We’ve had a lot of experience over the last few decades – haven’t we? I’m talking about experience in removing dictators, trying to build nations, and long-term, bloody, expensive wars… This is the consequence of Western hubris. The problem is, we haven’t learned a thing. Wait, let me rephrase that, I mean certain people have not learned a thing, like the globalists and hawkish, militaristic conservatives, which some would call neocons. I hate the word because it reeks of Leftist arrogance, but you understand who I’m talking about. You remember don’t you, those who wanted to spread democracy in the Middle East? How’s that working out for us?
It would seem to me that the one lesson we could learn from the Middle East and Central Asia in particular is that we cannot allow nations to become failed states, where war lords fight for territory and lawlessness prevails. We cannot allow havens for terrorism to develop to plan attacks against the homeland. In other words, has the foreign policy of the United States under Bush and Obama been disastrous for the American people? Thousands of war dead and trillions of dollars later, I would argue—yes. Are we better off now in the Levant and the Fertile Crescent than we were at the turn of the century? No, we are not. The practice of regime change in favor of mythical democracies, or better yet under Obama and the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to come to power, has not worked out very well for America.
Saddam was a bad guy; however, it is common knowledge he held the Islamic extremists in check, albeit while he plundered and literally raped the country and the population. Is Iraq better off than it was before the Iraq War? You could argue both sides of that question as we may finally be seeing a pathway for a stable and prosperous Iraq. We have likely reached a stage where the ISIS caliphate falls and U.S. troops seem to be allowed back in the country after years of disastrous Obama policies predicated on rhetoric of appeasement and tolerance. However, if I was the father of one of thousands of dead Americans, or the husband of a wife killed in a bridge collapse because we don’t have money to fix our infrastructure as it was wasted in the Middle East, I would say we are not better off.
As the Islamic State metastasized into other unstable parts of the world, Africa has become stage one in the terror movement’s attempts to rebloom like spores blown with the wind to a far-off place. The recent deaths of four U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers in Niger is the latest canary in the coal mine of this phenomenon.
Libya and Hillary Clinton’s war against Qaddafi, who had just given up his nuclear weapons to the U.S., is another bright, shining example of a U.S. administration believing that Western democracy is a ubiquitous cookie-cutter concept that can instantly take root anywhere. Clinton and Obama took down the Benghazi strongman, again leading to the unnecessary deaths of Americans. Today Libya is a failed state – a recent hideout for ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Another interesting nation following in the same footsteps as the examples above is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, run by strongman Joseph Kabila. After coming into power upon the murder of his father in 2001, Kabila was re-elected in 2006 after commanding military units during his father’s rise to power and rule. “He was a low-profile military commander when his father Laurent-Desire Kabila was assassinated in 2001, and was handpicked by the presidential inner circle to lead DR Congo as it was being torn apart by half a dozen warring armies,” writes the BBC. There was optimism in the early days, hope that Kabila could forge an end to the violence, the persistent corruption, and lack of economic progress for the African nation.
There was also commensurate progress.
Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, in a profile of Kabila entitled, Reformer or Corrupt Authoritarian, writes, “Kabila did manage to put Congo on the map as he worked to strengthen international relations.” Kabila also met with representatives from groups of different religious, social and commercial sectors, which led to the beginning of the transformation of the country. Given the history of his country and that of its neighbors, Joseph Kabila could be characterized as progressive authoritarian leader under whom economy and social solidarity showed measurable improvement.
“Kabila recognized the need to make quick reforms to ensure unity among the country’s stakeholders, bring peace and security to areas that struggled with foreign influences and establish a favorable environment for investors.”
However, the trajectory over the last decade has not improved after the initial euphoria and recently violence broke out as Kabila refused to step down after his second term ended in 2016, citing logistical and stability reasons for the delay. He has left the door open to find a way to stay in power to the chagrin of the global establishment. Economic progress is stagnant. Living conditions are horrific and worsening for many as government corruption takes its toll.
Mass media shows Kabila and his family are corrupt. Many stories indicate they have committed human rights violations to stay in control of DR Congo and that there is great deal of money stashed away in offshore accounts in the Caribbean and elsewhere. There is no shortage of press readily available on the internet and in print, which describes in detail the misdeeds of Joseph Kabila and his family and cabinet.
However, I see a pattern in this globalist, internationalist press as well. It is a pattern of willfully overlooking the consequences of removing a stabilizing, albeit corrupt, leader in a vulnerable country. This uniquely western approach is quick to condemn strongmen like Kabila without appreciation of what they have done to keep their countries from falling into total disarray, and hands of regimes that are exponentially more tyrannical than those of the Joseph Kabilas of the world.
We all remember the Rwanda massacres where millions upon millions were slaughtered. There are still rebel factions throughout the Congo. They are violent and many are radical. Kabila, to his credit, has kept these radical elements in check. Foreign investment has increased since Kabila came to power. Is there another political element strong enough to keep the peace in the DRC? Today, Kabila’s opposition does not seem very attractive.
There is an argument to be made that getting rid of Kabila will be more disruptive and damaging for the Congolese people than any real alternative. Kabila says he needs time to prepare for elections that will happen in 2018. Perhaps a transitory period is in order, one that would give a peaceful transfer of power a chance. Perhaps, Kabila can be swayed by reason, and can leverage his experience and agree on a successor to assure a stable transition of power.
As Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “We are afraid of what we don’t know we don’t know.”
The Congo is not a black and white, Satan versus Saint predicament. It is much more complicated than that, and the path forward has ramifications for the security of the United States, Europe, Africa, and the rest of the interconnected world. Perhaps a bit of realpolitik is in order at this point to give stability a chance.
On a selfish note, I have a son who is entering the commissioning process to be an officer in the United States Army. I am one father who does not want to see his son be sent off to fight in a foreign land for democracy or anything else other than the absolute national security of the United States. America used dictators during the Cold War very effectively and rightly so as the Soviet Union was regarded as the evil empire, and we did so for the greater good. We should learn from that experience and from the decades that have followed. Lets not make the same mistakes again. Before we condemn another strongman like Kabila, and have his nation fall into the hands of extremists of sinister plutocrats veiled in empty rhetoric of reform, we ought to consider the probability that he may be more effective than rational that those who came before him, and those who seek to take his place.
Originally posted at The Washington Times