Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Nigerian Writer Hopes For Dem POTUS

Why is Nigerian writer Dele Sobowale praying for a Democrat to take the White House in 2008? He's looking to history to explain his case to us:

According to P.J Crowley, a military and national security aide under President Clinton: “Ironically, we went into Viet Nam to fight one war, the Cold War, and found ourselves in the middle of a struggle over nationalism…And we are seeing the same thing in Iraq. We may have well thought we were going into Iraq as part of the war on terror, but now we find ourselves in the middle of a civil war”.

More unfortunately for Bush and for Africa, history is again not on his side. ‘The average civil war since 1945 has lasted 10 years, and the median (or typical) one has lasted seven years” according to Sebastain Mallaby of the Washington Post. This civil war has just got underway, so in all probability it will outlast Bush who has only two years to go. The level of violence will also escalate pointing increasingly to the failure of America policy.

The end of the Korean War and the partial humiliation of the U.S, which still re-echoes in North Korea’s obstinacy on nuclear arms, led to the victory of the Republicans, led by General Eisenhower in 1952. It also coincided with isolationism and protectionism as U.S policies. Africa, which had always assumed peripheral importance in U.S foreign policy became even less of a focus of attention. Unless history does not repeat itself isolationism and protectionism will remain the first option of the U.S after this imminent humiliation.

The 1960 electoral victory of the Democrats, led by John Kennedy, brought Africa more into the focus of American policymakers. It was under Kennedy, that the Peace Corps was established as well as the African American Institute. The African American Institute in turn operated the ASPAU and AFGRAD scholarship programmes which enabled several hundred of the cream of English speaking students to study in America. [..] [There] were among hundreds of Nigerians, professors of professors, who were among those who benefited from the Democratic Party administration’s pro-African policies which started in 1960 and ended in 1968.

Because ASPAU/AFRGRAD scholarships were perhaps the greatest contribution of the Kennedy/Johnson, Democratic Administration to Nigeria and Africa, it has set the pattern for judging what to expect from any American government – Republican or Democratic.
President Kennedy was assassinated but his vision for Africa and Nigeria continued under the Lydon Johnson administration’s Great Society Programme. The reversal came when President Nixon, a Republican, was elected in 1968. Then concern for Africa again took the back seat. Nixon resigned when faced with imminent impeachment on account of the Watergate scandal and his successor, President Gerald Ford, lost to Jimmy Carter. Under Carter, another Democrat, African concerns again experienced a revival and till today, Carter still maintains his links to Africa.

Carter lost the next election to Reagan, another Republican, and Africa again receded among foreign policy interests of the Americans for twelve years because George Bush I, one more Republican, succeeded Reagan. Four years after the Democrats were back in the White House when Bill Clinton won the election.
And for eight years African again received favourable attention until 2000 when George Bush II, the current Republican in the White House, mounted the saddle. Since then Africa has again become a fringe issue for the American government. Bush still has two years to go. Despite the victory of the Democrats in the mid-term elections, the prospects for Africa are not very bright. In fact, more than at any other time, the U.S will focus on Iraq (especially how to retreat from the quagmire), the Middle East and Korea. The tough talk notwithstanding, the U.S will not immediately go to war, either against Iran or North Korea given the debacle in Iraq.

Retreat itself is a costly exercise both financially and in terms of national prestige. While the U.S is trying to figure out what to do next in and about the misadventure in Iraq, there will be no change of policy regarding Africa. Thus, even if Sudan disintegrates further and Somalia remains a failed state, the U.S will stand aloof.

Nigeria has a stake in this. If politicians fail to manage the 2007 elections and allow it to degenerate into civil war or widespread unrest, the last country to come to the rescue is the United States of America. Clearly, the mid-term, elections by themselves will not translate into a pro-Africa or pro-Nigeria policy change by the U.S government. Africa and Nigeria must hope that the presidential elections of 2008 will produce another Democratic Party victory. They have always been our friends

Full text at Vanguard Online