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Old 11-14-2006, 06:50 PM   #31
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But then it ends up coming back to the same old, same old with Africa: throwing money at a problem while the outrage is still fresh in the mind, and then forgetting about it all over again.

Yes, I question the motivation, because such outrage is always fleeting.

Ironically, I tend to come across as more of a conservative when it comes to issues like Africa. I've been cautiously optimistic since Paul Wolfowitz was nominated to the World Bank, because he's known to be very energetic when it comes to the subject of Africa, and I'd certainly agree that the old policies of merely throwing money at a problem is the wrong approach. We have to look at the issue of corrupt regimes and have a comprehensive approach to improving Africa's standard of living, because, otherwise, we're just throwing our money away.

We have the dreamers and idealists. We just need the action, and someone to keep that action fiscally responsible and accountable.
I agree with almost everything you've said here. But there is a crises right now that needs to be stopped. The world has the military to stop these thugs in their tracks.

The long term solution needs to be initiated AFTER these atrocities are halted. The Marshall Plan couldn't have worked in 1944...
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Old 11-14-2006, 06:54 PM   #32
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The long term solution needs to be initiated AFTER these atrocities are halted. The Marshall Plan couldn't have worked in 1944...
Ultimately, I agree with you here too. On the other hand, there's people starving and dying of curable diseases in otherwise stable African nations too.

The West, generally speaking, has never taken the issue of Africa seriously.
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Old 11-14-2006, 07:12 PM   #33
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The West, generally speaking, has never taken the issue of Africa seriously.
Hard to argue with that...
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Old 11-14-2006, 07:15 PM   #34
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What will it take for the West to take a personal "selfish" investment into the well-being of Africa, just as we currently have in Iraq?
Well, within a decade it's expected that more than a quarter of US oil imports will come from Africa--much of that from Congo's neighbor, Angola. And Islamist terrorism is very much a growing threat in Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. So, there's a couple selfish reasons for us to pay more attention right there.

I do think it's true though, even if cliche, that the daunting complexity of so many African countries' problems--AIDS + genocide + famine + pervasive corruption + political instability + longstanding ethnic strife + illiteracy + extreme poverty (something like 12% of the world's population, but well over half of its poor)--is a major reason why "investment in the well-being of Africa" is so often hopelessly piecemeal, and terminally uncoordinated with all the other investments it needs to be coordinated with to take lasting effect. I can relate when my students tell me they're too dazed by the bleakness of what they've read to think constructively, because I feel like putting my head through the nearest wall myself every time I finish putting together a unit on DR Congo or Sudan. Probably if I were more knowedgeable on the topic I'd feel less headspun, but unfortunately I'm not and neither are most Americans--politicians included. The fact that more than half the combatants in Congo are child soldiers is emblematic of what a vicious cycle all of this adds up to--a whole generation of children who've never known anything but complete social breakdown, ceaseless violence and all the other complications associated with decades of both (this latest conflict being just one in a nightmarishly long sequence).

It's hard enough for the international community to act effectively in the sorts of "simpler" crises where altruistic concerns can (qualifiedly) triumph over the usual skewed priorities--Indonesian tsunami, Pakistani earthquake, etc. Even in these cases, getting help to where it's needed inevitably turns out to be a far more formidable chore than any "expert" initially imagined. But as you noted, ultimately organizations like the UN can only be as committed as their member states are to putting our own lives, time, money and expertise on the line to help those who are suffering the most from these problems.

I think our desire for quick results, and tendency to underestimate the complexity of the situations involved when drawing up plans for action, is at least as great a problem as our selfishness and apathy. The two dynamics reinforce each other, and share a tendency to snowball into perceived powerlessness to achieve anything enduring.
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Old 11-14-2006, 08:09 PM   #35
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Originally posted by Ormus

Ironically, I tend to come across as more of a conservative when it comes to issues like Africa. I've been cautiously optimistic since Paul Wolfowitz was nominated to the World Bank, because he's known to be very energetic when it comes to the subject of Africa, and I'd certainly agree that the old policies of merely throwing money at a problem is the wrong approach.
I agree with this view. Have you read Theroux's "Dark Star Safari"?
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Old 11-14-2006, 08:35 PM   #36
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It's the chicken and the egg; how do you get the economic reforms without the political structure and how can that political structure develop without the economic reforms?
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Old 11-14-2006, 08:50 PM   #37
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Absolutely.

But I think it should be obvious that what we've been doing hasn't worked and it still isn't working. So do you bang your head against the wall repeatedly or do you try and come up with new solutions? It certainly seems to me the latter is the better view.

In Dark Star Safari, Theroux is particularly critical of the huge number of Western volunteers, aid workers, and so on in Africa, saying that it is a nice and convenient way for us to feel better about ourselves but the cold, hard reality is that most of these people are doing absolutely nothing useful down there. I actually tend to agree with him to an extent there.
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Old 11-14-2006, 09:59 PM   #38
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It's the chicken and the egg; how do you get the economic reforms without the political structure and how can that political structure develop without the economic reforms?
The European Union has been an interesting model for governmental reform. Rather than using threats as a model for reform, it essentially uses an unintended model of incentives. That is, if Nation X does "this, this, and that," you can enter the European Union.

Now, obviously, the EU cannot take on all of Africa, but I think a model similar to that for Africa might help. And, in many ways, it appeals to human vanity by allowing you bragging rights of being in an exclusive and lucrative club.
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Old 11-14-2006, 10:00 PM   #39
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What club in Africa wouldn't be the lowest common denominator?
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Old 11-14-2006, 10:06 PM   #40
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What club in Africa wouldn't be the lowest common denominator?
It's the "lowest common denominator," because of a Western refusal to connect to it. The allure of the EU is that it permits poorer Eastern Europe to incrementally interconnect with wealthier Western Europe.

In many ways, I'd call it "managed globalism." We talk about the global economy in this world, and the best we currently come up with is passing a bunch of hasty free trade agreements that generally have the function of wealthy Western nations exploiting poor third-world countries with no labor laws. Those arrangements are certainly great for building a business elite, but when these same nations have a weak government and no plan for education at all, let alone higher education, you can see why most of these countries are going nowhere and fast.
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Old 11-14-2006, 10:09 PM   #41
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Originally posted by anitram
In Dark Star Safari, Theroux is particularly critical of the huge number of Western volunteers, aid workers, and so on in Africa, saying that it is a nice and convenient way for us to feel better about ourselves but the cold, hard reality is that most of these people are doing absolutely nothing useful down there. I actually tend to agree with him to an extent there.
Sounds interesting. I should check out that book.
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Old 11-15-2006, 12:54 AM   #42
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Sounds interesting. I should check out that book.
So then - what would be useful? There is no shortage of criticisms. I would like to see more solutions.

No, I don't have one. But I would love to read one.

In the meantime - we should definitely be praying for these women despite our religious differences.
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Old 11-15-2006, 12:56 AM   #43
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Originally posted by yolland

Well, within a decade it's expected that more than a quarter of US oil imports will come from Africa--much of that from Congo's neighbor, Angola. And Islamist terrorism is very much a growing threat in Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. So, there's a couple selfish reasons for us to pay more attention right there.

I do think it's true though, even if cliche, that the daunting complexity of so many African countries' problems--AIDS + genocide + famine + pervasive corruption + political instability + longstanding ethnic strife + illiteracy + extreme poverty (something like 12% of the world's population, but well over half of its poor)--is a major reason why "investment in the well-being of Africa" is so often hopelessly piecemeal, and terminally uncoordinated with all the other investments it needs to be coordinated with to take lasting effect. I can relate when my students tell me they're too dazed by the bleakness of what they've read to think constructively, because I feel like putting my head through the nearest wall myself every time I finish putting together a unit on DR Congo or Sudan. Probably if I were more knowedgeable on the topic I'd feel less headspun, but unfortunately I'm not and neither are most Americans--politicians included. The fact that more than half the combatants in Congo are child soldiers is emblematic of what a vicious cycle all of this adds up to--a whole generation of children who've never known anything but complete social breakdown, ceaseless violence and all the other complications associated with decades of both (this latest conflict being just one in a nightmarishly long sequence).

It's hard enough for the international community to act effectively in the sorts of "simpler" crises where altruistic concerns can (qualifiedly) triumph over the usual skewed priorities--Indonesian tsunami, Pakistani earthquake, etc. Even in these cases, getting help to where it's needed inevitably turns out to be a far more formidable chore than any "expert" initially imagined. But as you noted, ultimately organizations like the UN can only be as committed as their member states are to putting our own lives, time, money and expertise on the line to help those who are suffering the most from these problems.

I think our desire for quick results, and tendency to underestimate the complexity of the situations involved when drawing up plans for action, is at least as great a problem as our selfishness and apathy. The two dynamics reinforce each other, and share a tendency to snowball into perceived powerlessness to achieve anything enduring.
Enlightening and depressing at the same time...
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Old 11-15-2006, 03:02 AM   #44
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What can be done? No one likes being told what to do, and you can't just throw money after the problem, because we all know not having the proper means to put the money to appropriate uses is going to waste.

I also don't believe that going into congo, guns blazing and killing millitia and citizens alike is going to change anything... i dont think millitary will take to shooting at 12 yr old boys easily.

It horrendous, the whole fucking thing is horrendous, mass exucutions, AIDS, this horrible mess, people dying of curable diseases, starvation, famine...i mean for fucks sake...
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Old 11-15-2006, 08:58 AM   #45
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So then - what would be useful? There is no shortage of criticisms. I would like to see more solutions.
Not that I'm qualified to offer solutions on this issue, but, from an ideological perspective, we have to get past the colonial mentality. In the case of many Western aboriginal peoples, many countries thought that they were doing a favor in making them settle down and offering them welfare. Good intentioned, yes, but now we're talking about cultures that are no longer interested in self-sufficiency and have now devolved into issues of alcoholism, drug abuse, and crime. In other words, if all you have to do is sit back and wait for a check, why do it yourself? The same goes with some African nations. They're accustomed to waiting for Westerners to fix everything for them.

Whatever approach to Africa we ultimately take, we have to get beyond the charitable approach. And we have to stop thinking of them as people that are lesser than us. That may not be a conscious thought, but even subconsciously, that issue affects our approach. More than anything, we need an approach that recognizes their dignity as people and gives them the self-sufficiency to shape their own destiny.
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