africa to failure will it of necessity fail. We have an opportunity now. We ought to act upon it.


David - 11/24/2003


I lived for 4 years in Kenya, a "model" African country. I loved Kenya tremendously. But the problems facing Kenya and Africa generally have nothing to do with Western "attention" or inattention towards Africa.

Despite billions of dollars poured into the continent over the last 50 years, millions of NGO and U.N. development man-hours provided, the continent seems to be going backwards. It has been going backwards since the last colonialists left decades ago. This is a pattern that has been repeated over and over again all over Africa. Now, Zimbabwe is next. And South Africa is barely hanging on by a thread.

The problems in Africa are insurmountable and the result of an unfortunate meeting of history and cultural realities.

Western countries have had hundreds of years to grow into the modern systems they have become. And the Asian nations have had the societal cohesiveness to immitate and adapt.

But in Africa, we have deeply tribal societies which have been dragged kicking and screaming out of the bronze age, completely unsuited to compete in a 21st century, technologically demanding world system. And to make matters worse, these tribal societies are dissected by artificially imposed borders that only exacerbate tribal friction.

I'm not at all optimistic for Africa. God bless you if you are, but you're fooling yourself.


Derek Catsam - 11/24/2003

Gus --
Oil and our need for it is a reality now. It is not obsessing about oil to say that it is and will remain a cricial commodity for the foreseeable future. I am all about developing alternative sources of energy. I am all about developing as many as possible. But that does not change the reality that in most of the Northern United States we need oil to heat our homes now. My supermarket is not stocked by covered wagons. It is stocked by trucks. My university students do not arrive on campus by rickshaw -- oddly enough not even the most sanctmonious of the environmentalists -- they arrive by car. I am more than happy to develop alternative sources of fuel and energy and welcome any conversation about doing so. But there is a time between now and when that goal will come to fruition where it is hardly retrograde to say that oil is an important resource now, and if we can find a way to access it that removes our reliance on the Middle East and that might help Africa, well, in the words of Bugs Bunny, "what's all the hubbub, bub?"
dc


Derek Catsam - 11/24/2003

What a curious and vaguely racist (inasmuch as the assertion seems to run that defeating Smith's Rhodesia was a bad thing)diatribe this is. How my comments that Africans might want to have some say in the policies that impact them translates into any kind of support for Mugabe, tacit or otherwise, is beyond me. Anyone who knows my work and my writing knows that I have been a consistent critic of Mugabe. Actually, wait, anyone who read this piece should be able to glean that -- or is the phrase "megalomaniacal president-for-life Robert Mugabe" who I point out "pillages, destabilizes, and malignly neglects his own country" slightly too subtle for Mr. Lamovsky to grasp? How the one relates to the other is beyond me, unless the argument runs that Africans should have no say in the policies that effect them, which at best smacks of neocolonialism.
As for Mugabe v. Smith, well, there was a point at which Mugabe in fact was good for Zimbabwe. Those days ended well more than a decade ago, but anyone willing to acknowledge the idea of change over time that is at the heart of the historian's endeavor would recognize that the problem is the presidency for life aspect of Mugabe as much as anything.
As for intervention, again, I think Mr. Lamovsky did not actually read my piece. Or else he does not think that oil and terrorism are things that might be of some moment to Americans.
Apparently Mr. lamovsky thinks bringing down the Smith government was a bad thing. I can't help but also note that it was American liberals and progressives who were essential to our (too slow) opposition to apartheid. I welcome Mr. Lamovsky's defense of the Botha regime, because I am sure he has it in him.


Gus Moner - 11/24/2003

The commentator says that it’s OK to do business there and get just rewards for the investment. He believes the US ought not to become busy-bodies there. Unfortunately, unlike the remaining capitalist states on Earth, the US has chosen to do business with the perennial threat of the barrel of the gun wherever its capital has planted roots. This is not “socialist academics living and working in the socialist enclaves called universities” but rather real-politick. Nation after nation does business round the world without needing to protect their investments with smart bombs and missiles.

I understand the need to develop Africa’s economies to provide for their people, in general terms, not as the author proposed in the details but rather in the author’s general concept. I support programmes to improve the health and well being of people there as well, for anything done to make people live better and remain engaged in their nations reduces dangerous migrations, conflict and terrorism’s allure.

Apart from strategic considerations, Europeans carved up that continent and laid the foundations for its miserable state today. Their historical burden and responsibility ought to make them the prime players there. I say this without absolving the bloody and blood curdling satraps and savages who plunder their lands and kill people as if it meant nothing. Indeed much needs to improve in the woebegone and AIDS ravaged continent. The people in general, caught between dying cultures and ways of life and insufficient alternatives, are reacting with violence and fear.

In the end, what I cannot reconcile is that if the US is committed, as Pres. Bush stated in his last state of the Union address, to ‘having a child born today drive a hydrogen energy powered car when he or she get their first car’, presumably in some 16-18 years, we are still devoting so very much effort and so many, many resources to traditional petroleum prospecting, extracting and transporting. It is an enormously polluting and costly way to power our planet at once marries and dooms Africans to this nefarious industry, supposedly on its way out. It just begs the question, why the continuing obsession with oil?

If we were really committed to this change, which I believe to be essential, we’d be pouring money into developing this promising new energy source the way we did the National Highways in the 50’s and the space and technology races that followed; in the process we would be weaning ourselves from this noxious fuel. One can only assume the government is but paying lip service to this energy source, as a bone to the environmentalists, while all the public and private money keeps plumping hundreds of thousands of millions into more drilling, pollution, pipelines, and of course profits for the big conglomerates so well represented in government. Is this to be our brave new world?


Jesse Lamovsky - 11/24/2003

This piece is a good example of the no-win situation American policymakers face in dealing with the world.

When the United States chooses to intervene in a foreign conflict, prop up certain governments, allow American energy companies to develop natural resources in places like Africa and the Middle East, leftists accuse the government of "neo-colonialism" and of "exploiting" the native peoples. Yet when the U.S. is prudent and stays out of the affairs of other countries, as it has, for the most part, done in Africa, the government is accused of being callous and not "doing enough" to alleviate the sufferings of the native people. How can we win here? And what are the limits of American power anyway? Really, how much can we do for the African people that will lift them out of their benighted state?

And what does this comment mean:

"They want American know-how and the dollars that come with it to fight AIDS, for example, but they want an acknowledgment that on the ground, there might be feasible solutions that, while impractical or undesirable in Boston, may be necessary and proper in Bulawayo."

Seems that Mr. Catsam is giving a tacit endorsement of Mugabe's farm-confiscation policies, which have devastated the agricultural economy of what was formerly Southern Africa's breadbasket. White farmers have been thrown off their land and murdered; their black employees have been subjected to the same treatment; millions in Southern Africa are threatened with starvation because of these policies. Mugabe isn't distributing the land to black farmers; he's simply parceling the booty out to his cronies, backed up by gangs of thugs that style themselves "war veterans". Does Mr. Catsam at least tacitly support Mugabe's policies? After all, it's all in the service of two of the more cherished ideals of the left: "land reform" and "redressing the injustices of colonialism". Never mind how many people suffer today; those are just eggs that need to be broken to make the great utopian omelet.

It was American and European liberals, acting as "partners" and "kind and trusted allies" to Africans, that took down Ian Smith's regime in Rhodesia (where if blacks couldn't vote, they could at least eat), and helped hand that country over to Mugabe (where blacks can vote- meaninglessly- but now don't eat). Progressives have done enough good in Africa, thank you very much. Meddling by any other name ("humanitarianism") is still meddling. Less meddling is what the American people, and the people of the world, deserve from the American government. Let the Africans solve their own problems, and let's keep our money in the pockets of those who earn it- the American people.





Derek Catsam - 11/24/2003

I am not certain where I say we should be busybodies. Indeed, I would assert that if you actually read what I wrote, as opposed to respond to what you think I wrote, you'd see that I say, if not quite the opposite, at least something quite different. What I in fact say is that in addition to a wiser Africa policy being the right thing, we also have critical self-interest in doing the right thing because if we do not it might have deleterious effects in terms of both access to resources we find to be vital as well as in dealing with terrorism. I assure you that Africa is fertile ground for future terrorism, both from radical islamists bt also potentially from elsewhere.

And sure, you can dismiss me as an academic, but of course that is irrelevent -- everyone has some job, presumably. I'm not sure that being a lawyer, for example, with no professional background in Africa would give me greater credence than being a teacher and scholar and writer with substantial background in Africa. I have lived and worked in Africa, and to deny the destabilizing effects of American policy is not to deny African complicity. This is not a zero-sum game, and it strikes me as shortsighted and foolish to pose the situation as such. My piece was not part of some blame game; it was rather an attempt to point out that our tendency to overlook Africa can have negative consequences and that we need to start rethinking policy. It is a shame that Mr. Livingston had to post a knee-jerk response to something other than my piece, because what he criticized bears little relationship to what I actually wrote. If he wants to deny ANY American and especially European complicity in Africa, he can do so. But thaqt would be brazenly to ignore history, to ignore facts, to ignore reality, and to ignore moral responsibility.


Dave Livingston - 11/24/2003

It is easy for an academic to say we must do this & that to assist Africa, but the primary responsibility for what occurs on the continent, even the crazies like Mugabe & the Communist Mandela, lies in the hands of the Africans themselves.

Should we become the busy-bodies that Professor Catsam suggests, we'll be caught in the usual dilema of dealing with African states: if we don't get get involved we are accused of being callous. If we do get involved we need to be careful that we don't give the Left the excuse we are seeking to dominant Africa in our own interest. But we do have financial interests here & there in Africa. So what is wrong with that, our investing there and receiving the normal rewards of investment, a return on one's investment and a return of one's invested capital? Only academics living and working in the socialist enclaves called universities in the U.S., some of their Leftist fellow travlers and maniacs like Mugabe would object to the normal functioning of free, albeit frequently regulated to a degree,trade.

D.L.
Volunteer, U.S. Peace Corps, Liberia, 1962-4

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