While Republicans prepare to bombard presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama with claims of flip-flopping on Iraq and everything else, Africa — should he prevail — stands on the threshold of gaining something more significant than just a first African-American president: liberation from an old boys club of despicable tyrants.
Incredible as this may seem, it will suit the likes of Zimbabwe, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea to see Senator John McCain retain the White House. While the GOP candidate is no friend of African despots, his emphasis on Africa will, at best, be marginal and he is an easy sell as the white imperialist trying to enslave Africa.
Obama on the other hand will be a tyrant’s worst nightmare. He will be a president who cares about the masses and who won’t be distracted by claims from African despots that he is a racist coloniser. Worse, he expects African leaders to do the right thing.
In respect of Zimbabwe he has already made his position on Mugabe clear. As the statement released on his site indicates, he expects the will of the people to be carried out and he praises those who are seeking justice for the country. He praises, inter alia, the ANC as a party but is less complimentary of the government.
Go further, in Africa itself: Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Nigeria and other African states are starting to emerge as if awakening from a long sleep. They are breaking ranks and calling for Zimbabwe to do the decent thing.
This must be applauded from the rooftops, regardless of how bloody their past is. If this gains momentum, tyrants and cronies will become more and more marginalised and the people of Africa will finally be on the road to recovery. Where once there was unity among African leaders to ignore the disgusting conduct on this continent, now they are divided.
This division may well see a new generation of great African leaders. Where once they arose out of the first struggle, to liberate a continent from colonialism and imperialism, now they will be rising up to shed Africa of the tyrants who retard its progress and murder its people for self interest.
Africans are starting to realise that dictatorships are making Africa unplayable for investment and progress while weakening it against predators. A country who keeps its citizens in check by force can easily be overthrown and it destabilises the region for too many reasons to debate here.
Barack Obama as the president of the USA will give this new African dawn enormous impetus. He would be in a position to make it clear what he expects from African leaders and importantly, reward those who support good governance and uplifting their people.
Those like Zimbabwe will no longer be left in peace to decimate their populations.
In the United States itself the Republican electoral machine is gearing up to send Obama down the same road as John Kerry. The previous Democratic presidential nominee never recovered from the non-stop barrage of claims that he was backtracking on issues. He appeared to be on the back foot throughout the race and despite his credible showing, never looked like unseating the president.
Kerry stumbled where Bill Clinton triumphed because Clinton revelled in using his opponent’s best bits against them and was insouciant to all the criticism he got for doing it. He had political triangulation down to an exact science. After all, one man’s flip-flopping is another man’s flexibility, which is, after all, far better than policy rigidity.
Iraq is a good case in point. GW Bush’s desire to invade was irreversible regardless of any counter-arguments made against it. Having decided to go, the basis in support thereof was clumsily fashioned out. We know this because the reasons given — proved post-invasion — to be absolute nonsense.
Once “victory” was attained the world was then presented with a vague, clumsy and ill-considered post-war and exit strategy.
That is the problem with having a fixed idea. You land up improvising in response to violent swings on the ground rather than by clearly demarcating the way forward and tweaking policies to meet deviations.
Obama, who opposed the war, will have to refine his strategy on Iraq just as McCain has done, because the energy wars are upon us. The geo-political considerations are now too strategic to contemplate just abandoning. Economists know that $1-trillion was spent in invading and holding Iraq but this is now sunken costs which cannot dictate the way forward.
Obama, holding the high ground, can make the claim that while he never started the war he will make damned sure he does the right thing by both the American and Iraqi people. If that means tweaking the exit strategy, so be it.
That is what worries the hell out of the Republicans. Obama can just reach across and remove a book from the GOP shelf and say: “Seems like a good idea to me”.
Republicans on the other hand would commit political suicide by trying on a Democratic outfit. McCain would never look good in it. Ask Giuliani.
While the McCain camp is jumping up and down about Obama’s reversal on a key policy they forget that McCain has gone from keeping the troops in Iraq for 100 years, to the all new 2013 wind-down “with victory and honour”.
Far worse for me however has been McCain’s gaffes. Forget about his Freudian slip about being there for the oil, which is the true reason that the invasion took place, the whopper in Amman where he claimed that Shi’ite Iran was supporting Sunni al-Qaeda was a deal clincher.
In other words, a president who bases a large part of his campaign on being strong on security can’t even identify the players in the struggle properly. That’s like saying Israel is supplying al-Qaeda if you know the region. Hardly the right man to decide when the time is right to quit.
How will he know?