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The New Cold War in Africa (and Why the U.S. is Losing it)

By sausalito in Politics
Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 06:12:55 PM EST
Tags: politics, africa, pontificating nullo (all tags)

Following the demise of the USSR in the late eighties, some areas of endemic instability managed to escape the trap of poverty and war. South-East Asian nations like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are now experiencing levels of stability and growth unprecedented since the end of the Second World War. To a smaller extent, Latin America is a much more peaceful and rich than it used to be, too.

For Africa, on the other hand, things did not change much as a new type of Cold War is raging as hard as ever. This time, the focus is on commodities such as oil and chrome, and the protagonists are China and the USA, with the classic players in the area (colonial powers like France and Great Britain, as well as Russia and Cuba) confined to the sidelines.

[Note: This tl;dr story draws heavily from some diaries I posted over the past months, clarified and expanded partly on the back of users feedback. Props to all those who provided it.]

China Moves in: "Need Some Arms, African Friend"?

A few years back, the Chinese government reckoned that economic success could not continue unless the country proved able to increase its international political standing, mainly because of the need to secure raw materials supply contracts to feed to its rapidly expanding industrial sector. Unfortunately, relations with the big Asian players (India, Japan and Russia) were and remain tense: historic rivalries and territorial claims mean that the country is still deeply mistrusted by them.

Given this, starting from around 2005 China decided to focus on Africa, tightening relations with those countries that are shunned by the international community:

  1. It signed a deal with Zimbabwe, receiving chrome in exchange for food and transport infrastructure in June 2006. Other trade pacts followed and now China is probably the closest partner of Zimbabwe, together with South Africa.

  2. In October 2007, following the cancellation of the national debt and other assorted pleasantries aimed at boosting relations, Eritrea granted exploration licences to Chinese firms to look for gold and other minerals.

  3. Starting from 2005, it agreed with Sudan to trade oil against industrial goods and infrastructural projects.

What the official announcements conveniently fail to mention is that the deals entailed large weapons supply contracts from China (see also this article). For example, now Sudan armoured and air force is predominantly Made-in-China (and there are unconfirmed reports of Chinese military personnel being located there for training purposes).

As a matter of fact, I'd say that weapons were the primary reason why these African nations entered into the agreement in the first place. For a pariah nation such as a ruthless dictatorship or a radical Islamic regime, military hardware is the most difficult stuff to get hold of, and at the same time the most vital one (both for internal stabilisation purposes and to fight its neighbours).

This pragmatic and cynical strategy (borderline criminal, if one believes the accusations of wilful flaunting of UN-sanctioned arms embargoes) had a remarkable success, in spite of some embarassments on the public relation front. For example, Steven Spielberg withdrew as artistic adviser for the Beijing games accusing China of not doing enough to pressure Sudan. Earlier on, Reporters Without Frontiers denounced the "toxic influence" of China for African democracies".

Even if PR is certainly serious business (and Beijing is putting a lot of effort into it), I wouldn't overstate the importance of these incidents for a country used to dealing with the bad press stemming from its actions in Tibet and Taiwan. Perhaps more seriously from China's viewpoint, this increasing involvement is starting to generate all sorts of unintended consequences that have destabilised the region over and above the original intent. For example, the latest insurrection by Chad rebels (briefly covered in this diary - the rebels are probably armed by Sudan) threatened PetroChina investments and caused significant nervousness in Beijing (Chad is a recently-acquired China friend, too).

When such crises arose, China proved quite pedestrian in its handling of the situation, probably due to its inexperience in African diplomacy aside of commodity-for-arms deals, as it's clear in the case of Kenya.

Kenya: Not Your Average Fraudulent Election Riots

The recent widespread riots in Kenya have often been reported by international media as a conflict pitting an incumbent president supported by the largest tribe in the country but marred by allegations corruption, favouritism and election rigging versus some other smaller tribes willing to take power (see my previous diary on Kenyan bloggers reporting on it). A missionary that works there offered an alternative interpretation to the audience of a radio show I listened to:

In Kenya, there is a conflict between two major tribes: the American tribe against the Chinese tribe. This spills into a conflict between two political groups, the one headed by [opposition leader Raila] Odinga against the one headed by [incumbent president Mwai] Kibaki.

Indeed there are various clues on the net that Kibaki moved closer to China since his visit to Beijing and Shangai in 2005 that resulted in a number of co-op agreements and later in a joint oil exploration project on Kenya's offshore. These deals had initially slipped under my radar because it does not share the same controversial aspects as many similar deals made by China in Africa: Kenya is not a rogue state and the areas involved are genuinely infrastructure and tourism, not arms (although this might change soon as China has "pledge[d] to help modernise the [Kenya] armed forces.").

Kenya hasn't got the strategic importance in terms of raw materials that Congo or Nigeria have, but it's the most important country in South-East Africa as far as stability and diplomatic ties are concerned. The closer co-operation with China meant an increasing alignment of Kenya with China in terms of international politics at the detriment of the U.S. and EU (e.g. during a China trip in 2006 Kibaki called for the lifting of the arms embargo against Sudan and Somalia)

Following the elections fraud allegedly perpetrated by Kibaki's party and subsequent riots, China came out with a startling reading of the situation in a People's Daily op-ed - the official government newspaper (the link is to an AP wire):

Pre-colonial Africa had plenty of consultative decision-making frameworks, but those were ignored when former European rulers "tyrannically" imposed Western democratic systems upon independence, the People's Daily newspaper said in a commentary Monday.

"Western-style democratic theory simply isn't suited to African conditions, but rather carries with it the root of disaster," said the paper, the official mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist Party.

This rare departure from China's no-interference policy with regards of internal foreign state matters on the day that one of Africa's oldest and most stable democracies was on fire prompted retorts from Western media. Crucially though, it was seized upon by Kibaki critics to denounce the corruption of his administration and the deviousness of his international partners. In a hard-hitting article which caused widespread clamour and was syndicated throughout Africa, New Standard Okech Kendo explained why, in light of the recent events, "China has proved it's not a friend to count on".

Given how spectacularly this display of tactlessness and cynicism backfired on China, it's perhaps not a surprise that the original China Daily article dated January 14 looks like it's been taken offline.

America's response (AFRICOM) is Faltering

Even taking into account of the U.S. support to the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia and the possible political sponsorship of Odinga in Kenya, the U.S. initiatives in the continent have been quite haphazard and reactive, rather than proactive.

Without a unified strategy, the rising influence of China as well as the menace of Islamic extremism were allowed to continue virtually unchallenged. Over the last year the Bush administration seems to have realised the danger and is elaborating a policy response to the situation: a new headquarter command structure for the military tasked specifically with the whole of Africa (Egypt excluded), AFRICOM.

According to the homepage of the organisation:

U.S. Africa Command will better enable the Department of Defense and other elements of the U.S. government to work in concert and with partners to achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place. U.S. Africa Command is consolidating the efforts of three existing headquarters commands into one that is focused solely on Africa and helping to coordinate U.S. government contributions on the continent.

This vague diplomatic-speak is not of much help in understanding the organisation unless we compare its statements with an extensive coverage of U.S. strategic thinking in Africa leading to AFRICOM. According to it, the U.S. wants to provide to its allies (along with development aid, bizarrely managed directly by the military) logistics, training and the service of advanced arms systems (such as air superiority fighter planes, attack helos and satellite imagery) while friendly troops fight on the ground. The U.S. hopes in this way to avoid taking casualties or handing sophisticated hardware into wrong hands, while maintaining effective control over the operations.

Advancing the project and gathering support among African leaders was one of the most important diplomatic objectives of the recent Africa trip (a BBC interview on this trip was covered critically by heathlander). The main selling point for co-operation this time around was a multi-billion health and development aid package.

Even with this sweetener, though, the result of the trip has been a disappointment: only one country (Liberia) has accepted to have AFRICOM structures on its soil, while several nations (including supposed allies like South Africa) have spoken against it and did not change their stance following the trip. The Bush administration, to avoid admitting defeat, was forced to backtrack and say that currently there are no plans to open bases in the continent. But if this is the case, is AFRICOM a command structure based in Germany, and with nothing to command on?

A think-tank lists two main reasons for the lack of appeal of AFRICOM on African leaders:

  1. U.S. officials have painted a confusing picture of an organization that seemingly plans to mix economic development and governance promotion activities [...] with military activities. Africans, given the history of military coups that once plagued the continent, tend to regard this militarization of civilian space with great misgivings. [...] Had AFRICOM backers in Washington restricted the new command's agenda to counter-terrorism, the training of African military forces, military intervention for humanitarian purposes, the protection of oil and other energy sources and related strategic matters, their arguments would have been regarded as more credible.

  2. U.S. officials claim that AFRICOM will help improve transparency and strengthen democracy in Africa, but African analysts and policy makers point out that in Africa today there is little or no transparency in discussions of AFRICOM or of U.S. military relations with African states generally. They note that while AFRICOM has been debated extensively in the U.S. Congress, it has not been freely and openly discussed by the legislatures of the African states, even in countries that have been mentioned as possible sites for AFRICOM's headquarters.

I would add that the reputation the U.S. earned following the Iraq invasion did not help, either. Ultimately, though, the idea of having to ask all the time for some military help, which might or might not come depending on the mood and interests of the U.S., is clearly a second-best to having relatively modern Made-in-China equipment at one's disposal.

Compare that with what was offered to Western European countries after the end of the Second World war: aid (the Marshall plan) and a co-operation framework for military action (NATO). Now, if the U.S. does not trust African allies with letting them have a say on how its military equipment is going to be used, it can not expect the Africans to trust the U.S.

As AFRICOM stalls, China is laughing all the way to the oil well.


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Related Links
o deal with Zimbabwe, receiving chrome in exchange for food and transport infrastructure in June 2006
o Eritrea granted exploration licences to Chinese firms to look for gold
o agreed with Sudan to trade oil against industrial goods and infrastructural projects
o large weapons supply contracts from China
o this article
o Sudan armoured and air force is predominantly Made-in-China
o Steven Spielberg withdrew as artistic adviser for the Beijing games accusing China
o Reporters Without Frontiers denounced the "toxic influence" of China
o a lot of effort into it
o diary
o Chad is a recently-acquired China friend
o diary on Kenyan bloggers reporting on it
o visit to Beijing and Shangai in 2005
o co-op agreements
o joint oil exploration project
o pledge[d] to help modernise the [Kenya] armed forces
o Kibaki called for the lifting of the arms embargo against Sudan and Somalia
o a People's Daily op-ed
o retorts from Western media
o "China has proved it's not a friend to count on"
o invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia
o extensive coverage of U.S. strategic thinking in Africa
o covered critically by heathlander
o multi-bill ion health and development aid package
o several nations
o allies like South Africa
o no plans to open bases in the continent
o two main reasons for the lack of appeal of AFRICOM
o Also by sausalito

Display: Sort:
The New Cold War in Africa (and Why the U.S. is Losing it) | 73 comments (32 topical, 41 editorial, 2 hidden)
Haven't you vastly oversimplified the Kenyan (2.00 / 2) (#3)
by xC0000005 on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 04:16:26 PM EST

situation? Kenya is also about class rather than tribe. The Luo and Kikuyu conflict is as much about the ownership of farmland as pure tribal conflict.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
No I just looked at one particular aspect of (2.00 / 2) (#4)
by sausalito on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 04:22:29 PM EST

the Kenyan crisis, i.e. the international policy angle. The story is not about Kenya per se.

GBH - "The whole point is that the App Store acts as a firewall between busy soccer moms and goatse links"
[ Parent ]

Why Do You Hate Capitalism? $ (2.75 / 4) (#9)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 06:27:58 PM EST

Looking for some free songs?

I love capitalism - hell I am a capitalist (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by sausalito on Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 06:54:18 PM EST

(in the sense that I handle capital, sadly don't own it)

GBH - "The whole point is that the App Store acts as a firewall between busy soccer moms and goatse links"
[ Parent ]

(then you're a prole like the rest of us) nt. (none / 1) (#60)
by spooked on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 08:12:36 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Cold War analogy is false (2.00 / 2) (#19)
by N0574 on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 01:15:30 AM EST

but I like the article. I realize you're trying to make this seem relevant to USian interests, but this is really about China in Africa and has little to do with the US--which, in fact, as you point out, doesn't really give a damn about Africa...AFRICOM is a little conciliation to show we are interested/concerned but in fact we aren't. If there really is a Cold War-like struggle btwn China/US going on there, I'd like to see evidence of it--as it is, I just see the US saying "okay, you chinks go for it but we're going to keep some troops on the sidelines."

Hardly a Cuban Missile Crisis...In fact, in many instances I think the US is glad the Chinese are there, as they present an alternative to terrorist funding. (Plus, lol @ PLA weaponry!) Let's face it--there's no chance in hell the US is going to war with China over Africa. Over Taiwan or Japan or even Cuba, sure, but not the fucking Sudan...

Basically, I think analogies with the Cold War are bogus whenever Africa is mentioned, as there is very little combustible ideological strife or difference dividing China/US policy over teh region--and the stakes just aren't that high at the moment. Courting African countries like Chad and Liberia away from Taiwan recognition is an issue in some cases though, but you don't mention that in article. Shrinking list of African countries recognizing Taiwan:

- Gambia
- Malawi
- Swaziland
- Burkina Faso
- Sao Tome/Principe

Sadly, (2.50 / 4) (#20)
by Psycho Dave on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 05:34:55 AM EST

I think this country would likely fold over and let China have Taiwan if the effort involved more than a token military effort. Sure, our navy and air force are still superior, but that is changing quickly. It would still be a bloodbath to defend that island, and besides, the US has the "two countries but not really" loophole that forty-years worth of politicians have been able to worm their way through.

America would be way more freaked out if say, Egypt tried to invade Israel again than whether China takes back Taiwan. To them, Formosa is just the name of the delivery place that's already left four menus on your porch this month. At least they all come with a coupon for four free crab cheese wontons.

[ Parent ]

Japan would insist. (2.33 / 3) (#57)
by BJH on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 06:44:44 AM EST

Remember Okinawa, the piece of land in the western Pacific where the US keeps a fair chunk of its military?

Guess what stands between China and Okinawa.
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

and they have leverage (2.00 / 2) (#68)
by khallow on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 04:34:52 PM EST

Japan has some of the best leverage in the world too. Either the US puts out, or Japan remilitarizes, including nuclear weapons.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

"at the moment" is the keyword (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by sausalito on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 11:50:04 AM EST

Things started moving in 2005, which is not historically speaking a long time ago.

All the blocks are falling in place though, with the continent being yet again carved up in two superpower spheres of influence. The fact that there is no ideological divide does not really matter as ideology follows economic interest most of the times (just look at the disappeared China Daily article: that was a good attempt at building an ideologic difference between China and the USA).

So far, very little confrontation is taking place, but this might change if China will hit where it hurts (e.g. Nigeria or to a lesser extent Congo) or if the raw material crunch gets worse.

USA neglect of Africa is mainly due to its efforts to fix that mess it created in the Middle East, no so much willingness to let Africa slip from under its control. In fact, I disagree with your premise that the US sees China as containment of the radical Islamic regimes. Actually, Islamic movements are being strenghtened by China with weapons and other goodies, producing further chaos - just look at Somalia.

GBH - "The whole point is that the App Store acts as a firewall between busy soccer moms and goatse links"
[ Parent ]

PS lol at Taiwan's "allies" (none / 1) (#29)
by sausalito on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 12:09:31 PM EST

what a rag-tag bunch of micro-nations. The "Chad" link discusses the Taiwan affair a little.

GBH - "The whole point is that the App Store acts as a firewall between busy soccer moms and goatse links"
[ Parent ]

Good article (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by bodza on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 05:43:39 AM EST

You might want to reference China's stated aims for their involvement.

And as someone who has spent a lot of time in Africa, a large part of the "hearts and minds" battle has been fought with radio, with most African countries having several Chinese radio stations, often broadcasting in regions that have previously not had radio, and in the local dialect. Anyone who has studied the Rwandan genocide will know the power of radio in Africa.

And while China's actions are clearly self-interested, in my experience they have been more effective than Western attempts at infrastructure development, primarily because China is prepared to use local expertise and local labour to get the job done. No thousand dollar hammers so to speak.
"Civilization will not attain to its perfection until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest." - Émile Zola

Damn I wanted to include the link (none / 1) (#38)
by sausalito on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 05:54:50 PM EST

but the story went to vote rather quickly - I wonder if some queuetard moved it to vote. Perhaps I'll mail rusty with an updated version.

GBH - "The whole point is that the App Store acts as a firewall between busy soccer moms and goatse links"
[ Parent ]

That's because the Chinese don't fuck around. (2.50 / 4) (#22)
by Psycho Dave on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 05:50:32 AM EST

When America makes an alliance towards a country, it comes either as a handout or with so many strings attached like they have to accept funds from the World Bank and privatize their economy. The Chinese, of course, want something for themselves out of these deals and are likely exploiting the places too, but their way of getting it is so much less labrinyth than ours.

It's like how we try to combat AIDS on that continent with "abstinence only" sex-education. You wanna end AIDS there? Give every African one free grocery bag full of condoms per year and rip the patents off the protease inhibitor cocktails that have made AIDS patients in the West be able to live their normal lifespan and suppresses the spread of the virus. Or, and here's the scenario that's more likely to happen, allow the drug companies to create a generic version of those drugs that can be sold at a price that an average African can afford. Not only would that slow down AIDS signifigantly, it would also give the added gift of a lucrative black market to the Africans as they sell their discounted HIV drugs back to us in the West, since I'm sure they'd just raise the price on us.

So true (1.50 / 2) (#25)
by sausalito on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 11:35:12 AM EST

I didn't mention it, but the anti-malaria anti-aids aid is tied to the acceptance of pharma patents.

GBH - "The whole point is that the App Store acts as a firewall between busy soccer moms and goatse links"
[ Parent ]

All fun+games till someone loses an immune system (1.50 / 2) (#73)
by fyngyrz on Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 09:22:26 PM EST

...rip the patents off the protease inhibitor cocktails...

Yeah, that sounds fine, doesn't it? Until some other horrible disease pokes its head up and the drug companies go "yeah, we could work on a solution to that, but remember what happened with the protease inhibitor cocktails... Better we stick to improving the trade secrets behind our current drugs so we can achieve sufficient ROI for our investors."

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

'new Cold War' has been beaten to death. (3.00 / 3) (#23)
by chlorus on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 08:59:25 AM EST

every time that Russia does something that could possibly be construed as less than friendly to US or Western interests, at least half a dozen publications come out with "THE NEW COLD WAR!!!!!" on their covers. i see much the same in talk about China, which is even more ludicrous given that we're not exactly busy fighting proxy wars against each other and basing nuclear missiles on their borders.

you might as well start calling hu jintao the new adolf hitler since you're going for broke.

"I always enter a thread butt naked." -

The USian are obsessed with the Cuban (2.66 / 3) (#27)
by sausalito on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 11:57:33 AM EST

crisis because that was the only CW thing they experienced directly. In reality, the CW was mostly a low intensity friction along the faultlines of the superpower spheres of influence, with direct confrontation (Cuba, Vietnam, perhaps Angola) being the exception rather than the rule (which was war by proxy) - see my reply to N0574 for more details.

As for Russia, the current hard-man posturing is fooling no-one. It's just done for domestic consumption, with no real consequence outside of Europe. The Red Army is as crap and demoralised as ever, while the current regime is just a kleptocracy with governement officials hellbent at making as much money as possible. Hardly a menace to anyone. So any CW comparison with regards to Russia is indeed without foundation.

GBH - "The whole point is that the App Store acts as a firewall between busy soccer moms and goatse links"
[ Parent ]

Disembarking at Duvalier airport (2.00 / 2) (#24)
by rpresser on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 11:26:37 AM EST

Seeking transportation to town
As the purple ink dried on his passport
He could still feel the eyes look around

Monsieur, où est le casino?
Spoke to the cabbie and smiled.
Driver replied vieux ou noveaux?
As he motioned the dark man inside

Business in Aruba concluded
He now had a little money to spend
That's how I came to meet my African friend

We were rolling the bones several hours,
Conversing as most gamblers do
We were calling on all of our powers
Hoping to see the night through

But not approving at all of our winnings
Pit boss he tugged at his sleeve
Through the whole thing my new friend was grinning
When he motioned "It's time we should leave"

With our night at the tables behind us
We were ready just to do it again
That's when I came to know my African friend

But I woke up on the steps of a whorehouse
Soldier told me I'd better leave
As I stumbled to find me a taxi
I saw a note pinned to my sleeve

"It was a pleasure and a hell of an evening!
Truly was our night to win,
But the authorities insist on my leaving.
Take care my American friend!"

With my weekend at Haiti concluded
I now had a little money to spend
That's when I came to meet my African friend
That's how I came to know another good friend
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty

have you read Graham Greene's The Comedians? (none / 1) (#64)
by The Hanged Man on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 02:25:48 AM EST

It is on the matter of Papa Doc's insane regime, and quite a good read. Despite the title, it is rather not funny, however.


Dificile est saturam non scribere - Juvenal
[ Parent ]
No, I haven't. (none / 1) (#72)
by rpresser on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 05:16:49 PM EST

Doesn't sound like it has much to do with Jimmy Buffett, but sounds interesting anyway. Thanks for the suggestion.
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
well yeah (none / 1) (#32)
by circletimessquare on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 12:43:03 PM EST

the usa has strings attached, china has none

but there is already resentment in africa. for example, china imports all chinese workers for chinese projects, causing the locals and the politicians to resent and to understand that china's no strings attached policy actually has plenty of strings attached of a different, unwritten nature

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

no-one cares about Africa (2.25 / 4) (#33)
by GhostOfTiber on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 02:56:34 PM EST

Including China, who is treating Africa like that fat girl you know when you haven't been laid in awhile. If there were significant amounts of oil in Africa, the Middle East wouldn't be so hostly contested.

I don't know where you're getting "cold war" from. As much as I don't really like China because they're not America, both the Chinese and American economies are inexorably linked so long as we've got money and they've got pockets. They may fuck around, but they're not going to fuck us.

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne

There is a lot of oil in Africa (none / 1) (#34)
by sausalito on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 03:13:23 PM EST

and a lot more non-oil commodities like diamonds, gold, uranium, cobalt, zinc, chrome etc etc.

GBH - "The whole point is that the App Store acts as a firewall between busy soccer moms and goatse links"
[ Parent ]

colloidal silver? (none / 1) (#35)
by GhostOfTiber on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 03:24:02 PM EST

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne
[ Parent ]

China sold Sudan $55 mill. worth of machine guns (none / 1) (#61)
by N0574 on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 09:51:14 PM EST

= 90% of their machine guns. report here

In theory there is a arms embargo against (none / 1) (#62)
by sausalito on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 10:01:09 PM EST

Sudan... I wonder how they are getting away with such blatantly illegal actions. Bah.

GBH - "The whole point is that the App Store acts as a firewall between busy soccer moms and goatse links"
[ Parent ]

this is a great article (none / 1) (#63)
by mybostinks on Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 10:23:59 PM EST

and a nice follow up would be an article on chattel slavery in Africa.

The chrome gap is widening? (none / 1) (#69)
by nailgun on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 08:29:03 PM EST

Oh crap, we're screwed now.

Part of the problem (2.50 / 2) (#70)
by jd on Sat Mar 15, 2008 at 09:01:59 PM EST

Is that America, Africa, China and (right now) Russia will not accept and acknowledge past errors. They don't make an effort to learn from mistakes and successes. Hell, the Pentagon only just declassified a few hours of the many hundreds they have of accounts of the My Lai massacre.

How can a nation (rather than a few senior officials) learn from something they know almost nothing about? How can Americans sensibly respond to massacres elsewhere (such as in Darfur) if they don't understand how or why they take place in general? How can you comprehend anarchies such as Somalia if the examples of anarchy we have the best data on and the best understanding of are kept secret?

Yes, the strings are a problem. Yes, the religious fundamentalism in America is a problem. Yes, cold-war-like attitudes in many countries are a problem. Solving one aspect won't eliminate the others. But not solving any one aspect makes a genuine solution impossible. It only takes one psychological barrier to obstruct progress.

Any solution, though, MUST be independent of the actions of any other nation, and MUST be so overwhelmingly successful that the responses of other nations won't matter, but that leaves open the question of what success is.

I would define success as any solution that benefits both individuals and nations (in the abstract) and does the least harm.

If a dictator loses any amount of power, it obviously harms the dictator - at least in the short-term - so it's impossible to talk of zero harm. But any harm at all will worsen things in the longer-term, and success now at the cost of a crisis later is no success at all. The level of worsening, therefore, has to be kept as low as absolutely possible.

The situation in the former Yugoslavia, for example, is entirely a consequence of repeated failures to consider the long-term by politicians who wanted quick-fixes. But, to be fair, slow fixes might have caused even worse long-term consequences. However, that wasn't a part of the consideration. Today, it needs to be.

Summary: Minimise harm now, maximise benefits AND minimise harm long-term, against any defense.

Africa this, Africa that (1.50 / 2) (#71)
by google on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:14:24 AM EST

Maybe you can start naming the African countries instead of throwing around 'Africa' this and 'Africa' that.

Otherwise, good article.

The New Cold War in Africa (and Why the U.S. is Losing it) | 73 comments (32 topical, 41 editorial, 2 hidden)
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