Friday, July 08, 2005

Terrorism and the Poverty of Africa

A few minutes ago Tony Blair finished his press conference in which he outlined the accomplishments of the G8 meeting in Gleneagles. He should be commended for forcing the leaders to confront African poverty as a structural problem. But as reporters asked him questions about the modesty of the accomplishments, I could not help but think that Blair himself looked disappointed.

Obviously he has had a rough day and a half. He staked much on Africa and controlling the emissions of greenhouse gases. The attacks on the London Underground have and will tax his leadership of the country. Clearly Blair was disturbed by the timing of the attacks, when he was trying to move leaders to act on issues that made them uncomfortable.

Did the terrorist attacks scrap progress towards debt relief or cancellation? The question is debatable, but clearly they affected the conference, even if it forced the participants to discuss items not on the agenda -- terrorism in specific. The question should be asked loudly and frequently in order to discredit the motives of terrorism as much as possible. With this attack terrorists revealed their arrogance and selfishness.They timed their attacks to coincide with discussion that could have freed African nations from their dependency and allowed them to develop on their own. At no other times have they revealed themselves to be more shameless. Africans suffer in the terrorists' war against the West.


At 3:51 PM, Blogger Brdgt said...

Very well said Nat. As I'm sure Blair is aware, African poverty is, in fact, an issue not unrelated to terrorism.


At 7:34 PM, Blogger Joel said...

Did you really mean to imply that previous terror attacks have *not* revealed arrogance and selfishness? Do you really imagine that the terrorists who struck New York, New Delhi, Bali, Madrid, Jakarta, and Istanbul--not to mention the U.S. embassies or the Israeli resort in Africa itself--were any less shameless? Do you still imagine that they somehow share most elements of your own Western academic leftist demonology? That they sympathize with your agendas as much as you do with what you perhaps imagine to be theirs? If so, shame on you.

At 9:45 PM, Blogger Nathanael said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Nathanael said...

That's not what I mean whatsoever. I am referring to the fact that their own actions have more completely than before discredited their rhetoric.

At 1:39 AM, Blogger Joel said...


I know you are far too kind and reasonable to say what your post very clearly implies, but I have to ask two questions.

1. Whose rhetoric has been discredited by such acts of terror all around the globe: that of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda (who have never expressed concern about poverty in Africa as far as I know), or that of Westerners who hasten to rationalize (and much more rarely excuse, or even praise) those very same acts because of their own justifiable resentments against the West?

2. Are the acts of terrorism committed over the past 15 years against Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and other random human beings in Kenya, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, and elsewhere also to be understood as payback against the sins of the West?

I'm sorry, but on this, the 56th anniversary of my birth and the 10th anniversary of a typically postmodern Western failing in Srebrenica, I am feeling rather indisposed toward both pacifist self-flagellators in the West and the relentlessly other-flagellating enemies of postmodernity everywhere.

I almost never get into these kinds of arguments, but you are someone whose opinions and temperament I very much respect. I just sense that your underlying reflexes have failed you in this instance. And I apologize if my own reflexes have similarly failed me.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Nathanael said...

Perhaps I am not being very clear (it happens). My reading of al Quaeda rhetoric has been a generalized, thoughtless, and misapplied critique of the "West". As much as the methods of Bin Laden ought to trigger popular revulsion, they often had the opposite effect among individuals who were predisposed to extreme hatred of American influence. Clearly Bin Laden has been a popular figure within specific African communities. I have not seen any evidence that his popularity in these communities has dwindled because of terrorist attacks, probably because (and I am guessing here) the specific targets could be seen as serving "American interests" (embassies, clubs that serve foreigners, etc.).

This last attack is particularly scandalous -- and I mean this in the most traditional sense, as in an act that makes a man stumble to prevent him from performing an act of faith and mercy -- because it disrupted a process that might have helped people whom Bin Laden would claim to fight for. By no means are previous attacks less heinous. I hoped that the African world (North as well as Sub-Saharan) will see a particular disregard for their own well-being, that they will channel their own disappointment in the G8, and that they will at least as critical of their relationship with the rest of the World as they are the "West". Certainly this was not the first time Africans have stuck in the middle of a clash of civilizations. Indeed, much debt was accumulated during and because of the oil embargoes.

Should an act of mercy take precedence over the defense of civilization? The question cannot be resolved easily. One involves the deaths of far more people; the other perpetuates and worsens the first. Within a society terror must be resolved before mercy can be completely effective, and not by placating terrorists.

I won't excuse those who turn victims into "Eichamnns". The Middle East does not suffer from the problems of post-colonialism. Israel is certainly not a European imperialist power, and the governments of the Middle East should be forced to recognize their own extreme nationalism. And any long-lived pain from the Crusades is a bunch of bullcrap. And as a liberal, I have gotten into many arguments with pacifists who were critical of intervention in the Balkans. Force, or even the threat of force, can change humanitarian situations.

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Joel said...

Wow. That puts a wonderfully clear and judicious cap on this testy exchange. I'm glad I provoked it by misapprehending what you intended to convey in your original post. Thank you.

At 8:09 PM, Blogger Da Man said...

I think it is safe to say that the G8 was thinking primarily of sub-Saharan Africa in terms of debt relief. That said, I'm not aware of any Black African terrorist groups operating against the West.

At 7:13 AM, Blogger Nathanael said...

I was referencing the popularity of Bin Laden in West and East African states (note the sales of merchandise and the protests against anti-al Qaeda measures in Nigeria) and to the presence of training camps in Chad. Furthermore, the issue of aid, although not aimed at North Africa, still affects those states as they reorient their politics from Pan-Arab to African Union. It is a bit strict to think that North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa are isolated blocs.

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