February 21, 2008


How Bush's Africa visit trumps China's foray (Howard W. French, February 21, 2008, NY Times)

Something powerful happened on President George W. Bush's way to Africa.

Listening to Bush's statements in appearance after appearance, one gets the impression of a major diplomatic shift. It is as if a switch had been flipped, relegating the ever-present war on terror to the background and emphasizing classical, uplifting themes with roots in the U.S. Great Society era of the 1960s.

There was the president, speaking forcefully in Tanzania about long-held American values; not just freedom as an obligatory throw away line, but of democracy in terms of good governance, and of the importance of heeding the people and serving their needs.

"I'll put it bluntly - America doesn't want to spend money on people who steal the money from the people," Bush said, addressing the news media together with his Tanzanian counterpart, Jakaya Kikwete.

"We like dealing with honest people and compassionate people," he added. "We want our money to go to help the human condition and to live human lives." [...]

Beyond the words and the cash, the very logic of Bush's itinerary is illuminating. In six days, in addition to Tanzania, he is visiting Benin, Ghana, and Liberia, all of which are small democracies, and post-genocide Rwanda, which although not democratic, has established a reputation for clean, effective government.

The symbolism was strengthened by the fact that none of Bush's stops are in Africa's emerging natural resource powerhouses: important yet highly corrupt places like Nigeria, Angola and Congo, to name three of the biggest, which either lack democracy altogether, or have recently suffered erosion in their democratic credentials.

Although Bush cannot fairly be said to have only now "discovered" Africa, this trip - from its itinerary to its rhetoric - shows that America is serious about reasserting its interest in the continent.

...the press doesn't pay attention to what W's been doing and then when they discover it they mistake their discovery for changes in his policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 21, 2008 8:27 AM

To a lib, any logic is illuminating.

Posted by: erp at February 21, 2008 10:35 AM