Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

REPRISE: Veterans’ Day, 2011: “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?”

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

First published, November 11, 2011

My uncle died in a field in northern France with a German bullet in his head. To him, and all the other veterans of America’s wars, I am immensely grateful for his, and their, sacrifice.

The Vision of Peace After World War II

At the end of World War II, the leaders of the world had a clear vision of the horrors of war, and acted with resolution to bring wars to a halt through the creation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, and by codifying the international law governing the use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. Article 2 paragraph 4 prohibited the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of members of the organization, a prohibition later extended to include all states. Article 51 provided for an exception in the case of an “armed attack”. These provisions have become customary international law and, importantly, also aquired the status of jus cogens or peremptory law from which there can be no exception or derogation by agreement.

A Vision of Perpetual War

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and the United States are currently embarked on a policy based on the assumption of perpetual war. The implementation of this policy includes targeted assassinations through drone strikes and other means, the establishment of new drone bases throughout the northern part of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, and the development of new generations of drones some of which are as small as insects.

This policy has been implemented with little regard for the international law governing the use of force, and even less regard for the duty of the United States to contribute to the development of international law and institutions that can help ensure the security of the United States and other countries in the future.

These actions indicate that the United States has no current vision of peace as an overriding goal to be achieved, and no coherent strategy for actually achieving this objective.

Without the goal of peace, we are not likely to take the actions necessary to achieve peace, or to give those actions the urgent priority they should receive.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

In these circumstances, one is reminded of Pete Seeger’s famous song entitled “Where have all the flowers gone?” For the lyrics, click here.

Pete Seeger’s performance of this song is available on YouTube here.

See also, pasquetflowerponderings.blogspot.com, “Grandpa’s War – A Veteran’s Day Post,” November 11, 2011, which contains recollections of America’s recent wars, and a link to a clip of Pete Seeger singing ” Where have all the flowers gone” with a moving montage of photographs evoking American experiences of war, created by the TheSpadecaller in 2008.

Joan Baez, in a more recent performance of the song, can be found on YouTube here.

Marlene Dietrich’s recording of this song in English is also found on YouTube here.

For Dietrich’s performance of the song in French, see “Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?” here.

For her performance of the German version of this song, see “Sag mir wo die Blumen sind”, here.

Marlene Dietrich, in a version of perhaps her most famous song, “Lili Marleen”, written in 1915 and later a hit among troops on both sides during World War II, takes us back to November 11, 1918 and the terrible war that preceded the armistice on that day. Her recording of the song, in English, is found on YouTube here. The original German version of the song is found here.

Obama’s Vision of Perpetual War and International Law

In his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in Oslo, on December 10, 2009, President Obama said:

In the wake of such destruction (World War II), and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another world war. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, restrict the most dangerous weapons.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.

Closely parsed, these statements are full of contradictions, as when President Obama affirms:

(1) “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”
(2) “To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force.”
(3) “I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation”; and
(4) “Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.”

Affirmation (1) accepts violent conflict as inevitable. (2) states that all nations must adhere to the norms that govern the use of force. (3) states that he, the president, “like any head of state”, reserves the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend his nation; and (4) states he is convinced adhering to “international standards” strengthens those who do.

These contradictions in Obama’s thinking, it is submitted, have contributed to the incoherence of U.S. foreign policy, particularly when measured against the requirements of international law, and the historical burden of strengthening international law and building better international institutions, which is no less important today than it was in 1945.

Reading these excerpts and the whole speech reveals that the president does not have a clear vision of peace as the goal, or a strategy on how to achieve that goal. While he pays lip service to observing international law, he insists that he has the paradoxical right–“like any head of state”–to violate it if necessary, in his view. So much for the concept of international law governing the use of force.

Without the clear and overriding goal of peace or a strategy for achieving peace, it is hard to see how we and other nations can view as the highest priority taking the steps necessary to achieve peace.

President Obama and the United States currently seem to have no overarching vision of peace, or strategy for achieving peace. As a result, their policies and actions are not guided by the pursuance of this goal in a strategic sense, but rather only by the demands of meeting with expediency the challenges of the moment.

By way of contrast, consider, if you will, the vision of the founders of the United Nations in 1945, particularly as set forth in the Preamble and Articles 1, 2, and 51 of the Charter.

We in the United States, like citizens in other countries, need a strong vision of peace and a coherent strategy for achieving it. Consequently, we need a president who has such a vision, and is guided by it.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Veterans’ Day, 2011: “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?”

Monday, November 11th, 2013

First published, November 11, 2011

My uncle died in a field in northern France with a German bullet in his head. To him, and all the other veterans of America’s wars, I am immensely grateful for his, and their, sacrifice.

The Vision of Peace After World War II

At the end of World War II, the leaders of the world had a clear vision of the horrors of war, and acted with resolution to bring wars to a halt through the creation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, and by codifying the international law governing the use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. Article 2 paragraph 4 prohibited the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of members of the organization, a prohibition later extended to include all states. Article 51 provided for an exception in the case of an “armed attack”. These provisions have become customary international law and, importantly, also aquired the status of jus cogens or peremptory law from which there can be no exception or derogation by agreement.

A Vision of Perpetual War

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and the United States are currently embarked on a policy based on the assumption of perpetual war. The implementation of this policy includes targeted assassinations through drone strikes and other means, the establishment of new drone bases throughout the northern part of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, and the development of new generations of drones some of which are as small as insects.

This policy has been implemented with little regard for the international law governing the use of force, and even less regard for the duty of the United States to contribute to the development of international law and institutions that can help ensure the security of the United States and other countries in the future.

These actions indicate that the United States has no current vision of peace as an overriding goal to be achieved, and no coherent strategy for actually achieving this objective.

Without the goal of peace, we are not likely to take the actions necessary to achieve peace, or to give those actions the urgent priority they should receive.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

In these circumstances, one is reminded of Pete Seeger’s famous song entitled “Where have all the flowers gone?” For the lyrics, click here.

Pete Seeger’s performance of this song is available on YouTube here.

See also, pasquetflowerponderings.blogspot.com, “Grandpa’s War – A Veteran’s Day Post,” November 11, 2011, which contains recollections of America’s recent wars, and a link to a clip of Pete Seeger singing ” Where have all the flowers gone” with a moving montage of photographs evoking American experiences of war, created by the TheSpadecaller in 2008.

Joan Baez, in a more recent performance of the song, can be found on YouTube here.

Marlene Dietrich’s recording of this song in English is also found on YouTube here.

For Dietrich’s performance of the song in French, see “Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?” here.

For her performance the German version of this song, see “Sag mir wo die Blumen sind”, here.

Marlene Dietrich, in a version of perhaps her most famous song, “Lili Marleen”, written in 1915 and later a hit among troops on both sides during World War II, takes us back to November 11, 1918 and the terrible war that preceded the armistice on that day. Her recording of the song, in English, is found on YouTube here. The original German version of the song is found here.

Obama’s Vision of Perpetual War and International Law

In his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in Oslo, on December 10, 2009, President Obama said:

In the wake of such destruction (World War II), and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another world war. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, restrict the most dangerous weapons.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.

Closely parsed, these statements are full of contradictions, as when President Obama affirms:

(1) “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”
(2) “To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force.”
(3) “I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation”; and
(4) “Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.”

Affirmation (1) accepts violent conflict as inevitable. (2) states that all nations must adhere to the norms that govern the use of force. (3) states that he, the president, “like any head of state”, reserves the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend his nation; and (4) states he is convinced adhering to “international standards” strengthens those who do.

These contradictions in Obama’s thinking, it is submitted, have contributed to the incoherence of U.S. foreign policy, particularly when measured against the requirements of international law, and the historical burden of strengthening international law and building better international institutions, which is no less important today than it was in 1945.

Reading these excerpts and the whole speech reveals that the president does not have a clear vision of peace as the goal, or a strategy on how to achieve that goal. While he pays lip service to observing international law, he insists that he has the paradoxical right–“like any head of state”–to violate it if necessary, in his view. So much for the concept of international law governing the use of force.

Without the clear and overriding goal of peace or a strategy for achieving peace, it is hard to see how we and other nations can view as the highest priority taking the steps necessary to achieve peace.

President Obama and the United States currently seem to have no overarching vision of peace, or strategy for achieving peace. As a result, their policies and actions are not guided by the pursuance of this goal in a strategic sense, but rather only by the demands of meeting with expediency the challenges of the moment.

By way of contrast, consider, if you will, the vision of the founders of the United Nations in 1945, particularly as set forth in the Preamble and Articles 1, 2, and 51 of the Charter.

We in the United States, like citizens in other countries, need a strong vision of peace and a coherent strategy for achieving it. Consequently, we need a president who has such a vision, and is guided by it.

The Trenchant Observer

South Africa strays from Mandela’s vision, abstaining in Security Council vote on Syria— Update #69 (July 27)

Friday, July 27th, 2012

The following article is divided into five sections or parts. Due to its length, the reader may wish to read one or more different sections at different times. The sections are:

(1) South Africa’s Abstention in the Vote on Draft Resolution S/2012/538
(2) South African Statements in Defense of its Abstention in the Vote
(3) Statement of Ian Davidson, Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Alliance
(4) The Text of Security Council Draft Resolution 538
(5) Mandela’s Vision

South Africa’s Abstention in the Vote on Draft Resolution S/2012/538

South Africa abstained in the July 19 vote on Security Council draft Resolution S/2012/538 on Syria, sponsored by France, Germany, Portugal,the United Kingdom and the United States. The resolution would have extended the UN observer mission in Syria (UNSMIS) for 45 days, and threatened but did not specify the imposition of sanctions by the Security Council (pursuant to a future vote) if the al-Assad government did not comply with key provisions of the Security Council’s 6-point peace plan (also known as the Kofi Annan 6-point peace plan).

Forgetting that its own liberation struggle had benefited from economic sanctions imposed by the Security Council, South Africa gave tacit support to Russia and China and their argument that the Security Council had no right to interfere in the domestic affairs of Syria.

South African Statements in Defense of its Abstention in the Vote

In a statement in the Security Council following the vote and South Africa’s abstention on draft resolution S/2012/538, the South African representative, Mr. Mashabane, stated the following:

Mr. Mashabane (South Africa): South Africa strongly condemns the continuing violence and the huge loss of life in Syria. It is now 16 months since the crisis began, and there is no end in sight. Instead, the security and humanitarian situations have become worse. The deteriorating situation in Syria highlights the urgency for all sides to stop armed violence in all its forms, implement the six-point plan presented by Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, and move rapidly towards a political dialogue and a peaceful, democratic, Syrian-led transition.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has just classified the situation in Syria as meeting the conditions of an internal armed conflict. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has made a similar statement. This means that the situation has reached the threshold of a civil war, in which all parties have responsibilities and obligations under international humanitarian law.

The highest priority should be to stop the killing and end the suffering of civilians. The suicide bombing in Damascus yesterday, which killed the Syrian Defence Minister and others, coupled with frequent horrific massacres in various parts of the country, clearly indicates that there is more than one party to the conflict. This volatile situation has also become fertile ground for terrorist groups. Acts of violence committed by any party are unacceptable and a clear violation of their commitments under the six-point plan, and should be condemned. Reports of the continued use of heavy weapons by the Syrian security forces are also of serious concern to us.

South Africa strongly supports the efforts of Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan and believes that his plan is the only credible mechanism that could deliver a positive and realistic outcome. Coupled with the Annan plan is the final communiqué of the Action Group for Syria (S/2012/523, annex), adopted in Geneva on 30 June. It constitutes a significant proposal on the way forward in Syria and has been supported by all permanent members of the Security Council. We should not fail to support Mr. Annan, as his efforts may be the only branch to which to cling before the seismic currents of a bloody civil war push Syria over the brink into a state of total collapse.

South Africa is disappointed that, because of the divisions among the members of the Council, the Council has been prevented from executing its responsibilities. Differences within the Council should be addressed in a spirit of compromise and mutual respect, and with the Council’s broader responsibility in mind. All members of the Council have consistently expressed their support for the Kofi Annan plan, the Geneva action plan communiqué and the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria UNSMIS).

Yet the common cause that we affirmed when we adopted resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012) three months ago has not seemed to prevail. We should have shown the utmost maturity in strategically executing these crucial tasks, taking into account the realities of the situation on the ground. Instead, we allowed narrow interests to destroy our unity of purpose.

We agree with the Joint Special Envoy that the Council must insist that these decisions be implemented, that a strong message should be sent to all parties involved, and that there will be consequences for their non-compliance with its decisions. We fail to see, however, how the text that was submitted today by the sponsors would end the violence or contribute to the implementation of the six-point plan. Instead, the text, in an unbalanced manner, threatens sanctions against the Government of Syria without realistically allowing any action to be taken against the opposition, which would be permitted to defy the six-point plan without consequence. In similar situations where the international community, including the Security Council, has preferred one side over the other, such bias has resulted in the polarization of the conflict. This is especially true for such fractious societies as Syria’s.

The failure of the Council today to reach a balanced agreement threatens the Kofi Annan plan and undermines the possibility of finding a peaceful political solution to the Syrian crisis. Our failure to renew the mandate of UNSMIS — the only functional tool for verifying and corroborating information on the ground and supporting the Annan plan, as recommended by the Secretary-General — is disappointing. While we are concerned about the safety of the observers, South Africa continues to believe that UNSMIS has been a critical part of our effort to find a solution to the Syrian crisis, and should therefore continue its work in one form or the other when conditions on the ground so permit. SouthAfricais therefore deeply disappointed that the future of UNSMIS is under threat because of the divisions in the Council.

It is for these reasons that South Africa abstained in the voting on draft resolution S/2012/538. SouthAfricastands ready to work with all members of the Council to achieve a strong, balanced outcome in support of Kofi Annan’s efforts and a renewal of the UNSMIS mandate.

In conclusion, for the time being South Africa supports the proposal for a possible technical rollover of UNSMIS for a very short term.

–United Nations Security Council, 6810th meeting, 19 July, 2012, U.N. Doc. S/PV.6810, at pp. 11-12.

The Deputy Foreign Minister, Ebrahim Ebrahim, made virtually the same points in a statement issued on July 20, arguing that the resolution was not balanced.

See

SAPA, “South Africa speaks out on violence in Syria; South Africa voices concern over killings of civilians in Syria as resolution that would have extended UN observer mission is vetoed,” Business Live (South Africa), July 19, 2012.

Khadija Patel, “Analysis: Tracking South Africa’s Syria policy,”
Daily Maverick (Johannesburg), July 23, 2012.

Mandy Rossouw, “Pretoria takes soft stance on Syria,” City Press (Pretoria), July 22, 2012.

Oluwaseun Oluwarotimi (NewsWorld), “Syria; UN Security Council, A Failure- South Africa,” Leadership (Abuja), July 23, 2012.

However, the statements of the South African Security Council Representative and the Deputy Foreign Minister seeking to justify South Africa’s abstention do not stand up to close scrutiny, in the light of the actual text of Security Council draft resolution S/2012/538.

This is evident from a comparison of their remarks and the actual text of the draft resolution itself.

The full text of Ebrahim’s statement follows:

Statement by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim, on the UN Security Council vote on the extension of the mandate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), 20 Jul 2012

South Africa deplores the violence and the tremendous loss of life in Syria, which is spiraling out of control. I reiterate that our highest priority is to stop the killing. We feel that the only way to achieve this is through the Annan plan for a political transition.

The bomb in Damascus earlier this week, which resulted in the death of senior government officials including the Defence Minister, Daoud Rajha, coupled with the many horrific massacres that have taken place over the past few weeks, clearly shows that there is more than one side to the conflict. It is also obvious that all sides are heavily armed.

We have noted the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent’s classification of the escalating situation in Syria as meeting the conditions of an internal armed conflict. The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights also stated that: “there are indications that the situation in Syria, at least in certain areas, may amount to a non-international armed conflict thus entailing obligations on both sides under international law”.

This confirms that the situation has reached a threshold of a civil war in which all parties have responsibilities and obligations under international humanitarian law.

It is therefore essential that the Security Council address this dire situation in line with the United Nations Charter. The Charter determines that the Council should make recommendations for conflict resolution and take account of failures of implementation with its decisions: “without prejudice to the rights, claims and positions of the parties concerned”. Chapter VII of the UN Charter therefore mandates the Security Council to address the conduct of all parties to a conflict equally.

During the past week, Kofi Annan, in response to the escalating violence and lack of movement in the peace process, requested the Council to send a strong message to all parties that there would be consequences for their non-compliance with the Annan plan.

It has been incorrectly reported that South Africa was opposed to sanctions on the Syrian government. I wish to emphasise that South Africa fully supports the request of the Joint Special Envoy for stern action. Our problem with the resolution voted on yesterday was not the issue of sanctions on the government per se, but the fact that the text did not provideformeasures against the opposition for non-compliance with the Annan plan. (emphasis added).

It was on this basis that South Africa made recommendations to balance the text. These proposals were rejected by the drafters of the resolution, leaving South Africa no option but to abstain in the vote

This was not merely an issue of language. South Africa takes it responsibility as a member of the Security Council extremely seriously, because its decisions impact the lives of ordinary people. Our view is that a one-sided resolution would only make the situation on the ground worse, pushing the government to further pursue the military option and emboldening the opposition to continue to reject talks. In a complex, divided society such as Syria, there can be no military solution.

We saw this clearly in Iraq. Ultimately, the parties in Syria will have to negotiate a settlement. The question is whether they do so now or after a bloody and protracted civil war. We are therefore deeply disappointed that the Council was not able to apply pressure to both sides to bring an end to the violence.

The outcome of the vote reflects the deep divisions and narrow interests of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council. These divisions and the inability of the Security Council to address the realities of the appalling situation on the ground in a balanced and mature manner, is a failure by the Security Council to execute its primary mandate, namely the maintenance of international peace and security.

South Africa continues to call for a Syrian-led negotiated all-inclusive dialogue to establish a politicaltransitionthat will reflect the will of the Syrian people. This is the ultimate aim of the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Mr Kofi Annan, and the only hope for the Syrian people.

While we are concerned about the safety of observers, South Africa continues to believe that UNSMIS plays a critical role in supporting the efforts of Mr Annan, including through verification and facilitating local-level cease-fires. The withdrawal of UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) will only result in the conflict on the ground spiraling into an all-out war, which will have a severe impact on the stability of the entire region. South Africa is deeply concerned about such a prospect.

Currently there are two competing resolutions before the Security Council to extend the mandate of UNSMIS, which South Africa supports. We hope the Security Council will be able to rise above its deep divisions and adopt the extension unanimously.

(Statement issued by Department of International Relations and Cooperation, July 20, 2012)

Statement of Ian Davidson, Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Alliance

Ian Davidson, the shadow minister for foreign affairs of the Democratic Alliance, expressed his disagreement with the Zuma government’s abstention in the Security Council in a statement issued on July 20, 2012.

See “DA: Statement by Ian Davidson, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of InternationalRelationsand Co-operation, on the Department of International Relations and Co-operation’s stance on Syria, Polityorg.com, July 20, 2012.

The full text of Davidson’s statement follows:

While the death toll in Syria continues to rise, South Africa’s representatives in the United Nations (UN) Security Council have once again abstained from voting in support of decisive UN action in Syria. Once again, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) is allowing autocratic regimes with poor human rights records to dictate South Africa’s foreign policy.

After recognising yesterday that the violence in Syria is “spinning out of control”, South Africa has yet again abstained from voting on the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution aiming at de-escalating conflict in Syria.

UN action was effectively neutered by vetoes from Russia and China. By abstaining from the vote, South Africa has sided with its fellow BRICS members. While the Syrian people are being bombed by their own government and the increasing armament of both the government forces and rebel groups has turned the Syrian conflict into an international security crisis, South Africa chose to remain on the fence.

DIRCO defends this decision by claiming that the world requires a “balanced” intervention which recognises the wrongdoings of all parties to the conflict and paves the way for negotiation.

The proposed UN resolution stipulated a deadline for an end to the use of heavy weapons, called for the withdrawalofSyrian forces from towns and cities and proposed sanctions should this deadline not be met. The dream of a negotiated settlement will never be realised without more decisive initial steps to de-escalate the violence.

South Africa should not be caught on the wrong side of history again, as with our infamous flip-flop on Libya. In abstaining from this vote, we are losing credibility as a country which believes in human rights and a just international order and we are alienating the West and Arab League nations more directly affected by the Syrian conflict.

Instead of using our position as a member of BRICS to encourage China and Russia to do the right thing, we are being caught in the slipstream of their bad decisions. Our association with China and Russia in this regard will undermine our legitimacy in the UN Security Council and could derail our efforts to reform this structure to the benefit of smaller and developing nations.

DIRCO fence-sitting raises questions about our capacity to make tough decisions that may offend some of our more dubious friends.

The Text of Security Council Draft Resolution 538

Draft Resolution 538 was in fact quite balanced, in view of the events of the last year and the atrocities Bashar al-Assad has committed and is committing against his opponents, who began their protest peacefully in March, 2011. The actual text of draft resolution 2012/538 follows:

Security Council: Text of draft resolution on Syria
Jul 19, 2012
(France, Germany, Portugal, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America: draft resolution)

The Security Council,

Recalling its Resolutions 2043 (2012) and 2042 (2012), and its Presidential Statements of 3 August 2011, 21 March 2012 and 5 April 2012,

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter,

Reaffirming alsoits support to the Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, and his work, following General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/253 of 16 February 2012 and relevant resolutions of the League of Arab States, aimed at securing full implementation of his six-point plan in its entirety, as annexed to resolution 2042 (2012),

Condemning the Syrian authorities’ increasing use of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters, in population centres and failure to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons to their barracks contrary to paragraph 2 of resolution 2043 (2012),

Condemning the armed violence in all its forms, including by armed opposition groups, and expressing grave concern at the continued escalation of violence, and expressing its profound regret at the death of many thousands of people in Syria,

Condemning the continued widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed opposition groups, and recalling that those responsible shall be held accountable,

Condemning the series of bombings that have made the situation more complex and deadly, some of which are indicative of the presence of well-organised terrorist groups,

Deploring the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the failure to ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting contrary to point 3 of the Envoy’s six-point plan, reiterating its call for the Syrian parties to allow immediate, full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance, in particular to civilian populations in need of evacuation, and calling upon all parties in Syria, in particular the Syrian authorities, to cooperate fully with the United Nations and relevant humanitarian organizations to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance;

Condemning the continued detention of thousands of Syrians in networks of Government-run facilities and deploring that there is no freedom of assembly contrary to points 4 and 6 of the six-point plan, and recalling the urgency of intensifying the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons, and reiterating the need for Syrians to enjoy the freedom to assemble, including to demonstrate peacefully and freedom of movement for journalists throughout the country, as part of the necessary conditions for a political transition,

Having considered the Secretary-General’s report on UNSMIS dated 6 July 2012, commending United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) personnel for their continued efforts in a dangerous and volatile environment, and deploring that, due to the failure of the parties to implement the six-point plan and to the level of violence, monitoring access restrictions and direct targeting, the Mission’s operational activities were rendered unworkable, and supporting the Secretary-General’s recommendation that a shift in Mission structure and focus should be considered,

Stressingthat rapid progress on a political solution represents the best opportunity to resolve the situation in Syria peacefully, welcoming in this regard the Final Communiqué of the Envoy’s 30 June Action Group meeting, and noting that progress towards an atmosphere of safety and calm is key to enabling a credible transition,

Welcoming the Syrian Opposition Conference held under the auspices of the League of Arab States in Cairo on July 3, 2012, as part of the efforts of the League of Arab States to engage the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition, and encouraging greater cohesion among the opposition,

Noting the Secretary-General’s 6 July 2012 call on the Security Council to provide the necessary support and ensure sustained, united and effective pressure on all concerned to ensure compliance with its decisions and create conditions for the success of a political solution envisaged by the Action Group,

Determining that the situation in Syria constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

1. Expresses grave concern at the escalation of violence, and the failure of the parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, to implement the Envoy’s six-point plan as annexed to resolution 2042 (2012), thus not permitting the creation of a political space that would allow for meaningful political dialogue, and calls upon all parties to recommit immediately and without waiting for the actions of others to a sustained cessation of violence in all its forms and implementation of the six-point plan;

2. Endorsesin full the 30 June Action Group Final Communiqué and its underlying guidelines and principles (Annex);

Enabling Transition: Immediate implementation of the Envoy’s six-point plan

3. Demandsthe urgent, comprehensive, and immediate implementation of, all elements of the Envoy’s six-point proposal as annexed to resolution 2042 (2012) aimed at bringing an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations, securing humanitarian access and facilitating a Syrian-led politicaltransitionas outlined in the Annex, leading to a democratic, plural politicalsystem, in which citizens are equal regardless of their affiliations, ethnicities or beliefs, including through commencing a comprehensive political dialogue between the Syrian authorities and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition;

4. Decidesthat the Syrian authorities shall implement visibly and verifiablytheir commitments in their entirety, as they agreed to do in the Preliminary Understanding and as stipulated in resolution 2042 (2012) and 2043(2012), to (a) ceasetroopmovements towards population centres, (b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centres, (c) complete pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres, and to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centres to their barracks or temporary deployment places to facilitate a sustained cessation of violence;

5. Demands that all parties in Syria, including the opposition, immediately cease all armed violence in all its forms, thereby creating an atmosphere conducive to a sustained cessation of violence and a Syrian-led political transition;

6. Expresses grave concern at the increasing numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of the ongoing violence, and reiterates its appreciation of the significant efforts that have been made by the States bordering Syria to assist those who have fled across Syria’s borders as a consequence of the violence, and requesting UNHCR to provide assistance as requested by member states receiving these displaced persons,

Transition

7. Demands that all Syrian parties work withthe Office of the Joint Special Envoy to implement rapidly the transition plan set forth in the Final Communiqué in a way that assures the safety of all in an atmosphere of stability and calm;

Accountability

8. Recalls that all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, including acts of violence, must be held accountable;

9. Decides that the Syrian Government shall provide the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and individuals working on its behalf immediate entry and access to all areas of Syria, decides that the Syrian authorities shall cooperate fully with the Commission of Inquiry in the performance of its mandate;

UNSMIS

10. Decides to renew the mandate of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) for a period of 45 days, on the basis of the Secretary-General’s recommendation to reconfigure the Mission to increase support for dialogue with and between the parties, and enhance attention to the political track and rights’ issues across the six-point plan;

11. Requests the Secretary-General to retain the minimum military observer capacity and requisite civilian component necessary to promote forward steps on the six-point plan through facilitation of political dialogue and to conduct verification and fact-finding tasks;

12. Condemns all attacks against UNSMIS, reaffirms that perpetrators of attacks against UN personnel must be held to account, demands that the parties guarantee the safety of UNSMIS personnel without prejudice to its freedom of movement and access, and stresses that the primary responsibility in this regard lies with the Syrian authorities;

13. Demands that the Syrian authorities ensure the effective operation of UNSMIS by: facilitating the expeditious and unhindered deployment of its personnel and capabilities as required to fulfil its mandate; ensuring its full unimpeded, and immediate freedom of movement and access as necessary to fulfil its mandate, underlining in this regard the need for the Syrian authorities and the United Nations to come rapidly to an agreement on appropriate air transportation assets for UNSMIS; allowing its unobstructed communications; and allowing it to freely and privately communicate with individuals throughout Syria without retaliation against any person as a result of interaction with UNSMIS;

Compliance

14. Decides that, if the Syrian authorities have not fully complied with paragraph 4 above within ten days, then it shall impose immediately measures under Article 41 of the UN Charter;

Reporting and Follow-Up

15. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the implementation by all parties in Syria of this resolution within 10 days of its adoption and every 15 days thereafter;

16. Expresses its intention to assess the implementation of this resolution and to consider further steps as appropriate;

17. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

Curiously, the text of draft Security Council resolution S/2012/538 is not yet available on the United Nations web site. The link to the document does not lead to the document. All of which reminds the Observer of a story once told him by a former American high official in the United Nations during the early years of the Cold war. The Soviets, he recounted, had always placed a high value on controlling the printing presses at the U.N., through the appointment of the offical with authority over them. This gave them considerable leverage within the organization. Could there be a vestige of this old Cold War strategem still at work in the bowels of the U.N.?

South Africa’s Leadership of Democratic Forces in Africa, and Beyond

As pointed out in a previous article, with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma now heading the African Commission, it is even more important than it was before that South Africa take seriously its responsibilities as a leader of the democratic forces in Africa–and beyond.

See The Trenchant Observer, “Security Council adopts Resolution 2059 extending mandate of UNSMIS for 30 days (with text); fighting and risks intensify—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #67 (July 20),”
July 20, 2012.

Ironically, on July 22 it was reported by News24 that the staff of the South African embassy in Damascus had been forced to flee the fighting in Damascus, and that the embassy was moving its personnel to Lebanon for safety. According to an earlier SABC report, Shaune Byneveldt, ambassador to Syria, had arrived back in South Africa as fighting intensified in Damascus.

See

“SA embassy staff flee Syria,” News24 (South Africa), July 22, 2012.

Karl Gernetskysa, “SA moves staff to Lebanon as violence worsens in Syria; Observers have questioned if South Africa’s lack of a firmer stance on Syria could lead to embarrassment similar to that caused by indecision over Libya,” Business Day, July 24, 2012.

The bottom line is that South Africa adopted the position of Russia and China, even though it “abstained” on the resolution instead of voting against it. The argument that draft Resolution was unbalanced because it threatened sanctions only against the Syrian government and not against the rebels is specious, as a close reading of operative paragraphs (4) and (5) of the resolution makes clear.

Paragraph 4 calls on the government to “(a) cease troop movements towards population centres, (b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centres, (c) complete pullback of military concentrations in and around population centres, and to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centres to their barracks or temporary deployment places to facilitate a sustained cessation of violence.”

Operative paragraph 5 states clearly that the Security Council:

5. Demands that all parties in Syria, including the opposition, immediately cease all armed violence in all its forms, thereby creating an atmosphere conducive to a sustained cessation of violence and a Syrian-led political transition;

There is absolutely nothing unbalanced about the draft resolution, and to argue otherwise is to argue in generalities that depend for their persuasive force on the ignorance of those to whom they are addressed. That not only Russia and China could make such arguments, but also South Africa (and Pakistan) is shameful and defenseless.

In the context of events in Syria, the fact that Russia and China had blocked effective Security Council action since vetoing a Security Council resolution in October, 2011, and after four months of Kofi Annan’s “six-point plan” producing absolutely nothing in terms of results, South Africa’s vote (like that of Pakistan, which also abstained) can only be interpreted as supporting the Russian and Chinese position.

This vote of abstention represented a complete abdication of South Africa’s responsibilities, as a democratic nation and leader of the democratic forces in Africa, and beyond, to support concrete action by the Security Council to deal effectively with the Syrian crisis.

Draft Resoluiton 538 was in fact quite balanced, in view of the events of the last year and the atrocities Bashar al-Assad has committed, against opponents who began their protest peacefully in March 2011.

Nelswon Mandela’s Vision

July 19, 2012 was a shameful day for South Africa.

One day after Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday, which was celebrated throughout the country by schoolchildren singing “Happy Birthday” to him, South Africa deviated sharply from Mandela’s vision, articulated in his 1993 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech as follows:

We live with the hope that as she battles to remake herself, South Africa, will be like a microcosm of the new world that is striving to be born.

This must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights, a world freed from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance, relieved of the threat and the scourge of civil wars and external aggression and unburdened of the great tragedy of millions forced to become refugees.

The processes in which South Africa and Southern Africa as a whole are engaged, beckon and urge us all that we take this tide at the flood and make of this region as a living example of what all people of conscience would like the world to be.

We do not believe that this Nobel Peace Prize is intended as a commendation for matters that have happened and passed.

We hear the voices which say that it is an appeal from all those, throughout the universe, who sought an end to the system of apartheid.

We understand their call, that we devote what remains of our lives to the use of our country’s unique and painful experience to demonstrate, in practice, that the normal condition for human existence is democracy, justice, peace, non-racism, non-sexism, prosperity for everybody, a healthy environment and equality and solidarity among the peoples.

Moved by that appeal and inspired by the eminence you have thrust upon us, we undertake that we too will do what we can to contribute to the renewal of our world so that none should, in future, be described as the “wretched of the earth”.

Let it never be said by future generations that indifference, cynicism or selfishness made us fail to live up to the ideals of humanism which the Nobel Peace Prize encapsulates.

Let the strivings of us all, prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct, when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war.

Let the efforts of us all, prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.

Let a new age dawn!

Thank you.

–Nelson Mandela, 1993 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance and Nobel Lecture, December 10, 1993.

The Trenchant Observer

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For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer on this topic, and others, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

Veterans’ Day, 2011: “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?”

Friday, November 11th, 2011

My uncle died in a field in northern France with a German bullet in his head. To him, and all the other veterans of America’s wars, I am immensely grateful for his, and their, sacrifice.

The Vision of Peace After World War II

At the end of World War II, the leaders of the world had a clear vision of the horrors of war, and acted with resolution to bring wars to a halt through the creation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, and by codifying the international law governing the use of force in Article 2 paragraph 4 and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.  Article 2 paragraph 4 prohibited the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of members of the organization, a prohibition later extended to include all states. Article 51 provided for an exception in the case of an “armed attack”.  These provisions have become customary international law and, importantly, also aquired the status of jus cogens or peremptory law from which there can be no exception or derogation by agreement.

A Vision of Perpetual War

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and the United States are currently embarked on a policy based on the assumption of perpetual war. The implementation of this policy includes targeted assassinations through drone strikes and other means, the establishment of new drone bases throughout the northern part of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, and the development of new generations of drones some of which are as small as insects.

This policy has been implemented with little regard for the international law governing the use of force, and even less regard for the duty of the United States to contribute to the development of international law and institutions that can help ensure the security of the United States and other countries in the future.

These actions indicate that the United States has no current vision of peace as an overriding goal to be achieved, and no coherent strategy for actually achieving this objective.

Without the goal of peace, we are not likely to take the actions necessary to achieve peace, or to give those actions the urgent priority they should receive.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

In these circumstances, one is reminded of Pete Seeger’s famous song  entitled “Where have all the flowers gone?” For the lyrics, click here.

Pete Seeger’s performance of this song is available on YouTube here.

See also, pasquetflowerponderings.blogspot.com, “Grandpa’s War – A Veteran’s Day Post,” November 11, 2011, which contains recollections of America’s recent wars, and a link to a clip of Pete Seeger singing ” Where have all the flowers gone” with a moving montage of photographs evoking American experiences of war, created by the TheSpadecaller in 2008.

Joan Baez, in a more recent performance of the song, can be found on YouTube here.

Marlene Dietrich’s recording of this song in English is also found on YouTube here.

For Dietrich’s performance of the song in French, see “Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?” here.

For her performance the German version of this song, see “Sag mir wo die Blumen sind”, here.

Marlene Dietrich, in a version of perhaps her most famous song, “Lili Marleen”, written in 1915 and later a hit among troops on both sides during World War II, takes us back to November 11, 1918 and the terrible war that preceded the armistice on that day. Her recording of the song, in English, is found on YouTube here. The original German version of the song is found here.

Obama’s Vision of Perpetual War and International Law

In his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in Oslo, on December 10, 2009, President Obama said:

In the wake of such destruction (World War II), and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another world war. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, restrict the most dangerous weapons.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.

Closely parsed, these statements are full of contradictions, as when   President Obama affirms:

(1) “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”
(2) “To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force.”
(3) “I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation”; and
(4) “Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards, international standards, strengthens those who do, and isolates and weakens those who don’t.”

Affirmation (1) accepts violent conflict as inevitable. (2) states that all nations must adhere to the norms that govern the use of force. (3) states that he, the president, “like any head of state”, reserves the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend his nation; and (4) states he is convinced adhering to “international standards” strengthens those who do.

These contradictions in Obama’s thinking, it is submitted, have contributed to the incoherence of U.S. foreign policy, particularly when measured against the requirements of international law, and the historical burden of strengthening international law and building better international institutions, which is no less important today than it was in 1945.

Reading these excerpts and the whole speech reveals that the president does not have a clear vision of peace as the goal, or a strategy on how to achieve that goal. While he pays lip service to observing international law, he insists that he has the paradoxical right–“like any head of state”–to violate it if necessary, in his view. So much for the concept of international law governing the use of force.

Without the clear and overriding goal of peace or a strategy for achieving peace, it is hard to see how we and other nations can view as the highest priority taking the steps necessary to achieve peace.

President Obama and the United States currently seem to have no overarching vision of peace, or strategy for achieving peace. As a result, their policies and actions are not guided by the pursuance of this goal in a strategic sense, but rather only by the demands of meeting with expediency the challenges of the moment.

By way of contrast, consider, if you will, the vision of the founders of the United Nations in 1945, particularly as set forth in the Preamble and Articles 1, 2, and 51 of the Charter.

We in the United States, like citizens in other countries, need a strong vision of peace and a coherent strategy for achieving it.  Consequently, we need a president who has such a vision, and is guided by it.

The Trenchant Observer

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Comments are invited.

Words and Deeds: Obama’s Defense of Democracy in Africa, 2011

Monday, August 1st, 2011

In comments on July 29 following meetings with President Yayi of Benin; President Conde of Guinea; President Issoufou of Niger; and President Ouattara of Ivory Coast, President Barack Obama stated the following:

“Despite the impressive work of all these gentlemen, I’ve said before and I think they all agree, Africa does not need strong men; Africa needs strong institutions. So we are working with them as partners to build effective judiciaries, strong civil societies, legislatures that are effective and inclusive, making sure that human rights are protected.”
–President Barack Obama, West Africa: Remarks By Obama After Meeting With Four African Presidents”, July 29, 2011, reprinted in TheNigerianDaily.com, July 30, 2011.

As we have learned in other contexts, it is important to examine carefully not just what President Obama says but also, and most importantly, what he does. When he speaks of working with these and presumably other African leaders “to build effective judiciaries, strong civil societies, legislatures that are effective and inclusive, making sure that human rights are protected,” one must ask, “What are the specific programs, in which countries, and at what level of funding is he referring to?”

Again, how does this level of funding, per country, compare to the cost of deploying one American soldier to Afghanistan for one year?

Africans struggling to establish or strengthen democracy in their countries need not just words, but deeds. They need specific and meaningful programs that provide financial assistance for the strengthening of civil society organizations, including NGO’s working to ensure observance of fundamental human rights, and judicial reforms that not only improve the functioning of the courts but also expand access to justice among broader sections of the population.

See The Trenchant Observer, “Obama and Democracy in Africa, 2011,” July 16, 2011

Also worth noting in passing is the level of sophistication regarding Africa revealed at the White House, when the President refers to “Cote d’Ivoire” as if no one in the State Department knows the name of the country in English (Ivory Coast). If we are to start using the native languages for the names of different countries, we will have to refer to Egypt as Misr, Algeria as Jaza’ir, and Germany as Deutschland. It’s probably better to stick with English.

Or, to cite another example, when the Deputy National Security Adviser for Africa speaks of the president trying to find ways to speak directly to “the African people,” he is referring to the diverse peoples of the 54 countries of Africa as one people. It as if he were referring to people in Asia as “the Asian people” or the people in Latin America as “the Latin American people”. India, China and Brazil, to cite but a few examples, would not be pleased.

Details count, and are revealing.

The Trenchant Observer

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e-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

Obama and Democracy in Africa, 2011

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Michelle Obama’s visit to Africa in June was, by most accounts, a successful goodwill tour by the First Lady and her family, serving to underline the importance of U.S.-African relations in general, and the personal interest of the First Family in African countries in particular.

See Andrew Malcolm (commentary), “Michelle Obama’s magical family tour of Africa,” Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2011

Certainly, the symbolism, particularly of her meeting with Nelson Mandela, was powerful, recalling as it did the triumph in two great countries of peaceful social revolutions based on the ideas and inspiration of Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela himself.

Nonetheless, the visit was also a time to reflect on U.S.-African relations, evoking a number of criticisms of U.S. policy toward Africa under President Barack Obama.

An article by Krissah Thompson, published in the Washington Post on June 18, 2011, nicely captured the gulf between the attention given the Obamas as media celebrities when they travel to Africa, and the reality of U.S. policies toward the countries of the continent.

Typical of the criticisms cited by Thompson were the foilowing:

(T)he big challenges facing the continent — poverty, government corruption, threats of extremism, and AIDS — have not drawn the White House attention that Mwiza Munthali, public outreach director of TransAfrica Forum, had hoped for.

U.S. officials, said Munthali, “are not seeing Africa as a big priority. There has been some ambivalence.”

From another viewpoint, the following criticism was heard:

Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, a Ghanaian who runs a New York investment and research firm specializing in Africa, pointed to what he said was the irony in the shared disappointment. “We really said if a black man became president, it would change the world, but we are basically back at the same level we were before,” he said. “The bulk of the policy is still the legacy of the Clinton and Bush years. The Obama legacy toward Africa is still yet to be seen.”

–Krissah Thompson, “First lady’s African trip resurrects criticism of president on African issues,” Washington Post, June 18, 2011

A lame defense of U.S. policy towards Africa offered by White House officials only underlined the absence of really significant U.S. programs and initiatives in the region.

White House officials disagreed (with the criticisms), saying that the administration has laid out clear priorities in Africa: supporting democratic regimes, decreasing hunger and developing the $63 billion Global Health Initiative. That program seeks to integrate the Bush administration’s focus on AIDS with a wider approach to public health issues.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, noted that Obama met with the leaders of Nigeria and Gabon this month, and last year hosted a large group of handpicked young adults from the continent for a White House forum.

While Obama’s schedule has prevented him from traveling (to) the continent more, Rhodes said, the president delivered audio messages urging a peaceful democratic transition in Ivory Coast and an end to violence in Sudan, which recently divided into northern and southern jurisdictions with U.S. backing.

“We have looked for ways for him to continue to speak to the African people directly,” Rhodes said.

–Krissah Thompson, “First lady’s African trip resurrects criticism of president on African issues,” Washington Post, June 18, 2011

This defense was bolstered–perhaps–by an apology for Obama administation policies toward Africa written by two Brookings Institution Africanists and published on July 6.

See Mwangi S. Kimenyi and Nelipher Moyo, “Favorite or Prodigal Son? U.S. – Africa Policy under Obama,” Brookings (blog of the The Brookings Institution), July 6, 2011

Against this backdrop, one might ask, what is going on in terms of U.S. support of democratic forces and civil society in the region? How much money is it spending on such support?

Going forward, how much has the Obama administration asked for, and how much is the Republican-controlled House of Representatives willing to spend, on democracy and governance activities in Africa that support democratic forces and strengthen civil society?

To put these numbers in perspective, one might also ask how does this number, per country, compare to the cost of supporting one U.S. soldier in Afghanistan for one year?

The fact is that demands for democracy and accountable government are not confined to the North African countries of “the Arab Spring.” They have also been heard in West Africa, from Ivory Coast to Liberia to Nigeria, while deep and significant movements toward democracy are also underway in the countries of Southern Africa, inspired in part by the example of South Africa. Elsewhere in the 54 countries of Africa, elections are being held and democratic governments are being formed and, everywhere, the struggle for democracy is underway.

What is the Obama administration doing, now, to support democratic forces and civil society in these African countries that are caught up in the struggle for democracy?

That is the question.

The Trenchant Observer

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See also Words and Deeds: Obama’s Defense of Democracy in Africa, 2011, August 1, 2011