Bush: Friend of Africa
Nicholas Kristoff contends that George W. Bush has done more for Africa than Bill Clinton (the “first black president”) ever did.
Those who care about Africa tend to think that the appropriate attitude toward President Bush is a medley of fury and contempt. But the fact is that Mr. Bush has done much more for Africa than Bill Clinton ever did, increasing the money actually spent for aid there by two-thirds so far, and setting in motion an eventual tripling of aid for Africa. Mr. Bush’s crowning achievement was ending one war in Sudan, between north and south. And while Mr. Bush has done shamefully little to stop Sudan’s other conflict – the genocide in Darfur – that’s more than Mr. Clinton’s response to genocide in Rwanda (which was to issue a magnificent apology afterward).
So as the G-8 summit meeting convenes this week, focusing on Africa, it’s worth acknowledging that Mr. Bush, and conservatives generally, have in many ways been great for the developing world. At their best, they bring a healthy dose of hands-on practicality to their efforts.
The liberal approach to helping the poor is sometimes to sponsor a U.N. conference and give ringing speeches calling for changed laws and more international assistance. In contrast, a standard conservative approach is to sponsor a missionary hospital or school. One magnificent example is the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, where missionary doctors repair obstetric injuries that have left Ethiopian women incontinent.
Liberals also often focus on changing laws, but in a poor country, the legal system is often irrelevant outside the capital. Sudan, for example, banned female genital mutilation back in 1957; since then, the practice has expanded steadily. Sure, lobbying for better laws is important, but it’s usually much more cost-effective to vaccinate children or educate girls. Nobody gets more bang for the buck than missionary schools and clinics, and Christian aid groups like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse save lives at bargain-basement prices.
Liberals may also put too much faith in aid itself. What Africa needs most desperately are things it can itself provide: good governance, a firmer neighborhood response to genocide in Sudan, and a collective nudging of Robert Mugabe into retirement.
An interesting bit of analysis. It’s somewhat ironic but not really that farfetched. While painted as a lefty, Clinton was essentially a foreign policy realist in practice, if not rhetorically. Bush is a neo-con, which is essentially Wilsonian idealism with heavier emphasis on the military as a tool.