. . . Sunday July 3, 2005

Pragmatic Self-Preservationism

Long time readers will note that for several years I have described myself as a pragmatic self-preservationist. I personally have altruistic tendencies, but I think such qualities make for a tough sell when it comes to doing the right thing in geopolitical terms.

It makes far more sense to do the right thing because it is ultimately in your national self-interest. Why? Because that pitch can sell. Recently we’ve been told that the economic support of Africa is not a matter of charity but rather a matter of justice. I think, to really sell something bold in the U.S. and elsewhere, we need to position “saving” Africa as neither a matter of charity nor justice but rather one of self-interest.

We now know, in no uncertain terms, that the pain and frustration felt in once remote parts of the world can reach out and touch us here at home in most significant of ways.

It makes a whole lot more sense to deal with it now than later.

Bono made a similar point a year ago when he explained that fighting disease in Africa now is “cheaper than fighting wave after wave of the terrorists’ new recruits.”

Tony Blair hit on this during a recent interview Time Magazine:

IN CREATING THE G-8 AGENDA, WERE YOU FOCUSING ON AREAS IN WHICH YOU DISAGREE WITH PRESIDENT BUSH TO OFFSET THE POLITICAL TROUBLES YOU’VE FACED FOR BEING HIS ALLY IN IRAQ?

No, it’s not that. We have rightly taken tough action on terrorism, in favor of our own security. But it’s also important that we act on the long-term problems that can give rise to the issues of terrorism and security.

DOES THE PRESIDENT OWE YOU ANYTHING FOR YOUR SUPPORT IN IRAQ THAT HE MIGHT REPAY WITH ASSISTANCE TO AFRICA?

That isn’t the right way to look at it. What the President should do is what’s right for America and the world. Africa is the only continent in the world that’s gone backwards in the last 30 years. I find it morally disgusting that thousands of people die every year from killer diseases we can do something about. But this is a continent where if we don’t take action, we’re going to store up a lot of problems for ourselves in the future.

Blair probably doesn’t need this sales pitch to convince himself, but it’s the right political move and strangely enough, it’s also clearly true.

If you are really concerned about the long term threat of global terrorism, the two places in the world where you should be directing your gaze are Africa and those battered communities to our south where a miserably ineffective war on drugs is adding insult to our absurd drug related strategies at home.

We may not, even today, totally understand the mindset of the Islamic terror groups. But if some teenager from Africa or Colombia strapped a bomb to his person and headed for our borders, wouldn’t you sort of get exactly where he was coming from?


Concentration is important!