The EU

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Drugs Can Drive Government Change

Guinea-Bissau is a small nation on the West Coast of Africa, just below the point of the bulge.

Here is most of the post by John McCreary on Night Watch on the recent events in Guinea-Bissau:
Guinea-Bissau:  Apparently soldiers loyal to the slain armed forces chief General Na Waie yesterday retaliated for his death by murdering today the President of Guinea-Bissau, Joao Bernardo Vieira, Agence France-Presse reported.  A military spokesman said the army held Vieira responsible for the death of General Na Waie.

The two men were political enemies, but a Reuters source suggested drug cartels might have executed the General.

The Prime Minister Carlos Gomes is running the country. His office assured the world that the assassination of the president was not a coup, but the work of an isolated group of unidentified soldiers, The Associated Press.  The latest news service reports state Bissau is calm—the roads are closed and the shops are shuttered.

Guinea-Bissauans, who have lived through at least five coups, coup attempts, counter-coups and a civil war since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974, experience some of the world's highest levels of maternal mortality and under-five malnutrition and many were hoping that recent presidential elections might be a step toward stability and recovery.  Guinea Bissau has 1.5 million people whose life expectancy is less than 50 years.  It is one of the five poorest countries in the world, with a calculated per capita GDP of $600 per annum.  The figure is almost meaningless because most people have no money.
This is a tragedy for the people of Guinea-Bissau.  They need peace and a chance to grow their economy, not a drug war.

But, closer to home, this is a reason why what is happening in Mexico is important to the US. We don't want some version of the situation in Guinea-Bissau on our own borders, especially in a nation two orders of magnitude bigger than Guinea-Bissau.

We can't fix Guinea-Bissau.  Too far away and too remote for our own "national interests."  We can do something to help the Mexican Government fix the Mexican problem.  Some of what we can do is internal to the United States.  We should be stepping out now.

Regards  --  Cliff


Craig H said...

"We can't fix Guinea-Bissau" is disingenuous. We can absolutely fix Guinea-Bissau, as well as any number of other broken African countries whose citizens endure far worse than the Iraqi's did and do, to choose one topical example. But we don't, and it's because we're given to meddling in our "interests" and not our principles.

So here's my opinion: Our sally into Iraq is as responsible as any factor in our present financial implosion. (Skimming tens of billions every month off the top of anyone's economy is unsustainable policy, regardless of ill-gotten gains in outside "interests"). The irony is that we could have, with that same amount of money, helped many times more people with a fraction of the casualties and contributions to global destabilization.

So are we in pursuit of our selfish interests? Then time and economic catastrophe has proven we never should have gone to Iraq in the first place. And if we remain in pursuit of our higher principles, in Mexico and elsewhere, then we absolutely should be concerning ourselves with the situation in Guinea-Bissau.

C R Krieger said...

Well, I agree, we could "fix" Guinea-Bissau, but it would take a lot of effort.  Our interventions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic (Dom Rep) over the years don't indicate a great chance for long term success without a lot of investment of time and money.  On the other hand, Germany, Japan and Korea are all success stories.  (I think one of the secrets to success is a real "civil society," where there is sufficient trust amongst the People for democracy and capitalism to flourish.)

The problem is, Guinea-Bissau is of neither strategic or emotional interest to the United States and our elected representatives are not going to bankroll it.  Further, it appears to lack a true "civil society."

I agree that in terms of pure self-interest Iraq was not a good investment.  The hope of cutting the Gordian Knot binding the Middle East may yet be achieved, but it didn't happen quickly, as some had promised.

But, to the issue of interests versus principles, I am usually conflicted.  First off, acting strictly on self interest--the realist or Henry Kissinger school--does not appeal to me, and not just because it is tied to Dr Henry Kissinger.  I prefer the neo-con view that we should be moving forward based on our higher principles, but sometimes the needs of self-interest get in the way.

I think support of Mexico satisfies both the realist and the neo-con approaches.

Regards  --  Cliff