T Nation

Bush Fighting AIDS in Africa

Below is an article on President Bush’s Africa policy from the opinion section of today’s Wall Street Journal, concerning the things he was doing before sending any troops to Liberia. I wanted to post it for two reasons. First, I want to know what people think of Mandela’s stance, given the good Bush is trying to accomplish in Mandela’s own nation. Second, I want to know if this information changes anyone’s perception of the Bush administration. Thanks.


Into Africa
By JEFFREY HERBST

President Bush’s trip to sub-Saharan Africa this week will solidify one of his most surprising achievements. Even before the prospect of a military intervention in Liberia, Mr. Bush was well on his way to becoming the American president most engaged with the African continent in U.S. history.

This despite the fact that his administration is often scorned for isolationist sentiments and accused of acting forcefully on foreign policy only when confronting terrorism. That President Bush has not received more credit for his Africa initiatives says something about his administration but even more about his critics.

In his January State of the Union address, President Bush stunned everyone by announcing plans to spend $15 billion on AIDS, overwhelmingly in Africa. Despite the skepticism of some that the pledge was just talk, in late May he signed into law the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief that, it is hoped, will prevent millions of infections and give hope to thousands more already battling the disease. Such funds are desperately needed given that the infection threatens tens of millions, especially in Southern Africa.

Further, in February, President Bush presented to Congress his plans for the Millennium Challenge Account that would, if fully funded, provide the largest increase in American foreign aid since the Marshall Plan. By 2006, the new initiative would produce a 50% increase in development assistance compared with 2002, again to the overwhelming benefit of Africa. The Bush administration also has expanded legislation developed by the Clinton administration that encourages trade with Africa and has begun negotiations on a free trade agreement with Southern African countries.

The Bush administration’s record compares favorably with what the Clinton administration tried to do in Africa. After helping to block any U.N. action that might have prevented the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the Clinton administration never ceased to praise itself for its involvement in Africa. Much of the celebrated engagement revolved around the creation of commissions, ministerial talking shops and U.N. sessions, even while the actual American diplomatic presence on the continent was atrophying. In President Clinton’s much-heralded 1998 trip to Africa, he did not mention AIDS, even though it was already ravaging the continent. Later, his administration recognized the danger posed by AIDS and developed and signed into law the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a major initiative to promote trade with Africa. However, the Clinton administration was never successful in mobilizing new development resources for Africa’s problems.

Why do President Bush’s many domestic and foreign critics ignore his Africa initiative? They do so because it clashes with their mantra concerning the Bush administration’s supposed lack of interest in foreign affairs outside of the war on terror. It would, quite simply, produce too much cognitive dissonance.

Nelson Mandela, for instance, has threatened not to meet with President Bush because of his annoyance over the Iraq operation. While obsessed with American policy toward the Middle East, Mr. Mandela ignores the fact that the U.S. is trying to do a tremendous amount to combat AIDS in South Africa. Indeed, it is arguable that George W. Bush will do more to combat AIDS in South Africa than either Mr. Mandela or the current South African President Thabo Mbeki, who does not seem to understand the enormousness of the threat that the virus poses to his country. American officials report even now that they cannot spend all of the money that the U.S. has budgeted to combat AIDS in South Africa because of the difficulties of dealing with the South African government.

More cynically, critics of the Bush administration cannot afford to recognize current progress in Africa policy. For Democrats, an absolutely critical priority is to hold on to the African-American vote, which is overwhelmingly Democratic. Any effort by the Bush administration to adopt policies that might appeal to African Americans has to be strenuously denied by the Democrats because even mild Republican inroads into such a core constituency would swing some elections toward President Bush’s party. Analogously, the French and some other countries have defined much of their foreign policy as being opposed to American unilateralism and, sometimes, to whatever initiative Washington undertakes. Giving full credit to the Bush administration for its Africa policies would so undermine the appeal of opposing America that it is almost an imperative that the current Africa initiatives be ignored.

While the Bush administration is clearly committed to Africa, there is still a tremendous amount to be done. Notwithstanding immediate measures in the Liberian conflict, to date the U.S. has failed to develop successful policies toward the constellation of conflicts in West Africa, the seemingly endless war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the many other battles in Africa that have so paralyzed the continent in recent years and killed millions. It is hard to gloat about American policy toward Africa when so much of the continent is in flames. Still, no country can do everything and credit should be accorded for what the Bush administration, however improbably, has begun in Africa.

Mr. Herbst chairs the Department of Politics at Princeton.
Updated July 7, 2003

Doesn’t change my high opinion of GW at all. Of course, the usual whackos will find something negative to rant about.

Yea… 9 yr high UN-employment> It’s all Clinton’s fault… what a fuckin joke. This illegally elected pussy is on his way out.

Let me begin by saying that this is not anti-Bush, per se. Rather, I am against blindly spending precious resources on a syndrome that is completely containable. Don’t want AIDS? Use a condom. Don’t have sex with unprotected people. Remember how we spent all that money to send condoms to Africa? An overwhelming majority refused to use them, because it made sex ‘less enjoyable.’ Funny, I thought death would also make sex less enjoyable, but maybe I was mistaken.

15 billion dollars? Let’s get our priorities straight here, people. Let’s spend 15 billion on cancer research, or heart research, or lupus… not a preventable syndrome that has become popular simply because a marginalized group was primarily afflicted with it a couple of decades ago.

Further, if you are incarcerated in Africa, it is almost guaranteed that you will be raped and given AIDS. We have the same thing in the US, but not on such a large scale. Do you think education initiatives are going to change this? Give me a break.

Oh, and I hope that I’m not one of the ‘usual whackos.’

I prefer to be an unusual whacko.

Nephorm –

While I generally agree with you, especially with regard to researching disease for North America, you’ll have to remember that life in sub-Saharan Africa has a few problems that make AIDS much more difficult to deal with than just choosing to wear a condom. For starters, there is a much greater incidence of diseases that cause open sores in that part of Africa. Open sores are obviously problematic for AIDS transmission, and unless there are whole-body condoms for daily use/wear, open sores contacting other open sores through close contact (not solely sexual) are going to spread the disease. Combine that with squalor and the lack of hygiene that accompanies such conditions and you can see one reason why sub-Saharan Africa has an epidemic.

The second is the utter lack of knowledge among the population concerning how the disease is spread. This is why an education program – and I’m not talking about one of those ridiculous put-the-condom-on-the-banana education program, but an actual nuts-and-bolts program that explains how the disease is transmitted – can do a large amount of good in terms of stemming the prevention of the disease among that particular population.

Now, to the extent you think American money can and should be spent to help stem international problems, this seems to be a good program, and one that is focused simply on the politically-correct pro-condom message but one that is actually focused on results.

No, Nephorm, your post makes sense and makes a valid point. However, the other contributor above you isn’t even talking about the topic that is being addressed on this thread. That says a lot right there doesn’t it? It is akin to me saying that “my horse is a quarter horse reiner” but the response I get would be something like “yea, but the Yankees did not win the series in 1914.” No correlation = no sense. AKA Whackoism. Nuff said other than thank you Squat for allowing me the opportunity to graphically display my point. Merry Christmas!

Boston: While I agree that general hygiene programs in Africa might be a good idea, I don’t think this amount of money needs to be spent on it. And honestly, a lot of the AIDS spread is completely willful. There are quite a few people that understand very well how it is transmitted… and use it as a weapon.
But you never know, it may be possible to transform the mentality that a large number of people seem to have, if we pump enough money into it.

squat - What has GW done to contribute to the current state of unemployment? My question comes out of ignorance, I assure you.

BostonBarrister - As far as Mandela’s stance, it seems, from this article, that he’s being a bit unreasonable by not separating the issues. But I would have to know more about the specifics to fully understand his stance.

But about changing people’s perceptions of the Bush administration, I doubt that that is an easy thing to do. He typically is seen as a greedy, bumbling warmonger, or as our savior from the terrorists and the owner of a pair of steel balls. It’s difficult to change people’s views when they’re so polarized.

No matter what you spend money on, be it space exploration, scientific research, AIDS prevention in Africa, or repaving highways someone always has a better use for the money. It’s not like it’s our only 15 billion dollars, we have a couple more where those came from even though things aren’t all rosy with the economy. Those people in Africa could use the fucking help more than the “poor” in our country that have TVs and a car that sometimes runs.

African poor are really poor, the kind of poor where dying is a very real possiblity. Here you see some pretty “poor” people buying the occaisional latte. Big damn difference.

Spend the money, help the people. It’s not about politics or getting credit, it’s about having some compassion for your fellow man…or does that matter anymore?

Boston, you ask whether the actions of the Bush administration’s actions in this example change the overall perceptions of said administration.

My Answer: Not really, since I don’t hsave an overall perspective on the Administration per se. All administrations will in the course of their regime perform actions which people will both agree and disagree with.

I think any action by any person/ group etc to combat AIDS in whatever form is of the good - but does this mean that because I think the Bush administration is doing the right thing here do I suddenly agree with their stance on Iraq? Of course not.

But conversely, I wouldn’t write-off the AIDS work of the Administration simply becuase I think their Iraq policy is a tissue of double-speak.

shrug The devil can quote scripture to suit his purpose, who and what equates to scripture and the devil in completely subjective.

Will this AIDS program discuss condoms AT ALL? That kind of talk is forbidden by Christian conservatives. If there is no discussion of condoms, an AIDS program can do very little.

Does George Bush doing one thing right change my mind about him, when he’s simultanteously doing four other things wrong?

Umm, no…

Hey couldn’t resist this thread. How about Good Guys doing Good Things!?! 15 billion dollars for AIDS in Africa shows clearly how generous we are as a nation. It effectively counters the argument that we are “conquerors” and other ridiculous notions. The dipshits who rail against this show themselves to be petty and unwilling to admit that George W. Bush is doing the right thing.
It’s apparent that lumpy wouldn’t know a good thing if it bit him in the ass. Tell you what lumpy, how about you and I have a little wager? If Bush wins in 2004, you will have to type: “I am a Republican. The Republicans are the Good Guys. US=GG’s philosophy is stronger than mine.” If howard dean wins (or another democrat), I’ll type the democratic equivalent. Bargain?

Why should Bush even want to meet with Mandela? Does he meet with any other FORMER leaders of the countries he visits? Mandela is nothing more than a has been communist anyway.

Just as important as how much money is being spent is HOW it will be spent. Will it be spent from the top down, building up a lot of bureaucratic structure and salaries? Will the money be effective and go where it is needed most? Will the safe-sex message be blunted by religious fundamentalists? A lot of this is up in the air. I will be glad to applaud this if it doesn’t turn into a clusterfuck.

When u make promises (like the idiotic shit of lowering EPA standards for the people who got u elected) and allowing drilling in protected federal alaskan lands THAT pretty much says “I am corrupt, I am paying back the corp.'s that got my punk ass in office”

How could WE go from prosperous times to where we are now w/out having a fuckup for a leader. The petroleum industry connection to gw is so strong. Ask this pussy about Harken Oil and the $632K he made 3 days prior to the '90’s gulf invasion AND how he obtained top secret info of the invasion (hint: his daddy was pres. that’s how)

squat, so the same man that will do anything to make money, and a lot of it, can’t help out our economy if his life depended on it?

I just don’t think it’s fair to blame or praise the current president for all of the economy’s ups and downs. I do think it’s fair to criticize or commend individual actions (i.e. bills passed during administration) and the confidence that the president inspires, as consumer confidence is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to the economy.

Hey squat1000,
Thanks for the 'roid rant. Check your pants, your balls are shrinking. By the way, nothing you said is true.
Remember, your boy clinton arrived in office with three straight quarters of growth. He left office with three straight quarters of economic downturn. You know how much credit/blame he deserves for the 1990’s economic boom=zero. Please enlighten me on the ways that he spurred economic growth. Please try to remember that the Republicans wrote the balanced budgets and if anyone was responsible for the era of surpluses, it was them.

Just for fun, I thought I would put up a few passages from a contrast piece that talked about Clinton’s Africa policy wayyyy back in July 24, 2000, from the New Republic (not exactly known as a conservative publication):

Indeed, confronted with several stark moral challenges, the Clinton administration has abandoned Africa every time: it fled from Somalia, it watched American stepchild Liberia descend into chaos, it blocked intervention in Rwanda. But Clinton’s soaring rhetoric has posed a problem that his predecessors did not face–the problem of rank hypocrisy. And so, time and again, the imperative guiding his administration’s Africa policy has been the imperative to appear to care. Unwilling to commit American blood and treasure to save African lives, and unwilling to admit that they refuse to do so, the Clintonites have developed a policy of coercive dishonesty. In Rwanda, afraid that evidence of the unfolding genocide would expose their inaction, they systematically suppressed it. And in Sierra Leone, unwilling to take on a rebel group that was maiming and slaughtering civilians by the thousands, the Clintonites insisted that all the rebels truly wanted was peace and a seat at the negotiating table.

Abandoning Africans is nothing new. But the Clinton administration has gone further. It has tried to deny them the reality of their own experience, to bludgeon them into pretending that the horrors around them do not truly exist–so that they won’t embarrass the American officials who proclaim so eloquently that their fates are inextricably linked to our own. Sierra Leone, a former British colony whose capital was founded in the late eighteenth century by freed slaves, was a pretty nasty place even before the birth of the Revolutionary United Front. After an initial bout with democracy upon gaining independence in 1961, it slid into dictatorship and kleptocracy and stayed there through the 1970s and '80s–consistently near the bottom in world rankings of infant mortality, per capita income, and life expectancy. So the outside world barely noticed when, in 1991, a group of about 100 guerrillas launched a campaign to take over the country. But the RUF–backed by Charles Taylor, a warlord in neighboring Liberia–quickly established itself as a rather unusual rebel group. For one thing, it had no discernible political philosophy or agenda. For another, it was almost unimaginably brutal.


For the record, I’m not sure we should send troops into Liberia, as I can’t identify an important American national interest. If we do though, we should go in hard, and not as “U.N. peacekeepers” as we did in Kosovo. The Brits did it correctly a while back when they went into Sierra Leone – we should model any intervention on that action: swift, direct, and effective.