Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Recolonizing the Bottom Billion

Some years ago while reading Paul Collier's book on third world poverty titled The Bottom Billion I was surprised to see his suggestion that perhaps the only way to save the state basketcases in Africa and Haiti is to, in effect, return to colonialism. That's not how he put it, exactly, but he essentially called for managing the economies of these nations and being willing to intervene militarily in their domestic affairs. It was a particularly surprising proposal given that Collier has a reputation as a liberal and liberals tend to abhor not only colonialist policies but also the suggestion that blacks cannot manage their own affairs and that they need white supervision.

Even so, many of those who deeply care about doing something that works to help the people of black Africa and Haiti seem to be increasingly coming around to the view that the only way these dysfunctional states can be saved is for first world nations to pretty much take over their governance.

This, at any rate, is the gravamen of Hannes Wessels' essay at Taki's Magazine. Wessels writes:
In his book The Trouble With Africa, Robert Calderisi recounts the sad story of two African teenagers who stowed away in the cargo hold of a Brussels-bound Airbus. They died on the journey from asphyxiation and cold. One of them was still clutching a crumpled note that lamented their misery while petitioning Europe:
Therefore, we African children and youth are asking you to set up an efficient organisation to help with the development of Africa. Thus, if we are sacrificing ourselves and putting our lives in jeopardy it is because we are suffering too much in Africa and we need your help to fight against poverty and bring war to an end in Africa.
The left-of-center British monthly Prospect has also ventured out of comfortable territory with an intriguing article by Paul Romer on “charter cities.” He makes a strong case for the construction of metropolitan areas under a charter granted to a foreign entity. Using Hong Kong as an example, he argues in favor of importing experts to Africa who know how to create the conditions needed for economic prosperity.

He argues that hundreds of billions in foreign aid have already been squandered and proposes that future financial flows to Africa should be channeled into schemes which will provide engines for economic growth. “The answer to Africa’s gloom is obvious: Reinstate the rule of law through intervention that leads to effective governance.”

Both The Trouble With Africa and Paul Romer’s article appear to call for a form of neo-colonialism. A relentless flow of empirical evidence from Harare to Haiti and from Dakar to Detroit shows that “black”-dominated administrations follow a familiar path. They destroy established structures, leading to degradation, ruin, and chaos.

In South Africa the Western Cape Province (which includes Cape Town) is one of precious few highly developed, heavily populated areas on the continent where there is a semblance of order, where services are provided and the rule of law is enforced. It is also the continent’s last white-led political entity of any significance. The Provincial Administration is led by the formidable Helen Zille of the Democratic Alliance, who is setting an embarrassing example of good governance for the ANC, which rules all the other eight provinces with varying degrees of incompetence and dishonesty. Mrs. Zille recently attracted furious fire from the media and the ANC leadership for referring to people streaming west from the atrociously governed Eastern Cape as “refugees.” She was right, but she struck a raw nerve.
There's more at the link. The suggestion that white nations need to rescue those run by blacks by taking them over is a mortal sin in the catechism of the politically correct, but what's the alternative? We can go on pretending that someday those failed states will somehow manage to pull themselves together and that meanwhile we should continue to squander billions of dollars in aid until they do, or we can ignore them altogether and let them go their own way, or we can do something that will actually help them. The latter may require that we set aside our "white guilt" and our fear of being labelled "racist" and recognize that, as Wessels concludes, "unpalatable as it may be, without the intervention of 'white' governance skills, there is little hope for Africa." He may have also said the same about Haiti.

Repeating Rwanda

New York Times writer Nicholas Kristoff is an Obama supporter who's finding it increasingly difficult to suppress his disillusionment with what he sees as Mr. Obama's fecklessness toward both Sudan and Syria. The regimes in both countries are conducting genocidal war against their own people, but the situation in Sudan gets considerably less attention on the evening news than that in Syria.

The government in Khartoum is seeking to exterminate the people of the Nuba Mountains through bombings and deliberate starvation, and the U.S. is apparently doing little to save them and is even discouraging rebel forces from preventing the Sudanese government from bombing their villages.

Kristoff writes:
When a government devours its own people, as in Syria or Sudan, there are never easy solutions. That helps explain President Obama’s dithering, for there are more problems in international relations than solutions, and well-meaning interventions can make a crisis worse.

Yet the president is taking prudence to the point of paralysis. I’m generally an admirer of Obama’s foreign policy, but his policies toward both Syria and Sudan increasingly seem lame, ineffective and contrary to American interests and values.

Obama has shown himself comfortable projecting power — as in his tripling of American troops in Afghanistan. Yet now we have the spectacle of a Nobel Peace Prize winner in effect helping to protect two of the most odious regimes in the world.

Maybe that’s a bit harsh. But days of seeing people bombed and starved here in the Nuba Mountains have left me not only embarrassed by my government’s passivity but outraged by it.

The regime of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is dropping anti-personnel bombs full of ball bearings on farming villages. For one year now, Bashir has sealed off this area in an effort to crush the rebel force, blocking food shipments and emergency aid, so that hundreds of thousands of ordinary Nubans are now living on tree leaves, roots and insects.

What should I tell Amal Tia, who recently lost a daughter, Kushe, to starvation and now fears that she and her four remaining children will starve to death, too? “We’ll just die at home if no food comes,” she told me bleakly.

Perhaps I should tell her that Nuba is an inconvenient tragedy, and that the White House is too concerned with Sudan’s stability to speak up forcefully? Or that Sudan is too geopolitically insignificant for her children’s starvation to matter?

Nothing moved me more than watching a 6-year-old girl, Israh Jibrael, tenderly feed her starving 2-year-old sister, Nada, leaves from a branch. Israh looked hungrily at the leaves herself, and occasionally she took a few. But, mostly, she put them into her weak sister’s mouth. Both children were barefoot, clad in rags, and had hair that was turning brown from malnutrition.

Their mother, Amal Kua, told me that the family hasn’t had regular food since the Sudanese Army attacked their town five months ago. Since then, she said, the family has lived in caves and subsisted on leaves.

Yet the Obama administration’s special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Princeton Lyman, generally a smart and hard-working diplomat, said in a December newspaper interview: “We do not want to see the ouster of the regime, nor regime change.” Huh? This is a regime whose leader has been charged with genocide, has destabilized the region, has sponsored brutal proxy warlords like Joseph Kony, has presided over the deaths of more than 2.5 million people in southern Sudan, in Darfur and in the Nuba Mountains — and the Obama administration doesn’t want him overthrown?

In addition, the administration has consistently tried to restrain the rebel force here, led by Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu, a successful commander who has lived in America and projects moderation. The rebels are itching to seize the South Kordofan state capital, Kadugli, but say that Washington is discouraging them. In an interview in his mountain hide-out, Abdel Aziz noted that his forces have repeatedly been victorious over Sudan’s recently.

“Their army is very weak,” he said. “They have no motivation to fight.” He seemed mystified that American officials try to shield a genocidal government whose army is, he thinks, crumbling.
Kristoff has more to say about what should and could be done at the link. It's fascinating to see liberals who were so outraged that George Bush refused to allow tyranny to prevail in Iraq and Afghanistan now perplexed and dismayed that Obama is doing the same thing in Sudan that Clinton did in Rwanda, i.e. nothing.

He closes with this:
Obama was forceful in demanding that President George W. Bush stand up to Sudan during the slaughter in Darfur, so it’s painful to see him so passive on Sudan today. When governments turn to mass murder, we may have no easy solutions, but we should at least be crystal clear about which side we’re on. That’s not too much to expect of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
I don't know why it'd be "painful." It's not as if in the Sudanese tragedy the pattern of candidate Obama's words being ignored by President Obama is appearing for the first time. One would think that people like Kristoff would be used to it by now.