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Thread: Mali mainly, 2012 coup, drugs & more

  1. #201
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    Default The U.S. Pivots (Slightly) Toward Africa – By Michael Keating

    Interesting article on US policy (or lack of it) in Africa.

    As Ambassador Carrington concluded at his UMass address: “Mali is a cautionary tale for any country seeking U.S. assistance.” Because the United States lacked real intelligence about what was going in Mali’s political circles, American actions helped to topple one of Africa’s oldest democracies. Unintended consequences, to be sure; but an undertaking deeply unworthy of – and damaging to – the kinds of outcomes the U.S. would like to see in Africa, and the principles it claims to stand for.
    http://africanarguments.org/2012/12/...chael-keating/

  2. #202
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Interesting article on US policy (or lack of it) in Africa.

    http://africanarguments.org/2012/12/...chael-keating/
    Interesting article. A couple of comments...

    First, I'm not sure I see any sense in talking about an "Africa policy" in generic terms. Given the size of the continent and the wide variety of interests and issues involved any such thing would be too general to have much meaning. Might be better to look at multiple policy sets based on loose (and inevitably overlapping) regional lines.

    Observing that the Malian officers that staged a coup had US backed training and jumping from there to "American actions helped to topple one of Africa’s oldest democracies" seems a bit of a stretch. Is it clear that the training they received actually enabled or encouraged the coup, or that they would not have staged the coup without such training? What was the actual extent and content of the training, and how exactly did it cause the coup, if we are going to claim a causative relationship?

    One argument against training officers is that the US is inevitably held responsible for all subsequent actions of those trained, even though it may have no control over those actions. Never a good idea to put yourself in a situation where you're going to be held responsible for things you can't control.

    When Americans say that promoting democracy is one of the key pillars of their Africa policy, they should mean it. That means no more uncritically supporting ersatz democrats like Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni. It means following up in South Sudan – an American instigated project if there ever was one- to make sure that the country does not descend into chaos. It means being very careful who gets weapons and training and making it very clear that serious consequences will follow if forces trained by Americans turn on legitimate governments, as was the case in Mali.
    This assumes capacities that the US may not have: for example, the capacity to assure that South Sudan does not descend into chaos. If the US is going to be obligated to take permanent control of every situation it's involved with, the only rational response would be to cease all involvement, because the potential commitments emerging from any involvement would be unmanageably large. If engagement means you're responsible for everything that happens thereafter, better not engage. There have to be limits.

    Investment – Americans talk a good game when it comes to investing in Africa, but the evidence of their enthusiasm is slim outside of South Africa and the various oil and ore patches. Right now there are tremendous opportunities throughout the continent in banking, telecoms, agriculture, construction, and retail. Nonetheless, when you drive around West Africa, you see mostly NGO logos rather than corporate ones. The consequences of this neglect include massive unemployment and a general feeling that the continent is being left behind.

    Perhaps the best place for U.S. foreign policy to start would be to offer serious help in upgrading African universities, many of which are in shambles. Extension of favorable trade status, particularly in the agriculture section would also help along with massive increases in direct aid for infrastructure projects.

    Without doubt, the risk factor is a major obstacle to increased U.S. investment. However, Americans need to put down their prejudices and go see what’s happening for themselves. The World Bank has a unit called the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency that provides business risk insurance to businesses investing in developing countries. American entrepreneurs ought to be lined up outside its door.
    This whole section reflects a quite stunning ignorance of the relationship between the US Government and US Corporations. You can't accuse corporations of "neglect" for not taking actions that are in no way their responsibility to take, and there's no realistic way the US government can compel (or effectively encourage) US corporations to engage in places where their assessment of risk and reward is unfavorable. The US is not China, and investment is not a controllable instrument of policy. Then of course there's the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, seen in many circles as an effective prohibition against US companies doing business in Africa.

    Why send 100 Special Forces to hunt down Joseph Kony and none to save lives in the Congo? Some analysts believe it was a thank-you gesture to Uganda for its support of the military effort in Somalia.
    I see no reason to assume a quid pro quo. More likely the question contains its own answer. The US is willing to send 100 Special Forces troops to hunt down Joseph Kony because it's a limited effort that can be reasonably managed by 100 Special Forces soldiers. An attempt to "save lives in the Congo" would represent a much larger commitment that American politicians don't believe they could sell to the electorate. "Get Kony" is a specific limited objective. "Fix the Congo" is a one-way road to a quagmire.

    Speaking of the Cold War, a new version of that competition, between China and the West, is emerging on African soil.
    A "new Cold War" seems a highly exaggerated view of the US and China in Africa. Nice sound bite, yes, but not a supportable view IMO, unless we adopt a very loose definition of what a "Cold War" is.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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  3. #203
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    Dayuhan,

    Thank you for your observations.

    African governments and the African public are not as interested in the relationship between US corporations and the US govt as they are in who is most likely to bring in the investment that will provide them jobs.

    This may be selfish, myopic and uninformed, but it is just the way things are. And if the US was in a similar situation, Americans would feel the same way.

    Just like corporations compete, nations compete. At this point in time, China Inc has certain advantages over US Inc in Africa. If the US government thinks that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act hinders the competitiveness of US businesses in Africa - well, that's the State Department's call.

    I accept that AFRICOM training may not have been responsible for Mali's coup, but it isn't that difficult for enemies of the US (and they are quite a few) to suggest that there is a link between the two. Secondly, the Congolese Army also claims to be AFRICOM trained - and it also fell like a pack of cards in the face of M23 rebels.

    A good foreign policy should limit the number of unforced errors. Presently there are just too many unforced errors for anyone to conclude that US policy is wise.

    Finally, I don't really care - I've seen the writing on the wall. Whatever the US does or doesn't do will have very little impact on the future of my generation of Africans.

  4. #204
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    African governments and the African public are not as interested in the relationship between US corporations and the US govt as they are in who is most likely to bring in the investment that will provide them jobs.
    I'm sure they are, but neither American corporations nor the US Government have any obligation to provide jobs and investment to anyone. Nations who wish to attract investment have to seek it out and adjust their own policies and practices to make themselves attractive investment destinations. Investors don't compete for the opportunity to invest, nations compete to attract investors. Nations that delude themselves into thinking they're the belle of the ball and all the investor boys are going to come begging them to dance with no effort on their part will end up spending a lot of time an the edge of the dance floor, and at the end of the night the only guy who comes round is likely to be the sleazy date rapist with a roofie in his pocket.

    Of course it's easy to blame investors for not investing and creating jobs, and that makes everyone feel good and diverts responsibility from where it belongs... but anyone who really wants investment and jobs needs to take action locally, not whine about what someone else is or isn't doing.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    This may be selfish, myopic and uninformed, but it is just the way things are. And if the US was in a similar situation, Americans would feel the same way.
    Very true, but how is that any of our business? How Africans feel is not our problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Just like corporations compete, nations compete. At this point in time, China Inc has certain advantages over US Inc in Africa.
    Why would we want to compete with the Chinese for the dubious privilege of getting involved with that mess? There will be exceptions, but for the most part we're better off letting them deal with it. It's not as if African investment is somehow analogous to oceanfront real estate, something everybody desperately wants to be involved with.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    If the US government thinks that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act hinders the competitiveness of US businesses in Africa - well, that's the State Department's call.
    State has nothing to say about it. It's a law, passed by Congress and signed by the President. Congress could repeal it, but there's close to zero chance of that happening in the current political environment.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    I accept that AFRICOM training may not have been responsible for Mali's coup, but it isn't that difficult for enemies of the US (and they are quite a few) to suggest that there is a link between the two. Secondly, the Congolese Army also claims to be AFRICOM trained - and it also fell like a pack of cards in the face of M23 rebels.
    No matter what the US does or doesn't do, enemies of the US will find ways to suggest that everything bad that happens anywhere is somehow a consequence of US action or inaction. Many people will believe it. That is given and irreversible. It's been that way for so long that most of us have become impervious. If we blamed ourselves for everything we're blamed for we'd either commit physical suicide or the intellectual suicide of joining the Chomsky faction of the left.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    A good foreign policy should limit the number of unforced errors. Presently there are just too many unforced errors for anyone to conclude that US policy is wise.
    If anything that goes wrong after engagement with the US is going to be seen as a US error, we have to either stop engaging or ignore those perceptions. Anyone who thinks a few months of US training will make an army function or that US engagement is going to transform dysfunctional nations is barking at the moon. Again, if engagement is going to create irrational expectations, the choices are to stop engaging or ignore the expectations and live with the blame from those who hold them. Living up to the expectations is not possible in the real world.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Finally, I don't really care - I've seen the writing on the wall. Whatever the US does or doesn't do will have very little impact on the future of my generation of Africans.
    I wish more people realized that.
    Last edited by Dayuhan; 12-13-2012 at 11:40 PM.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  5. #205
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Too true...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    I wish more people realized that.
    It's important that a lot of folks understand that your choice "realized" as opposed to 'thought,' 'believed' or some other nebulous word or phrase is appropriate and quite accurate.

    All we can do there is make things worse.

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    Dayuhan,

    Thanks for your kind response.

    I just need to point out that it is always the US government, US news media and US academics who fret the most about the US losing its competitive edge to the Chinese in Africa.

    The average African is not that interested about the relative standing of the US with respect to the Chinese in Africa.

    Secondly, over promising and under delivering (or creating the impression that you can/will do more than you are actually willing/capable of doing) is never a good foreign policy. (E.g. Obama's speeches in Cairo and Accra, which in hindsight look a bit like a lot of hot air).

    If the US kept its message as simple as you did, Africa would be a lot better off for it.

  7. #207
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    I just need to point out that it is always the US government, US news media and US academics who fret the most about the US losing its competitive edge to the Chinese in Africa.
    The US government, media, and academics do an unbelievable amount of fretting over an extraordinary number of things. Any given fret-set in isolation might seem large, but has to be evaluated against all the others. If you made a hierarchical ranking of all the things they fret over, I'd guess that losing out to the Chinese in Africa would be way down the list.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    The average African is not that interested about the relative standing of the US with respect to the Chinese in Africa.
    The average American wouldn't have the slightest idea what we're talking about.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Secondly, over promising and under delivering (or creating the impression that you can/will do more than you are actually willing/capable of doing) is never a good foreign policy. (E.g. Obama's speeches in Cairo and Accra, which in hindsight look a bit like a lot of hot air).
    All political speeches are hot air... but it is true that politicians who give speeches outside the country should be more aware of the fact that there are those who haven't figured that out yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    If the US kept its message as simple as you did, Africa would be a lot better off for it.
    I don't know if Africa would be better off, but I suspect that the US would be. We will never know, because I'm never going to be the one defining the message!
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  8. #208
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default AQIM Fractures: New Leaders & New Money in the Sahel

    Clint Watts comments on the reported disunity amongst the Islamist rebels:
    Well, it looks like more money and fighters has led to more conflict than unity in AQIM. Analysis suggesting more of any one terror group input (Weapons, money, fighters, etc) will lead directly to a stronger collective whole (AQIM) naively ignores the one thing that is most difficult to quantify and analyze: Human nature.....

    Across al Qaeda’s global footprint, decentralization has led to there being more incentive for affiliates to compete than cooperate. With Bin Laden’s death, donors spread their funds more diffusely and local affiliate illicit revenue schemes must increase. Ultimately, this change leads to al Qaeda affiliates with waning allegiance to al Qaeda Central.
    Link:http://selectedwisdom.com/?p=840

    Thinking about this I wonder how distant onlookers, even sympathisers, will react to such groups becoming more like robbers, than fighters. Distant feelings of legitimacy and possibly sympathy are nothing compared to the local reaction.
    davidbfpo

  9. #209
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default What is going on?

    Based on a Time report a month ago (Post 187) I noted:
    Buses to the north are now packed, filled with refugees no longer willing to wait out the now quiet conflict far from home. Their departure has left refugee camps at a fraction of their original size, say local officials.
    A month appears to be a long time if this report in The Guardian is to be believed:
    Mass rape, amputations and killings – why families are fleeing terror in Mali; At refugee camps, reports are flooding in of horrific human rights abuses in a country once famous for its music and joyous lifestyle.
    The tales recounted suggest a population subjugated by a regime well versed in appalling brutality. Allegations of war crimes include summary executions, mass rape, racism and the targeting of elders by child soldiers recruited by the extremists. Some allege that child soldiers are being forced to rape women.
    Link:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012...ali?CMP=twt_gu

    Anyone able to comment on the social implications and possibility of 'child soldiers'?
    davidbfpo

  10. #210
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Panel in DC on Mali

    Once an apparent pillar of democracy in West Africa, Mali has drastically deteriorated in 2012, with a coup bringing down the elected government in March and a combination of armed groups taking over vast areas of the desert north soon thereafter. Those areas remain under the control of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine, MUJAO and the MNLA, while a shaky interim government in Bamako seems to make little progress. Discussions are underway for the intervention of a regional force that will assist the Malian army in retaking the north, but there are many unanswered questions about the emerging plan. This panel will discuss the root causes of Mali's instability and strategies for addressing those causes that can contribute to long-term peace and stability.
    Link:http://www.usip.org/events/crisis-in...es-and-options
    davidbfpo

  11. #211
    Council Member Commando Spirit's Avatar
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    Default From the BBC today...

    Ansar Dine militants began attacking holy sites in the city on Saturday
    Islamists in Mali have begun destroying remaining mausoleums in the historic city of Timbuktu, an Islamist leader and a tourism official said.

    "Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu," Abou Dardar, a leader of the Islamist group Ansar Dine, told AFP news agency.

    Islamists in control of northern Mali began earlier this year to pull down shrines that they consider idolatrous.

    Tourist official Sane Chirfi said four mausoleums had been razed on Sunday.

    One resident told AFP that the Islamists were destroying the shrines with pickaxes.

    Timbuktu was a centre of Islamic learning from the 13th to the 17th centuries.

    It is a UN World Heritage site with centuries-old shrines to Islamic saints that are revered by Sufi Muslims.

    The Salafists of Ansar Dine condemn the veneration of saints.

    "Allah doesn't like it," said Abou Dardar. "We are in the process of smashing all the hidden mausoleums in the area."

    Islamists seized control of Timbuktu in April, after a coup left Mali's army in disarray.

    The news that further monuments were being destroyed came one day after Islamists were reported to have cut the hands off two people.

    The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, another Islamist group operating in the area, warned that there would be further amputations, AFP reported.

    Last Thursday the UN Security Council gave its backing for an African-led military operation to help Mali's government retake the north if no peaceful solution can be found in coming months.

    A day later, Ansar Dine and the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), a Tuareg separatist group, said they were committed to finding a negotiated solution.
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  12. #212
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default ECOWAS with UN OK and a French General

    I'd seen that UN approval was given for the ECOWAS intervention force, presumably for diplomatic reasons and maybe funding? What I'd missed that a French General is assigned as commander:
    ..the passage last week by the U.N. Security Council of a French-sponsored resolution authorizing military intervention in northern Mali by a 3,300-strong force of soldiers from the Economic Community of West African States. The soldiers are to be trained and commanded by French officers. A French general with experience in Africa and Bosnia, Francois Lecointre, has been named to command the mission.
    As previously reported the EU will re-train the Malian military:
    About 400 European Union soldiers have been assigned, beginning next month, to train a 3,000-strong Malian army force that would be capable of redeployment to restore government authority in the stretches of northern Mali that have fallen under the control of AQIM forces.
    Link:http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/...ml?tid=wp_ipad
    davidbfpo

  13. #213
    Council Member Commando Spirit's Avatar
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    Default PTSD prediction?

    If child 'soldiers' are employed in Mali as we have seen in other African conflicts, e.g. Uganda, Sierra Leone and Somalia, I suspect that we [Western Nations] will see a devastating increase in soldiers returning with psychological injuries; more so than we have witnessed thus far in recent conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not really a huge leap of intellect as,no doubt, you will all have thought the same, but it's something I've been mulling over recently and so I thought I'd bring it into this debate in order for others to comment or air their views on the subject.

    Disclaimer - This is not meant to be an antagonistic observation about PTSD or other psychological injuries and if this does flirt on the edge of your own line of taste vs distaste then I apologise, it is not my intent to offend.

    Back to the topic. I do not think it unreasonable to expect that children will be used in Mali as fighters, be they intentionally and maliciously made to become addicted to drugs first [as in Uganda] or simply forced through fear of death or abuse. This predicted psychological issue may not be as widespread an issue if the UN force is made up of West African's as the article posted by Davidbfpo above suggests. However, add in a force of EU or perhaps US personnel and there we have the ingredients for this prediction to come to fruition, alas.

    Show me a soldier from the EU who has to legitimately use lethal force on a child and I will show you a significantly increased risk of PTSD or a like injury. Are we ready for this? Are the medical support services in place and sufficiently well established or manned to treat these personnel? Perhaps medical personnel in SWJ/SWC may be in a position to comment?

    In the UK Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) practitioners are trained within units to conduct the first line assessment of individuals from a psychological perspective but are they adequately resourced to deal with the potential numbers of personnel adversely affected?

    Given the drive to downsize deployments throughout the EU and the US militaries, will we deploy adequate numbers of personnel to act as BCRs?

    Lots of questions raised and I have a view on them all but I'd like to leave it there for now to the wider SWJ collective to comment as you see fit.

    CS
    Last edited by Commando Spirit; 12-28-2012 at 08:34 PM.
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  14. #214
    Council Member Piranha's Avatar
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    Post Late response to an earlier posting

    Quote Originally Posted by Commando Spirit
    A day later, Ansar Dine and the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), a Tuareg separatist group, said they were committed to finding a negotiated solution.
    Ansar Dine as well? I missed that one. Frankly, I am a bit surprised to read that.
    Piranha, a smile with a bite

  15. #215
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Tunnels, logistics and some insight

    A rather breathless AP article in part, based on local sources, with AQIM building tunnels and moving SAMs from Libya. Shades of Tora Bora? See:http://abcnews.go.com/m/story?id=18098473

    The best parts are the comments by Robert Fowler, a Canadian diplomat, who was kidnapped for four months in 2008:
    Fowler described being driven for days by jihadists who knew Mali's featureless terrain by heart, navigating valleys of identical dunes with nothing more than the direction of the sun as their map. He saw them drive up to a thorn tree in the middle of nowhere to find barrels of diesel fuel. Elsewhere, he saw them dig a pit in the sand and bury a bag of boots, marking the spot on a GPS for future use.

    In his four-month-long captivity, Fowler never saw his captors refill at a gas station, or shop in a market. Yet they never ran out of gas. And although their diet was meager, they never ran out of food, a testament to the extensive supply network which they set up and are now refining and expanding.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-08-2013 at 04:54 PM. Reason: Tidying up
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  16. #216
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    Default Going to Mali / Sahel? Read this book

    Robert Fowler a Canadian diplomat seconded to the UN in Niger was kidnapped for four months in 2008, by AQIM and has written a book on his experiences 'A Season in Hell'.

    It has been well reviewed on Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Season-Hell-Ro...+robert+fowler

    One review is a guide:
    Robert Fowler has written a unique account of what it is to be a captive of Al Queda. Unique, because Fowler is the highest-level representative of western governments ever to be taken by Al Queda. Also, because his background as a diplomat, senior government official and UN representative was precisely keyed to the menace of islamist terrorism; he knows his subject.

    The book explains in painful detail the treatment he was subjected to for four months in the Sahara desert, the motivation of his radicalized captors and the perfidious actions - as well as the heroics - of the various actors involved. Fowler `gets' the big picture, and explains it in terms that provide a wake-up call to both the threatened governments of the Sahel region and the western governments that must support them.
    Link to Amazon UK:http://www.amazon.co.uk/Season-Hell-...6964229&sr=1-1

    For some background on SWC there is a thread on Niger, which covers his kidnapping:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=9303.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-10-2013 at 06:19 PM. Reason: Tidying up
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  17. #217
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    Default Fowler urges Canada to intervene

    Robert Fowler, once a Canadian diplomat, has written an article:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/comme...rticle7015466/

    He ends with advice on what the mission's objectives must be:
    This must be about damaging and degrading the capabilities and numbers of al-Qaeda in northern Mali that it won’t soon threaten the peace and stability of our friends across this vulnerable region. And it must also be about helping Mali’s armed forces to reoccupy and then defend their country once the jihadis have been diminished.

    It won’t be about turning Mali into Saskatchewan or Nebraska. And it won’t be about exporting our social safety net or funding a government or anything else that isn’t directly related to damaging al-Qaeda.
    Not seen this before, but it makes sense - earlier in the article:
    Over the past half-century, Canada and other developed countries have invested more than $60-billion in assistance to the countries of the Sahel. Does it not make sense to protect such a huge investment in the lives and welfare of something like half a billion Africans?
    davidbfpo

  18. #218
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Over the past half-century, Canada and other developed countries have invested more than $60-billion in assistance to the countries of the Sahel. Does it not make sense to protect such a huge investment in the lives and welfare of something like half a billion Africans?
    Protecting a $120-per-individual investment seems reasonable, but are the investors sure that that investment has been an effective one?
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

  19. #219
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Not seen this before, but it makes sense - earlier in the article:
    Over the past half-century, Canada and other developed countries have invested more than $60-billion in assistance to the countries of the Sahel. Does it not make sense to protect such a huge investment in the lives and welfare of something like half a billion Africans?
    It's the classic sunk costs fallacy. Irrationality at work. Keep the man away from influence, he would do a lot of nonsense.

  20. #220
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default

    Seems Robert, other than being a captive in denial, has no clue. He will no doubt end up being a future Clinton adviser on Africa and we'll do the dance yet again at the expense of the taxpayers.

    during my 130 days as their captive, that such was their aim: to extend the turmoil of Somalia from Mogadishu on the Indian Ocean to Nouakchott on the Atlantic.
    All we need to do is dump billions into the continent to the point that no single person or terrorist group can compete, and we win the jackpot and all that comes with that ridiculous hypothesis. Not like we have yet to attempt such a fiscal nightmare only to be slapped in the face with a hungry dictator.

    Jeez, why is this so hard to figure out
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