My wet dreams of The Gambia

As America’s president trashes a world order that has sustained peace and rising global prosperity, it is reassuring to know that progress is still nevertheless happening.

I wrote in 2013 about it happening in Africa, despite a long dire history. I mentioned South Sudan, but unfortunately, since then it’s exhibited the worst of Africa’s baleful syndromes. It’s not simply ethnic conflict; it’s stoked and exploited by individuals for the sake of their own power and enrichment, looting the state. But South Sudan is only one of more than fifty African nations; and more are climbing out of that syndrome than are falling into it.

images-1I also wrote there of Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). In 2010, President Gbagbo lost a presidential election, but refused to give up power. When I first heard that news, I said to myself, “How many will die?” The answer was in the thousands. But in the end, after a short civil war, with the help of French forces, Gbagbo was not only ousted but arrested and sent for trial to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Now that’s progress.

More recently, President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia (another small African nation) similarly lost an election and refused to leave. “Here we go again,” I said to myself.

Jammeh

Jammeh

Jammeh had been in power since a 1994 coup, and was not a nice man. It was actually surprising that a real election was held, in which a real opponent was tolerated, and in which votes were counted fairly. I suspect that Jammeh was actually surprised he didn’t win. Guys like that often become such narcissists with such bloated egos they imagine everyone loves them, and surround themselves with toadies who flatter those delusions (sound familiar?). Maybe Jammeh thought people actually like being tortured.

Yet, when he lost, Jammeh at first — another surprise — said he’d accept the result and even graciously congratulated the winner. But then he changed his mind; maybe because people started talking about an accounting for his past crimes. “Here we go again.”

But this is not your father’s Africa any more. In fact, neighboring African nations took a stand, saying this kind of crap would no longer be tolerated in their midst. And it was not just talk. They sent troops into The Gambia.

images-3Please linger upon this breathtaking fact. African nations sent soldiers into a neighbor country, not to pillage it, but to help enforce an election result. This is, for an idealist liberal interventionist like me, the stuff of wet dreams.

And it succeeded. Jammeh has stood down and flown out of the country into exile (taking with him millions in booty, including shipment of several posh cars). Unlike in the case of Ivory Coast, there was no bloodshed.

Note that this was not a triumph of pacifism. Nobody favors war, but a pacifist ethic doesn’t help us resolve real conflicts. Negotiation and diplomacy are all very nice; those African nations did engage in diplomacy and negotiation with Jammeh; but they backed it up with guns, and that made the difference.

A world like this is good for America’s own national interest. This is what America should be actively promoting.

Advertisements

4 Responses to “My wet dreams of The Gambia”

  1. Lee Says:

    There’s a typo or two in your second to last paragraph. It should read: “Note that this was not a triumph of militarism. Nobody favors war and a militaristic ethic doesn’t help us resolve real conflicts. Guns and bombs are all very nice; those African nations did engage in military bravado with Jammeh; but they led with democracy and elections, and that made the difference.”

    Along the same lines, your earlier paragraphs were a bit brief on how the elections came about in the first place. Was it a bunch of people using guns and bombs that made that happen or did people have to resort to talking?

  2. rationaloptimist Says:

    Note my title here is “Rational Optimist.” Not “Wishful Optimist.” Lee’s first paragraph is wishful.
    Re his second, I don’t know the details, but as mentioned I suspect Jammeh was also being a wishful rather than rational optimist.

  3. Lee Says:

    There was a months-long process (a years-long process?) of negotiation and democracy and elections that involved only a few days of military bravado. We can agree on that much and then disagree on how to spin it.

    We could compare The Gambia with countries where the recent removal of a dictator employed a larger use of guns and bombs. Iraq and Libya come to mind. We could then compare the prospects in these countries.

  4. rationaloptimist Says:

    Jammeh would not likely have stood down if not faced with guns.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s