President Trump’s recent dismissal of nations and continents peopled by those who don’t share his skin tone is disturbing. Equally upsetting is his ignorance of history, his inability to think strategically, and his incomprehensible approach to international relations. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his assessment of Africa.
Before the president’s inflammatory rebuke, most Africans viewed American democracy as sacrosanct. With his profane words and evident disdain for people of color, he has squandered decades of diplomatic efforts in Africa that have resulted in partnerships beneficial to both its countries and ours.
The importance of Africa cannot be underestimated. The continent is so vital to our interests that, over a decade ago, the Defense Department established the U.S. Africa Command. Its mission is to help build defense capabilities and security in the region in cooperation with a multitude of partner nations. Many of them, both in sub-Saharan Africa and the continent’s Horn, have worked with the U.S. in combating terrorist organizations. Their willingness to stand beside American troops is based on mutual trust and respect. The president not only jeopardized that good will, he cleared a path toward friendlier relations between African nations and China, one of our chief international rivals.
Had President Trump been thinking as strategically as the Chinese, he might have been aware of that nation’s growing economic and military presence in Africa; a potential threat to American influence, interests, and security.
Last year, the Chinese government established its first overseas military base in the African nation of Djibouti, ostensibly for logistical support of China’s anti-piracy and humanitarian missions along the coasts of Somalia and Yemen. They assert it’s not related to its increased buildup in arms, nor its desire for Chinese forces to operate at great distances from its mainland. That’s their claim.
The base is strategically advantageous to the Chinese and positively impacts Djibouti’s social and economic development, generating good will there and in other African nations. China says having a base in Africa will help maintain peace and stability throughout the region. That role, once readily assumed by the U.S., is now threatened; as, in consequence, is our security.
The Chinese government – nor any government for that matter, including our own – is not altruistic. Just as colonists did in Africa for centuries, modern colonizers like China, Russia, the United States and, yes, the former colonial powers of Europe see value in having access to Africa’s rich natural resources and foodstuffs. Not to mention its vast expanses of open land and deep-water ports on both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Africa truly is the last frontier. By closing our doors and defaming its people, we lose friends and isolate ourselves further from the rest of the world.
China’s affinity for s***holes doesn’t end there. Beijing is now the largest trading partner of El Salvador, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, and Peru. These nations, as well as those of Africa, will benefit from China’s booming demand for global food. Who would you feed first, your friends or a country whose leader derides your people?
China has collectively loaned these countries $30 billion. No strings attached. And they’re investing another $30 billion to help Haiti rebuild its infrastructure. Haiti, a s***hole island, also with a deep-water port, strategically located on America’s doorstep. And a great place, perhaps, for the Chinese to locate their next foreign military installation.
The Chinese government is providing economic aid and infrastructure in countries that once relied upon the U.S. They’re nation-building at a time when our leaders hold that concept in contempt. Their efforts are paying off. In a recently released Gallup survey, China bested the U.S. with a global approval rating among 134 countries of 31 percent. The U.S. stands at a rating of 30 percent. Russia is not far behind at 27 percent.
The poll noted that the reputation of the United States was highest in Africa, where it’s currently at 51 percent. Still, that’s the lowest rating our country has ever gotten. The poll was taken before our president yet again exposed his true colors for all the world to see. The verdict on our future standing is out.
President Trump is a zebra too old to change his stripes. That he is a racist is without question. Alarming as this may be, more unsettling are the consequences of his misguided words and actions. Dysregulated speech extends far beyond our shores and the president’s much-vaunted wall. It poses a threat to our nation’s security at home as well.