Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama’s policy trajectory on Africa more pragmatic.

But we have to look at Africa not just after a crisis happens; what are we doing with respect to trade opportunities with Africa? What are we doing in terms of investment in Africa? What are we doing to pay attention to Africa consistently with respect to our foreign policy? That has been what's missing in the White House. Our long-term security is going to depend on whether we're giving children in Sudan and Zimbabwe and in Kenya the same opportunities so that they have a stake in order as opposed to violence and chaos”. Barack Obama

In case you are wondering why Obama has gained prominence on this blog, Bill Richardson who endorsed Obama today, put it best; “you are once-in-a-lifetime leader and above all a President who brings this nation together”.

Beyond, holding the best for America’s domestic troubles and ending this war that has consumed the current administration, to the detriment of Africa’s long term needs, Obama may be the best for Africa too.

The current Bush administration’s policy towards Africa, the essential thrust of which is captured by the motto: ‘Forget the rhetoric and boost the geopolitics’. Has being a measured approach that includes the strategic imperative of cultivating strong links with Africa's leading regional powers, most notably Nigeria and South Africa, harkening back to the Nixon administration's strategy of relying on such powers to ensure regional stability; limited effort building upon the Clinton administration's success in promoting US trade and investment with African countries, with a special focus on oil-producing countries; and underscoring the need for Africans to ‘do more for themselves’ in the realm of conflict resolution, suggesting a low-profile Bush administration approach to involvement in either peacekeeping or peacemaking operations.

The Clinton administration on the other hand, attempted to deal with a complex array of challenging African issues -- security, conflict resolution, democratization, human rights, trade, AIDS, and the environment. Its agenda was more broad but deficient in depth and obligation. With limited interests at stake in the post-Cold War era, he perceived no compelling reason to rally the world community for a genuine African Renaissance. The result is a tendency toward activism without follow-through. The Clinton team reacted to immediate challenges but lacked an overarching policy framework for coping effectively with the continent's long-term problems of conflict, disease, and poverty.

Barack Obama believes that strengthening weak states at risk of collapse, economic meltdown or public health crises strengthens America's security. Obama will double U.S. spending on foreign aid to $50 billion a year by 2012.
It is this trajectory of policy, that is more pragmatic, not only focusing on Africa when a crisis arises or when US interests are in danger. Obama ties US long term security goals to affording children growing up in Africa, better opportunities for life in the global world.

Traditionally republicans are less generous with people development programs that democrats but Obama has already written a law signed in 2006 that provided $52 million in US assistance to help stabilize the Congo, and he worked to approve $20 million for the African Union peacekeeping mission. Obama also worked with Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), writing an op-ed in the Washington Post criticizing the Bush administration's failure to stop genocide in Darfur.

He will help developing countries invest in sustainable democracies and demand more accountability in return. Obama will establish a $2 billion Global Education Fund to eliminate the global education deficit. He will reduce the debt of developing nations and better coordinate trade and development policies. (source Obama campaign).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Aftermath of Obama speech on Race.

It is indeed a historic and important speech, no one has ever dared verbalized the pain of both black and white Americans as they both grapple with the legacy of slavery and segregation.
Until the element of race suddenly gained traction Obama appeared unstoppable. In the days leading to the Ohio primary Hillary‘s campaign launched a smear strategy in which everything was thrown at Obama including the Kitchen sink.
Instead of his hopeful and coalition building tone of his speeches, Obama has been forced to explain his dress code in Kenya, the Ferraro assertion that his candidacy is only succeeding because of affirmative action and the ultimate knockout or as many now believe was the moment the kitchen sink hit was publicizing of his pastor’s controversial remarks.

The genius of this speech is that Obama rolls up all the bad stuff and with an understanding of the core of the issues that is rare in Washington; he repackaged it all into a speech that appeals to America’s better angels to look beyond his color and come together to change America and secure a more perfect union for her children.

The setting could not have been perfect, Pennsylvania where the Governor Ed. Rendell a key Clinton backer said there are some whites here who will not vote for a black man.

However, university of Pennsylvania Political Science Professor Rogers M. Smith said this after the speech – “Pennsylvania is one of the places where Obama had to be careful not to appear to be "dissing" the black church, particularly outspoken clerical leaders, while he nonetheless did have to distance himself from the despair about white Americans and American progress that he discerned in some of Wright's sermons. The focus on Wright's comments and Obama's stance toward them was not helpful to him here, so it was risky but also wise to address the issue head on as he did,"

And for those still cringing at Rev Wright horrible words and are still reluctant to cut Obama some slack for attending his church Rev Huckabee a former republic candidates offers this.

"[Y]ou can't hold the candidate responsible for everything that people around him may say or do," Huckabee says. "It's interesting to me that there are some people on the left who are having to be very uncomfortable with what ... Wright said, when they all were all over a Jerry Falwell, or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable, years ago. Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word for word by pastors like Rev. Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you'd say 'Well, I didn't mean to say it quite like that.'"

Later, he defended Wright's anger, too:

"As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say 'That's a terrible statement!' ... I grew up in a very segregated South. And I think that you have to cut some slack -- and I'm gonna be probably the only conservative in America who's gonna say something like this, but I'm just tellin' you -- we've gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names...