On foreign policy, the Trump/Bannon approach is not to recreate the 1950’s, but to undo the post-Cold War era

On  Africa, thus back to the era of the American consultants Paul Manafort and Roger Stone working for Kenya’s autocrat Moi through his re-election in 1992.  Go back and support right/nationalist movements in white Europe and Russia, rather than internationalist liberalism and NATO expansion.  

At the core, repudiate the thinking of the the George H.W. Bush administration in promoting a globalist, rule-based “New World Order” with an alternative that imagines a third Reagan term in which the U.S. turned on the end of the Cold War with the Soviets to engage in a similar confrontation against “expansionist global Islamism” and treated China as a Communist power in rivalry rather than an economic partner whom we would continue to assist to rise on the faith that its role in the economic order would eventually result in liberalization and even democratization.  

Reorient to say the problem is not “the arc of instability” and a lack of elections or freedoms, it’s the jihadis.

“Nixon would have told us to stop with the ‘China card’ after we ‘won’ the Cold War.  Henry has been hanging out with Hillary for ‘the holidays’ and working both sides and we’ve gotten confused.  Never could trust him.  We’ve gotten this completely wrong and have to straighten up.”

In this perspective the collaboration between the neocons and the liberal  internationalists that drove policy under Clinton and George W. Bush left us weakened and feckless, snatching long decline from the jaws of victory.  We ended up paying for European security because they would rather focus on competing for arms exports–nice deal if we are suckers enough to go for it!  

And we’ve ended up following the European liberals to the point of underwriting the wrong sides in the culture wars.  The Bushes and Bill Clinton were bad enough–but Obama really went far left; we’ll fix that.

Calling Ollie North and Erik Prince.

Carson finds best hope for U.S. Africa policy to be “benign neglect” outside security sector (update)

[Update: Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State today, with the votes of those Republicans who had raised questions about his commitmant to human rights and other issues related to his career long tenure at oil major Exxon.  He takes over a State Department where perhaps 1,000 officers and employees have signed a leaked “dissent” from President Trump’s immigration and refugee order impacting those of Somali, Sudanese and Libyan nationality, among seven countries.  Tillerson has said he was not consulted on the Executive Order.]

Former Obama administration Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson finds “Trump’s Africa policy unclear and uncertain” but expects a broad pulling back from existing bipartisan programs in a piece at African Arguments:

. . . .

Trump has exhibited no interest in Africa. Nor have any of his closest White House advisors. Except for some campaign comments about Libya and Benghazi, the new president has made very few remarks about the continent. And despite his global network of hotel, golf and tourist holdings, he appears to have no investments or business relationships in sub-Saharan Africa.

The one member of Trump’s inner circle that may have an interest in Africa is Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. He has some experience of Africa because of his many years in the oil industry with ExxonMobil, most of whose successful dealings on the continent were with largely corrupt and authoritarian leaders.

If Tillerson appoints a moderate and experienced Africa expert to run the Africa Bureau – and there are a dozen Republicans who meet that definition – and if he is able to keep policy in the control of the State Department, African issues may not be pushed aside completely. But irrespective of who manages Trump’s Africa policy, there will be a major change from recent previous administrations.

President Obama pushed a strong democratic agenda and launched half a dozen new development programmes including Power Africa, Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative. Before him, Bush’s “compassionate” approach led to the establishment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), two of America’s most widely-praised programmes on the continent.

But Trump’s view is more myopic . . .

Under Trump, any focus on Africa will likely be on military and security issues, not democracy, good governance or human rights.  These policies are likely to find greater favour with Africa’s autocrats than civil society or local business leaders.

. . . .  Photo from church of African-American freedmen from Cumberland Island, Georgia for Black History Month

Expect US Africa policy to be led from Pentagon rather than State Department or White House, in near term if not for the next four years [updated]

(https://flic.kr/p/6fgHxc)

The President himself has never been to Africa and has shown no particular interest or inclination toward engagement on any of the various issues on his plate regarding the United States’ activities in and relationships with African countries.

In some respects this suggests a level of continuity through inertia that is unavailable in those areas to which Trump has some personal connection or exposure through his business organization or personal relationships (Russia on one hand and Mexico on the other, for instance).

Trump seems to be networked into the Safari Club and is politically very much indebted to Franklin Graham (the  American evangelist/missionary who has been especially engaged in Sudan and otherwise in Africa) but I don’t think that this will put much claim on Trump’s attention, as he already ordered a cutoff in U.S. funding to organizations that separately have connections to programs touching on abortion (a significantly broadened approach to the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations’ rules) as an early low cost “deliverable” to “pro-life” supporters on an issue he doesn’t personally have any particular feelings or opinions on. [Graham does not make specific candidate campaign endorsements–my perception of his influence for Trump is subjective from my vantage point as a white Southern American Protestant, who has been involved in congregational mission efforts that include support for one of Graham’s programs.]

Trump did not get where he is by building a reputation for paying his debts (any more than for forgiving his debtors), so I will be surprised, pleasantly, if Graham were to influence Trump on non-abortion related health issues that involved spending rather than cutting, like famine relief or other things that had some political purchase under “compassionate conservatism” in Africa during the G.W. Bush administration.

Trump is pretty clearly anti-conservation domestically and probably disinclined to have anything much to do with things involving wildlife or the environment in Africa other than to reduce funding for any direct or international programming in these areas, Safari Club notwithstanding.  Generally speaking my big game hunter friends are more concerned about wealth accumulation and tax cutting–Trump’s policies will leave them net ahead even with a likely loss of habit and species diversity (and better situated to buy private reserves).  Along with the expected big overall aid cuts, I would speculate that  conservation programs may be especially attractive targets to “zero out” to give Congress political bragging rights for some program “kills”.

So outside the military and Department of Defense we will probably see Trump to be as slow to fill key policy positions on Africa as Obama was, but with more turnover in the next tiers of the bureaucracy.

Because the Defense Department has already been the big repository of funding to maintain policy expertise in the U.S. on Africa (as elsewhere) during the Bush/Obama years, as funds and political bandwidth are reduced in other areas, we will be more dependent on those functions under the portfolio of Secretary Gen. Mattis at the Pentagon.  It is very fortunate that he stands out as unusually well-qualified and genuinely respected.

In the event any of the major players in the hospitality/tourism/”conferencing” business–say the Kenyatta family of Kenya–were to entice the Trump Organization into their market, certainly that would be expected to profoundly change everything I have observed here.

In that regard, perhaps we will see “The Scramble for Trump” as a new frame for engagement in the post-development era.

“Africa is a Command” – Bush to Obama to Trump

By electing President Obama we got through with race and became post-racial. Now that we have elected Trump we are surely done with “political correctness”, so lets us speak plainly. What is “Africa” as seen from Washington?

Well, surely Africa is a playground for so many characters, but that is nothing new at all, and we don’t really like to focus on that.  From Trump children big game hunting to politically engaged ministers and ex-diplomats involved in unusual investment schemes, Africa abides.  With election campaigns to run and autocrats to lobby for in Washington.  And missions and aid and economic investment programs continuing apace with varying degrees of pep and power in accordance with the visions and priorities of policy makers.

The thing that is new from U.S. vantage in this century is the overriding common legacy of the Bush and Obama administrations: AFRICOM (recognizing that the new command was primarily planned by the Bush Administration but did not “stand up” until Obama was almost in office).

I never had strong opinions about whether having a separate combatant command for Africa would be better or worse than than the status quo under CENTCOM, et al, that existed in my time working in Kenya and Somaliand in 2007-08.  It has escaped my attention if there are many Americans who see our policies in Africa during the Cold War as a highlight of our better angels, and I think on balance our aspirations for our relations in Africa in this century are higher than back in the past; nonetheless, largely staying out of Africa directly with our own military during the the Cold War and its initial aftermath may have reduced risks that are now potentially at play.

I think it is fair to say that ten years in the December 2006 Ethiopian operation to remove the ICU in Somalia with our support has not over time convinced all skeptics.  In fairness, perhaps, as with the French Revolution, it is still too early to tell.

So did having AFRICOM as a separate combatant command from late 2008 (with a new “whole-of-government” flavor and hardwired entre for USAID and State Department involvement) result in wiser judgment and better execution in terms of US national security and/or related and ancillary command objectives in recent years?

It is hard to judge because it is a big command (aside from the answer being, in substance, classified) but the experience with regard to the Libya intervention in particular is not altogether encouraging.

Would having CENTCOM engaged from Tampa rather than AFRICOM from Stuttgart have made a difference in some way to our consideration of intervention and our planning-perhaps more hard questions initially to Washington from a more “war wary” perspective as opposed to input from an entity with the bureaucratic equivalent of the “new car smell”?  [If inexperience was not a factor, what do we need to change to avoid future repetition if we agree that something went wrong on Libya?]

One way or the other, Trump takes office with AFRICOM at his command, a vast range of relatively small training interactions of a primarily “military diplomatic” nature all over, large exercises and larger programs with many militaries, active limited and largely low profile (from outside) “kinetic” operations  across a wide “arc of instability” and the war in Somalia with a new legal opinion, for what its worth, tying the fight against al Shabaab more explicitly to 9-11 and al Queda.  Along with a real live emergency in South Sudan and several other critical situations from a humanitarian and stability perspective.

I have declined to be persuaded by a dark view of the intentions behind standing up AFRICOM (versus the status quo ante and any realistic alternatives).  Perhaps this is merely self protective since I am, after all, not only American, but also worked for much longer in the defense industry than my brief foray in paid assistance work.  But it is my attempt at honest judgment from my own experience. Regardless, we are where we are, and Donald Trump will be giving the orders at the top to AFRICOM and whatever anyone had in mind, the fact that it is a military command rather than a civilian agency makes a great deal of difference in terms of the latitude that he inherited along with possession of the American White House.

Needless to say I hope it turns out that he has a yuge heart and bigly wisdom however fanciful that hope might look from what he has said and done so far.

A timely new read: “Selling Apartheid – South Africa’s Global Propaganda War”

 

I ordered this book through the University of Chicago at the African Studies Association meeting in Washington last month– newly published in the U.K. and released in 2015 in South Africa:

For fifty years the South African government spent an estimated $100 million annually on a campaign of disinformation, much of it in the US and UK.

New York Times journalist Ron Nixon provides a lively and shocking account of how power and influence were used to buy media coverage and create extensive support networks.  These included an unlikely coalition of anti-communist black conservatives, religious organizations and global corporations.

With all the current buzz about Russian involvement in U.S. and European elections and political controversies, and since I knew some of the people who played a role in this story through my work in the Republican Party during the later years of Apartheid, I was naturally glad to see this and anxious to read through and see what new I learn about this fairly recent era in US and African politics and relations.

See my post  Abramoff’s Africa and Obama’s America from 2012.

Update:  I’ve finished it and highly recommend.  Here is a review from The Daily Maverick.  Of personal interest, some events took place in familiar locales in Mississippi, and Jack Abramoff gave an interview with the author in 2014 in which he claims, amazingly, that he didn’t know that the  International Freedom Foundation which he helped found with South Africans in 1986 was a front for South African intelligence.  (Jack was in relevant news this week sharply criticizing Senator Marco Rubio for his questioning of Trump Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson during confirmation hearings.)

Kenya :  News from “The War for History” as Citizen TV owner admits to Parliament that suppressed reporting of voting results in 2007 showed Odinga win over Kibaki

Here is the story from The Daily Nation:  Raila won 2007 election says Macharia.

The truth trickles out gradually.  Of course, those of us involved in the Election Observation for the International Republican Institute were following those results being reported live on Kenyan television from our headquarters in Nairobi during that Friday-Sunday after the election on Thursday, December 27, 2007.  Dr. Joel Barkan, our expert, explained by Saturday night that based on the numbers that were reported, it appeared that Kibaki could not win.  (Part of the reason why I was surprised to be told early Sunday morning by our “lead delegate” that “it’s going to be Kibaki” during the time when the Electoral Commission of Kenya had suspended the announcement of results.)

I understood that Joel’s public statements back in Washington that we couldn’t say for sure that Raila won, but could say that Kibaki lost reflected that known results as reported by the media houses showed Kibaki could not have gotten the most votes.  Realistically, under the first past the post system under Kenyan law at that time, this leaves Raila winning (since he didn’t lose his Kibera constituency to Stanley Livondo).

I assumed that one of the primary motivations for John Michuki’s then-notorious order suspending live broadcasting by the media houses from December 30  was to facilitate making sure those results that the media houses “took down” did not “resurface” after ECK Chairnan Samuel Kivuitu announced to an audience limited to the State-owned Kenya Broadcasting Commission that Kibaki had won after all.

As we know from my Freedom of Information Act Series research, Ambassador Ranneberger reported to Washington that he had personally witnessed the changed tally sheets at the ECK along with EU Observation Chief Lambsdorff.  [In particular, see Part Ten, Ranneberger on ECK, “Much can happen . . . and it did”]

Unfortunately, Ranneberger nonetheless initially asked Kenyans to accept the results of the election without disclosing what he had witnessed and congratulations were quickly issued from a spokesman for the State Department back in the U.S. that Sunday.  Subsequently we retracted the congratulations, said there were problems with the election and took the position that there was supposedly “no way to know” who won–still without disclosing what Ranneberger witnessed until his January 2, 2008 cable to Washington was declassified (with redactions) in response to my FOIA request.

As for the media house evidence, this stayed buried until now.  The ECK never did publish any polling station, or even polling centre, results at all in the presidential race.  The Kreigler Commission stayed off the presidential tally at the ECK–even though it was part of their legal charge as fairly construed.

After the election debacle, Ranneberger did spend a significant amount of energy promoting “the reform agenda” going forward during his remaining years in Nairobi.  Unfortunately, it appears that “reform” largely failed to take (because reform built on a foundation of impunity for corruption was “a house built on sand”).

For more see my “War for History Series“.

And from the news before the holidays:

The Standard headlines John Githongo’s day in court on Anglo Leasing after all these years.  Of course, Kibaki knew.

Sadly, embarassingly, the testimony comes not in a criminal prosecution of the looters, nor an action by the Government of Kenya to recover any of the millions of dollars lost–nor even a defense against claims for fraudulent debt–but rather in Githongo’s defense of himself in a libel action by one of those implicated in Githongo’s corruption disclosures when he left office in 2005.

It has been such a disappointment to me to see comfortable Westerners celebrate and bask in the reflected glow of Githongo’s courage as a whistleblower over the years while ultimately selling him out by looking the other way while at the next election the tallies were rigged to keep Kibaki and his cohort in power, followed by the Uhuruto succession after which the Government paid huge additional sums on Anglo Leasing debt and went on its merry way to ramp up corruption to new heights.

Kenya will not be secure so long as its Government remains so pervasively corrupt.  Foolish fickleness by the U.S. and others in the West buys us nothing of value.

Why has Uhuru Kenyatta’s government acted against USAID and IFES?

[Update: here is a Joint Statement by the heads of various donor country missions on international assistance for the Kenyan election.  And here is the text of the statement from U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec:

Nairobi, Kenya – The United States firmly rejects the recent unfounded allegations against the Kenya Electoral Assistance Program (KEAP) and its implementing partners.  The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is a well-respected organization with deep expertise and experience in supporting democratic elections around the world.  IFES is registered in Kenya under the Companies Act and has legal standing to conduct programs here.  USAID provides elections assistance under our Development Assistance Grant Agreement with the Government of Kenya, which allows for the issuance of work permits for implementing partner staff, including IFES.

We are disappointed by the attempt to discredit the United States’ efforts to assist Kenyans in the conduct of free, fair, peaceful, and credible elections in 2017.  Our assistance was requested by the Government of Kenya and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), adheres strictly to Kenyan law and regulations, and is provided under careful oversight by the Government of Kenya, IEBC, and USAID.   We do this important work transparently without favoring any party or candidate.

We call on everyone to focus on the issue at hand — ensuring that the voice of the Kenyan people is heard and respected in the upcoming elections.]

The Government of Kenya has announced action to terminate cooperation with the USAID Kenya Electoral Assistance Program being administered by the American INGO IFES, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, claiming that the U.S. government is secretly seeking “regime change” and asserting as a weapon the notion that IFES, which has been working in Kenya since 2002, is “unregistered”.

Any reader of this blog will understand that my concerns about the role of IFES in Kenya’s 2007 and 2013 elections in supporting the ECK, IIEC and then IEBC are the opposite of those in Kenyatta’s attack.

While Kenyatta claims that assistance money is being used to support “regime change”, the reality has been entirely different:  the problem from 2007 and 2013 was that US tax dollars were spent in a way that ended up subsidizing corrupt electoral bodies who did not deliver sound elections–to the benefit of Kibaki (and Kenyatta) in 2007 and Kenyatta in 2013.   The problems were not disclosed publicly, putting us in the undesirable position of being “accessories” to the incumbent regime’s use of its existing power to shield itself from the risk of a fair vote.

Most recently I have been waiting for processing of documents for release under the Freedom of Information Act from USAID regarding our support of the IEBC’s technology systems in 2013.

I was in Washington this month at the African Studies Association and got a chance to catch up with people in and out of government who keep track of things in East Africa for a living.  I picked up on no indication that next year’s election in Kenya was yet high on anyone’s priority list for the U.S. government with all the immediate as opposed to future potential crises.  I also failed to detect a major policy shift for the U.S. to go from prioritizing first “stability” in Kenya as we have since 2007 (if not always since independence) as opposed to prioritizing “freedom” and/or “fairness” in the next election–much less a subversive agenda to oust Kenyatta through “regime change”.

The money we Americans spend on civic education in Kenya to bolster democracy is not inconsequential–you could do good things in civic education in one of our own states for $20M–but is only a small fraction of what we spend to assist Kenyans in the areas of health and food.  Security is our primary foreign policy priority in Kenya, and poverty-driven needs in health especially, and in food and agriculture, more traditional education and such are our main priority in assistance.

I am not sure how my government will react to being falsely accused in this situation.  Uhuru Kenyatta is personally ungrateful for our help in regard to civic education and otherwise for election assistance.  I suspect that he prefers to run his own re-election with as little attention paid to the process as possible.

Certainly the Government of Kenya, officially a middle income country, could do for its poor much of what we do if its politicians were willing.  We seem to have sentimental attachments to these programs in Kenya but I’m not sure that we ought not to focus more on places that are poorer and where governments are at least reasonably cooperative.

I will regret the loss of opportunity for Kenyans if the Government of Kenya does not change course.  Here is a statement from six Kenya civil society groups:

Is the conviction of IMF head Christine Legard, after the Strauss-Kahn affair, warning to look deeper at Kenya’s Eurobond questions?

There are substantial unanswered questions about the proceeds of Kenya’s Eurobond sales, and the murkiness accompanying all this is unnecessary.  Likewise, anyone who pays any attention at all knew long before the 2014 Eurobond transactions that it is a well established practice for major transactions by the Government of Kenya to be subject to what might be called a “corruption tax” or a “re-election tax” where some portion of the funds goes separately to the politicians in power directly through cash payments, through payments to companies in which they are equity participants in some fashion (“Mobiltelea”, “Goldenburg”, “Anglo Leasing”), payments to companies owned by their immediate family members or other relatives, etc.

The primary assurance internationally that there was nothing untoward about the handling of the bond sale proceeds and that there has been nothing to see has come from the statements to that effect from the IMF, accompanied by Nairobi visits by Ms. Legard.

For a lot of people in the West, who can accept that power in Kenya does not necessarily equate to complete veracity on issues of grand corruption, there seems to be a strange willingness to take the word of political figures from Western countries when they achieve power or status in some international institution.  There can be some legitimate reasons for this, perhaps, but there are also illegitimate ones.  In this case, the United States has the responsibility to get to the bottom of the Eurobond matter rather than simply taking the word of whomever at the IMF.  We all saw some strange dealings at the World Bank in relation to the Kibaki re-election campaign in 2007 and we all know that “the Nairobi curse” makes it very seductive for international organizations who work in and out of Nairobi and enjoy its comforts and convenience to look the other way on matters of corruption that would offend their “hosts” in the Government of Kenya.

Here is the link from BBC announcing the conviction. 

“Eurobond billions: the international side of the story” is one of David Ndii’s recent columns on the subject in the Daily Nation.  Ndii asks explicitly why the IMF has “cooked the books” one way to address missing Eurobond proceeds while Kenya’s Treasury “cooked the books” in a contradictory way. Given what we know was going on in Mozambique and in Malaysia–as well as all of what we know about the establish rule of corruption in Kenya–it is grossly negligent to allow these questions to go unanswered.  If there is a source of the smoke on Kenya’s bond sale proceeds other than the fires of corruption, it ought to be easy enough to see.  I’m from Missouri, and just being from Paris and telling me with a French rather than Kenyan accent is not a substitute for showing me.

[This post has  been slightly edited.]

Jamhuri Day–Obama’s last year goes by as corruption thrives in Kenya

Last year for Jamhuri Day I assessed the status of the relatonship between my American government and Kenya’s.  I listed specific items that would show progress for the U.S. in getting back to supporting anti-corruption reforms in Kenya:

What about on the United States side? Does our government really want to change things now? 

 Here is what I would need to see to be persuaded that we have decided to change the game: 1) public follow up on the Goodyear bribes paid to public officials in Kenya [months have gone by now with no prosecutions in Kenya reported in the press after the parent company in the US turned itself in to the SEC and the Justice Department]; 2) public follow up on the bribery of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in the 2013 election procurements [I finally submitted a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request a few months ago to USAID on the procurements we paid for through IFES and for our dealings with the vendor Smith & Ouzman which was convicted in the UK of bribing the Kenyan IEBC–no documents or substantive response yet]; 3) public follow up on the issue of unnamed Kenyan officials being among those bribed by Chinese interests at the UN in New York resulting in U.S. indictments.

It has been credibly reported based on leaks that the new “visa bans” on travel to the US by Kenyan officials are quite extensive. Great. But we do this type of thing, if not quite to this extent, periodically. Over the years it obviously has not added up to any strategic progress even if there may (or may not) have been a few tactical successes here or there. 

Bottom line is that I don’t think you can really fight corruption with secrecy–you have to chose your priorities. And for my government to ignore the cases that have been publicly exposed in which we have some direct stake leaves me unconvinced that we have actually changed our priorities from 2007 and 2013 when I was in Kenya to see for myself.

One thing that we could do to make sure we are “practicing what we preach” on the governance side is for Congress to have oversight hearings about how we are carrying out the July 25 “Joint Agreement”.

Sadly, and tellingly, the year has gotten away from us with  no progress on any of this (including nothing from my FOIA request to USAID on the corrupt 2013 election technology procurements.)

“Friday Night Lights” for African Politics scholars

At the African Studies Association annual meeting in Washington;

the African Politics Conference Group