How Bad Was Bush for the World, Really? (Part 2)
Last week, we looked at President Bush's policy achievements in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Contrary to contemporary conventional wisdom, the Bush foreign policy record was not one of total failure -- and in certain cases, such as Colombia and India, it was one of unequivocal and unique success. That résumé of objective geopolitical triumph extends past the European, Asian, and Latin American continents and subcontinents, however.
Perhaps his most monumental and overlooked achievement, the continent of Africa will never be the same after the Bush presidency. Put bluntly, no single individual, in all of history, has done more for Africans than George W. Bush. That can now be seen as an empirical fact.
Bush's emergency HIV/AIDS assistance has literally saved millions of people. This is the largest health investment any country has ever lent to any other country (or continent). Due to U.S. aid, malaria has been sliced in half in more than a dozen African countries, which has also saved hundreds of thousands of lives. In addition to tackling HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and without saying much, Bush tripled the amount of U.S. aid sent to Africa's poorest countries. On his watch, trade has more than doubled between Africa and the United States. Not once did Bush toot his own horn or become highfalutin regarding these humanitarian feats. He helped Africa more than any of his predecessors and was relatively humble about it.
This was never simply charity, either. U.S.-backed NGOs, community-based organizations, and micro-financing programs have helped Africans do the things they need to do to prosper on their own. Like that old adage goes, "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; teach him to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime." My grandfather loved that saying. Africa's progress under George Bush shows why.
Over the course of the last eight years, the U.S. helped make possible Liberian war criminal Charles Taylor's removal from power. The heart of Zimbabwe's tyrannical ruler, Robert Mugabe, is unfortunately still beating; yet today he is isolated as never before. Violence in Kenya was addressed and to a large extent resolved.
Yes, Uganda and the Congo remain chaotic, Somalia remains destabilized, and the Islamist slaughter in Darfur was never fully halted. But observers should put this in context: we're talking about Africa here, not a quaint, suburban New England municipality. On nearly all of these issues, George Bush got the international ball rolling, if you will. During his tenure, the United States approached Africa with a moral clarity not seen in, say, Paris, Moscow, or Beijing -- where quick profit, weapons dealers, human smugglers, and cheap political gratification overruled.
On the military front, Bush created AFRICOM, the Pentagon's new unified combatant command responsible for Africa. U.S. commandos have hunted jihadists across the African desert with great efficiency. From Djibouti to Somalia, local governments and tribes have fought al-Qaeda, as well. If you concur with Thomas P.M. Barnett's hypothesis, as I do, that Africa will supersede the Middle East as radical Islam's battlefield of preference in fifteen to twenty years, then these encouraging military developments and alliances in Africa must be judged within that context.