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November 18, 2003

Guinea Pig

Which is more important, reducing America's dependence on Arab oil, or encouraging the growth of democracy worldwide?

How one answers that question ought to predict's one's reaction to the news that the U.S. has recently re-opened its embassy in the dictatorial, repressive, yet oil-rich state of Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea's president had his opponents imprisoned and tortured, had his presidential predecessor executed by firing squad, helped himself to the state treasury at will. State radio recently declared him ``like God.''

Teodoro Obiang might seem an unlikely candidate for warmer relations with Washington, except for one thing--his tiny West African country's got a tremendous amount of oil.

The Anti-War Protest Answer: "All the talk about freedom, democracy and human rights emanating from this administration is nothing more than empty rhetoric. If George Bush truly cared about human rights, he wouldn't be supporting the man abusing them in Equatorial Guinea.

Therefore, it is all about the oil, about enriching his family and the cronies of his administration. I intend to illustrate all this via a giant paper-mache puppet of the president with a hand up his ass. Once we reach critical giant paper-mache puppet mass, this corrupt administration will have no other choice than to step down."

The Realpolitik Answer: "Yes, he's a dictator. So what? The more oil we buy from Equatorial Guinea, the less money we put into Saudi pockets. The less money the Saudis have, the less Al-Qaeda has, which weakens that group's ability to kill Americans. It's what we're doing in Russia, and I don't recall anyone boo-hooing over Chechnya lately.

Did I say 'Americans?' I meant 'people.' Yea, that's the ticket. "

The State Department Answer: "Working from within the system is the best way to promote human rights and the growth of democracy. After 50 years of abject failure, we're bound to get it right this time."

The European Union Answer: "Anybody killing Jews down there? We've got some money we'd like to send them, if so."

My answer? Basically, I'm pissed at the administration for not realizing that a moral position, even a pretended moral postion, for God's sake, has to be applied consistently if it is going to have any persuasive force. The actions of the U.S. in Equatorial Guinea undermine the goals of the U.S. in Iraq.

It's not like we need to invade E.Q. to improve the situation. Freeze Obiang's assests, drop a bomb on him, then tell the new leader he's got three years to install a democratically elected government or we'll do the same to him. And by the way, there's some money here for the man who does our bidding.

Yes, I know that assassinating a foreign leader encourages people to try and do the same to our leaders. So what? U.S. soldiers put their lives on the line every day to protect our democracy. Why shouldn't their leaders?

Besides, it won't happen anyway. One, the international community currently ignoring Equatorial Guinea would get its panties in a wad, and for some reason we are still hoping, after 200 years, that Europe will ask us to the prom.

Two, and more importantly, the oil companies would also be more than a little pissed, and they have the power to act on that emotion, whereasyour average Frenchman is just going to add another layer of spittle to the drive-thru window at McDonalds. I will leave the prediction of how the oil companies act on that emotion, whether by donating vast sums of money to a political party, pulling the strings on the G.B. puppet, or by writing a stern letter to the Star-Telegram Op-ed page to the imagination and politics of the reader.

But I'm not that pissed. Re-opening a embassy sans ambassador doesn't quite rise to my default level of outrage, and a credible argument can be made that it needs to be there to serve the Americans in country. In the short run, it makes sense.

But in the long run, such a position is untenable. Support a dictatorship long enough, and those it oppresses will eventually come to see you as just as much of an enemy.

Posted by Bigwig at November 18, 2003 03:43 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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Comments

I saw the report on 60 Minutes about Equatorial Guinea. For some reason, I can't stop thinking about how his son went on that shopping spree and bought 30 suits. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Posted by: lotus at November 18, 2003 04:24 PM

Nations have interests. The duty of the President and US government is to protect the US and US citizens, not to topple every dictatorial, repressive government in the world.

Know this: if the Middle East was barren of oil, but still had OBL & other jihadists bombing the US, we _still_ would have invaded Afghanistan & Iraq. We are there not because of the oil, but because they pose a clear threat to us.

Nations (including the USA) do not have a duty to right every wrong that happens in the world.
We have the right to overthrow dictators, but not the duty to.

Right now, an important interest of the US is to reshuffle the Middle East, for two reasons: eliminate the threat AND ensure a reliable source of oil.

Posted by: fred at November 19, 2003 10:34 AM

I've never heard an anti-war protester's response to "Should we have allied ourselves with Joe Stalin against the greater evil?"

Posted by: The Commissar at November 19, 2003 11:17 AM
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