October 5, 2010

Africa & US Policy: New "Partnership" Still Includes Leading Africans by the Nose

Secretary Clinton Addresses our Ambassadors to Africa
Old ways of thinking die hard.  Despite Secretary of State Clinton's language choice in describing our government's interactions with the Government of Kenya - "kept hammering on them, we kept calling them" and her description of our diplomatic initiatives vis a vis the Government of Sudan - "a full court press," I like our government's current approach to Africa. This bit of self-congratulatory back patting is expected, I suppose, in a speech from the SOS to our ambassadors to Africa.  But I think it patronizingly and unfairly portrays these particular African leaders as unreasonable, stubborn and stupid when it does not mention their points of view or the complex circumstances that make them think the way they do.  That is, without the US pressing them they don't know what to do and would not do the right things.  The unspoken message is "Thank goodness for the US to keep these Africans on the right course."  If we believe they are ideologically or humanistically in the wrong, we should say so and describe how they are.  Overall, though, I think our State Department approach to Africa under the Obama administration is much, much better than it has ever been.  I wonder if Clinton would have used such word/phrase choices had she been talking about how we interact with the British, Germans or French?  I think not.

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