February 18, 2008

The actions NOT taken were the policy...

Jim Miller writes on the Africa policies of Clinton and Bush. Guess who I think history will consider a great president. For this and a lonnng list of other reasons...

...The actions taken not taken in Rwanda were the Clinton administration's important African policy. Besides that, he did little, other than to continue the policies of previous administration. Africa did not much interest either of his secretaries of state, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright.

In contrast to Clinton, George W. Bush had promised a less activist foreign policy during his initial campaign for office. There were some exceptions. From the beginning, he backed Colin Powell's successful efforts to end the civil war in the southern Sudan, a war that had gone on for decades (or perhaps centuries in some ways of looking at it). (Incidentally, I have thought for some time that Powell has gotten too little credit for that success, and for helping defuse the tension between India and Pakistan, somewhat later.)

But, after the 9/11 attack, that changed, and Bush decided on a more activist foreign policy, in part, I suppose, to get support for the war on terrorism. But the area he chose, and the policies he backed after 9/11 were not inevitable, and show something interesting about the man, and his administration. Bush decided to help the poorest continent, Africa, and decided to help in three principal ways; he provided help for fighting malaria and AIDS, and he set up a new system of foreign aid, which challenges African countries to reform, before they receive the aid.

All three have had successes, some of which you can read about in this article in the Washington Post. It is likely that, in the next decade or so, millions of Africans will live who might have died without these Bush initiatives.

Let's summarize. Bill Clinton could have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Africans — but chose not to, in order to preserve his political viability. George W. Bush has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Africans, in spite of the political costs.

The political gains for Clinton were not great, and the political costs to Bush were probably small. But the contrast, in which one man does the right thing and the other doesn't tells us more than a little about the two men. And the fact that this contrast has gotten so little coverage tells us more than a little about our "mainstream" journalists.

(I was dubious about the Somalia intervention; I was, to the extent I followed the question, in favor of stopping the genocide in Rwanda. That's because I thought that the first required enormous resources — or exceptionally skillful diplomacy — and that the second required trivial resources. In fact, the UN commander in Rwanda at the time, Roméo Dallaire, thought he could stop the genocide with a mere 4,000 troops. In contrast, to disarm the Somalia clans might have required 400,000 troops, or a very long campaign.)....

Bush is a Christian leader. Clinton is a narcissistic lefty nihilist. The results are plain to see. History will judge.

Posted by John Weidner at February 18, 2008 7:52 PM
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