February 26, 2003

AFRICAN REALPOLITIK:

Forget the Peace Rhetoric, EA Must Back Bush (Martin Mbugua Kimani, February 25, 200, The East African)
Every Hollywood movie has this scene because it works so well: a child holding a teddy bear is shown in a moment of light-hearted play with no inkling that lurking nearby is a monster/ terrorist/ vampire. It is clear that the child stands for good and that around the corner is an evil that must be opposed.

It is this desire for a dramatic clarity between good and evil that both sides in the debate on Iraq seek to invoke. In the media, the question has been framed in a seemingly simple, logical fashion: Either you are with the Americans who are for war or with France and Germany who are for peace.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. What we are seeing is a referendum on the doctrine of pre-emptive action; how to confront anti-Western states pursuing weapons that threaten a pro-Western status quo and, most importantly for Europe, how to contain US hyperpower. If East Africa is to have a meaningful voice in the debate, we need to consider these questions with our self-interest in mind.

To begin with, it is in our interest to limit the spread of chemical and biological weapons. They are cheap force multipliers and are of greatest effect when used against civilian centres. As the largest economy in the region, it is to our strategic advantage if potential foes have to go to the greater expense of building up a conventional arsenal since we can outspend them. This deters ambitions of challenging us militarily and gives us time to build our nations in peace. (I am not suggesting that we are about to go to war with our neighbours, God forbid, but only by being strong can we ensure our peace.)

What do we want from the world and how does this inform the way we engage with it? To mention just a few: We want unfettered access to prosperous markets for our products, cheap oil since we are importers, regional peace since the alternative disables foreign investment and tourism, and a defeat of the major terrorist networks that have killed so many of us. [...]

Finally, on to the matter of the French who, by threatening to veto a second UN resolution on Iraq have donned superhero-for-peace costumes. Their empathy for the little girl with the doll has not always been in evidence - just think of the long parade of African Big Men they have propped up in the past. I mention this not to demonise a people who make really fine wines, but to illustrate the barrenness of morality plays in international relations.

Now that their influence has been on the wane for a century, the old European powers have learned the benefits of multilateralism; it allows them a chance to roll back American power and remain relevant. In school, we used to call it being taken shiko - when some guy studied all night and yet lied to you, saying that he had been at the Carnivore instead. European support for international law is a cynical play for power in a moral guise, let's recognise it as such.

It is probably a good thing to oppose unilateral American action since it can run amok and increase the global insecurity that is so disadvantageous for us. But in the particular case of Iraq, and the overall fight against terrorism, we need to understand that after September 11, the US will pursue its goal of seeking security with or without European help. By siding strongly with it and not with that large camp of doves, we raise our profile in America. To those willing to go America's way when the rest are headed in the opposite direction comes money - just ask Israel and Egypt.


Good to see a man who knows which side his toast is buttered on. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 26, 2003 11:59 AM
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