The attitude of AFRICOM’s head, General William Ward, is emblematic of the problems with AFRICOM in general. “We go where we’re asked to go” is simply not an acceptable answer if you’re not going to go where you NEED to go. That’s a passive, wait and see, whatever goes attitude that screams “we have no idea what we are doing right now”, but we can talk for days about what we could maybe do later on.
There are plenty of places AFRICOM needs to go (and won’t always be asked by the sort of entities it deals with) but can’t because there is no political will and not enough significant resources to go forth.
AFRICOM does not yet offer real solutions to Africa’s problems (it lacks the political will, the resources and the kind of quality leadership at the helm in multiple places that would foster solutions being implemented, not just talked about for years at conferences and meetings months after it was announced). It does not yet offer a vision for Africa (it does not have one yet) that would actually appeal to Africans and meet American interests in a way prior methods of policy making did.
Now it has suffered its first serious failure (though arguably the miserable disaster in Somalia by CTF-HOA, AFRICOM’s predecessor, is the more recent one on the minds of Africans) with few hints of success in the recent past and none foreseeable in the near future. At a time when Zimbabwe likely teeters toward collapse, when Sudan gears itself for war in 2011 when the South votes as it is expected to for independence and when chaos remains the order of the day in the Congo region, AFRICOM offers nothing but cheap conference talk and pass the buck attitudes.
Either it changes quickly or it will likely be left behind. The choice needs to be taken out of its current leaders’ hands.
Madame Secretary acknowledges reality:
“Clearly, the path we have taken in imposing sanctions hasn’t influenced the Burmese junta,” she said, adding that the route taken by Burma’s neighbors of “reaching out and trying to engage them has not influenced them, either.”
The best possible policy the US could pursue at this point would be to connect Burma to American products, ideas and influence, rather than ceding them completely over to India, China and Thailand. While the generals skillfully play off their neighbors over gas and other resource exploitation contracts, America is shut out in the cold with little to show for it.
Pointing our fingers and chanting “Bad, Bad” is not going to dissuade the junta’s behavior nor convince its neighbors to change course.
A more engaged America can find ways to finesse the worst aspects of Burma’s misrule (the rampant drug trade, the hazardous health pandemic incubation policies, increased instability from conflicts within and around its borders) while profitably (in an advancement of national interest sense) exploiting suspicions among its neighbors about each other’s intentions to the hilt.
I have written before about the need for America to move beyond the Cold War and be pragmatic in its dealings with Cuba.
(Che was a tyrannical bastard but he had one great idea…. H/T Dr. Bulldog & Ronin)
Dave Schuler talks about China’s plan to provide an estimated $123 billion universal health care system for its citizens. Ezra Klein discusses how Chinese leaders see the plan as a way to induce consumption and economic dynamism. Chris Albon offers a link to an article about Cuba’s education of thousands of foreign students in the medical fields and its expeditionary medical efforts.
If you can ignore the the socialist drivel that appears throughout, the author offers some keen insights into a new project Cuba has conceived with its Venezuelan allies to train medical students in the latter country.
Each of the these new university programs dispenses with the traditional university campus and creates a “medical university without walls.” In the new system, there is regular classroom instruction at community polyclinics and diagnostic clinics, and this is supplemented by a great deal of participation and observation with family medicine specialists as they attend to patients in nearby Barrio Adentro offices.
Cubans, with the help of Venezuela, are currently educating more doctors, about 70,000 in all, than all the medical schools in the United States, which typically have somewhere between 64,000 to 68,000 students enrolled in their programs.
A good argument could be made that this is the first area America and Cuba can work together in, sharing resources in an effort to train medical personnel from participating nations and then reaping the benefits years later with more dedicated staff in “Seam” and “Gap” states alike. Cuba already does an admirable job training future medical professionals, including a few Americans.
A wise use of dwindling foreign aid funds would be a public/private sector effort to dramatically expand this effort. No shortage exists of qualified instructors in Cuba, let alone America. Doctors, nurses, dentists and other qualified medical personnel could be trained, developing indigenous skill sets in parts of the world sorely lacking them. Conditions would apply, with at least a binding contract to render health services in their home country or another non-Core nation for at least 8 years.
China was mentioned earlier because while they have the fiscal capacity to create such a program, it is perhaps iffy whether they have the professional capacity. A Cuba-US program of this sort could work with the Chinese (and the Indians, amongst others) to provide this expansive medical diplomacy.
*In my time in Miami, I heard many bitter complaints and attacks on Cuban society from exiles. Alone among most present subjects, the quality of the Cuban medical schools were praised. They were well-regarded, unlike most professionals and institutions in Cuba.