Monday, May 19, 2008

Darfur v. Zimbabwe: Is U.S. Foreign Policy Just an Elite Plaything?

Darfur v. Zimbabwe: Is U.S. Foreign Policy Just an Elite Plaything?

In my new column, I compare the interest level in two African disasters of equal lack of strategic important to the American national interest:

Obama has, however, done a nimble job of exciting the Stuff White People Like crowd by repeatedly acting as if he cares about Darfur, a god-forsaken expanse of arid grassland just south of the Sahara in western Sudan, where militias backed by the "Arab" central government in Khartoum have been attacking locals.

Darfur has become a cause célèbre among celebrities such as George Clooney and Matt Damon. Obama has been addressing fashionable Darfur rallies and hiring foreign policy advisers, such as Samantha Power, who are passionate about America getting involved in this huge bit of damn-all in the middle of nowhere.

Darfur’s usefulness as a foreign policy issue to Obama and McCain in appealing to the SWPL contingent is it’s utter uselessness—America has no national interest in Darfur whatsoever, so therefore, the thinking goes, we should get involved because it wouldn’t do us any good—thus demonstrating the purity of our intentions.

In contrast, virtually no celebrities have expressed any interest in "raising awareness" about Zimbabwe, a verdant country at a pleasant altitude in southeast Africa. Over the last decade, dictator Robert Mugabe has destroyed the economy and driven his subjects to the brink of starvation. As with Darfur, the U.S. has negligible national interest in Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, in contrast to Darfur, Zimbabwe doesn’t interest the partisans of purity because of the unfortunate details behind why it is now prostrate: In 2000, Mugabe unleashed his goons to beat up and steal the farms of the efficient white farmers who raised most of the food.

Several members of Barack Obama's inner circle of foreign policy advisers are leaders in the movement to demand we do something about Darfur. For example, in a 2006 Washington Post op-ed entitled "We Saved Europeans. Why Not Africans?" ...

Similarly, in an interview entitled "The McCain Doctrines" with Matt Bai in today's New York Times Magazine [May 18, 2008], John McCain volunteers that he's often thought about starting a war with Sudan, if only a way could be found to make it practical:

"I asked McCain if it was true … that he had been brought to a more idealist way of thinking partly by the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica. ‘I think so, I think so,’ he said, nodding. 'And Darfur today. I feel strongly about Darfur, and yet, and this is where the realist side comes in, how do we effectively stop the genocide in Darfur?' He seemed to be genuinely wrestling with the question. 'You know the complications with a place that’s bigger, I guess, than the size of Texas, and it’s hard to know who the Janjaweed is, who are the killers, who are the victims. It’s all jumbled up. … And yet I look at Darfur, and I still look at Rwanda, to some degree, and think, How could we have gone in there and stopped that slaughter?'"

Note that, although McCain likes military adventures, the simpler task of intervening in Zimbabwe to avert famine does not appeal to him at all. While McCain volunteered Darfur, the NYT’s Bai has to bring Zimbabwe up:

"Why then, I asked McCain, shouldn’t we go into Zimbabwe, where, according to that morning’s paper, allies of the despotic president, Robert Mugabe, were rounding up his political opponents and preparing to subvert the results of the country’s recent national election?"

McCain tries to spell it out euphemistically for the journalist why a white President of the United States is not going to depose a black tyrant who wrecked his country by persecuting productive whites:

"'I think in the case of Zimbabwe, it’s because of our history in Africa,' McCain said thoughtfully."

Well, not that thoughtfully—the U.S. doesn't actually have much of a history in Africa.

McCain notices his mistake and tries to make himself clear without actually mentioning the W-word:

"Not so much the United States but the Europeans, the colonialist history in Africa.'"

... What makes Zimbabwe so unsexy compared to Darfur is that in 1965 the British Colonial Office tried to give the colony of Rhodesia to its black majority. But its white population declared independence and for 15 years resisted an international trade embargo, building a substantial manufacturing base. Finally, in 1979, Margaret Thatcher organized the handover of the country to Robert Mugabe.

The new President devoted the next decade to slaughtering his tribal enemies, largely leaving the white farmers alone to feed the country. In 2000, however, Mugabe began to reward his supporters by telling them to drive out the white minority and steal their land. Not surprisingly, his bully boys proved to be worthless farmers and the country has teetered on the brink of starvation ever since. Mugabe's government has responded to the shortages it created by printing money, driving the annual inflation rate up to 165,000% in April 2008.

Similarly, the US and Europe will ignore the disaster in the making in South Africa...the flippancy of our elite and self righteous liberals is astounding - anything that conflicts with ideology goes down the memory hole.

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