Monday, July 04, 2005

Steyn on Action and Africa

Some wit and wisdom from Mark Steyn:
It seemed unlikely to me that even your average European politician would utter anything so fatuous in public, but Clare Short came close. The sight of Washington co-ordinating its disaster relief efforts with Australia, India and Japan outside the approved transnational structures was too much for her. ‘This initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to co-ordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN,’ she told the BBC. ‘Only really the UN can do that job. It is the only body that has the moral authority.’

Whether or not it has ‘moral’ authority, the UN certainly can’t do the job. It becomes clearer every week that Western telly viewers threw far more money at tsunami relief than was required and that much of it has been siphoned off by wily customs inspectors and their ilk. If you really wanted to make an effective donation to a humanitarian organisation, you’d send your cheque to the Pentagon or the Royal Australian Navy.

But that would be in a world where we’re defined by ‘what we do’. Instead, on tsunami aid, what matters is what we feel inside, and when it comes to showing what we feel inside on the outside we can only do it through the proper channels — by sending a donation to the Indonesian Customs Inspectors’ Retirement Fund, or by demanding our government double/triple/quadruple/whatever its contribution to the ‘relief effort’, which means a man in a UN office in New York, who’ll hold a press conference announcing they’re sending someone to the region to conduct an ‘assessment’ of the ‘situation’, just as soon as the USAF emergency team have flown in and restored room service to the five-star hotel. The tsunami farrago would be a scandal but, like Western aid piling up on the docks in Indonesia, right now we’ve got more UN scandals than we need — Oil-for-Food, Darfur, child prostitution rings at UN peacekeeping missions.

The passionate hostility of Miss Short and co to action — to getting things done — is remarkable, but understandable. Getting things done requires ships and transport planes and the like, and most Western countries lack the will to maintain armed forces capable of long-range projection. So, when disaster strikes, they can mail a cheque and hold a press conference and form a post-modern ‘Task Force’ which doesn’t have any forces and doesn’t perform any tasks. In extreme circumstances, they can stage an all-star pop concert. And, because this is all most of the Western world is now capable of, ‘taking action’ means little more than taking the approved forms of inaction.

For example, I’d be far more amenable to criticism of American policy in Iraq if it weren’t being levelled by the same folks — notably Do-Nothin’ Doug Hurd — who fiddled transnationally while Yugoslavia burned. Bosnia is, in fact, everything the anti-war crowd predicted Iraq would be: 250,000 people were killed, which is what the more modest doom-mongers estimated would happen in Iraq, and that’s 250,000 out of a population a fifth the size of Iraq’s. We were told that toppling Saddam would do nothing but create thousands more radical Islamists across the Middle East. In fact, it’s Bosnia where, under the nose of its EU viceroy, Wahabist infiltration is recruiting tomorrow’s jihadi. Week after week, we’ve seen sob stories on the TV news in which some hapless Baathist clerk from the Department of Genital Severing reveals that he’s been out of work now for two years, but when was the last time you read a piece on unemployment rates in Paddy Ashdown’s Bosnia? It’s officially 45 per cent, and it’s only the drug-dealing, child sex and white slave trade that boom around every UN mission that’s holding it down that low. However Iraq turns out, it’s already a hundred times healthier than Bosnia, and its effects are rolling on through Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Kuwait, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. But because Bosnia is the quintessential expression of international lack of will, it will always get a better press than Bush’s ‘war for oil’.

Most Westerners remain committed to wasteful incompetent transnationalism on the grounds that, by golly, it may do nothing for the poor and suffering of this world but it makes me feel good. The G8 summiteers will get a taste of this next month when they fly in to Gleneagles to get berated over Africa by elderly Caucasian pop stars.
On the evidence of the NEPAD report, Africa’s tragedy — or its latest tragedy — is that it’s advanced straight to late-period Western-decadence transnationalist bureaucratic blather without the intervening stage of economic dynamism.
Speaking of those stars who want to end African poverty with the "Live 8" concert, I'd point out that handing people money never solved poverty.

Africa is poor for a reason, and it's not for lack of resources. The problem is that tribal thuggery was handed all the power and institutions of a modern state when the colonialists left, producing a gangster/crony "capitalism" or a socialist despotism. The true basis of free-market capitalism requires, among other things, respect for property rights and the rule of law.

See Bernoulli Effect, which reports on this analysis from The Business Online:
Geldof and all those marching in Edinburgh could start by reading a report out this weekend from the International Policy Network. Its author, Moeletsi Mbeki, happens to be the brother of South Africas president, Thabo Mbeki, as well as an entrepreneur and political analyst. Mbeki argues that since the end of colonialism, most countries in Africa have been exploited by predatory national political elites who see the state as a means to acquire personal wealth through taxation and regulation.

The history of Africa since the 1960s is the history of groups of elites seeking the political kingdom with the primary purpose of enriching themselves, Mbeki says. To rectify this situation, he believes that Africas poorest people must be empowered through the institutions of the free society: property rights and markets: It is necessary that peasants who constitute the core of the private sector in sub-Saharan Africa become the real owners of their primary asset: land. To enable such ownership, freehold must be introduced and the so-called communal land tenure system, which is really state ownership of land, ought to be abolished.


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