The problem with anyone young is that they have all sorts of positive qualities: energy, fresh thinking, ambition, confidence and so on. But they (necessarily) don’t have the experience that comes from knowing lots of things. From seeing how things play out over time. For grasping the deeper dynamics of any negotiation. From understanding relationships in all their baffling complexity. From grasping what the Serbs call duh situaciji – the spirit of the situation.
Equatorial Guinea (“EG”) has the advantage of having a small population, some 1.3 million. It has a crazy geography, with the capital on the island of Bioko (formerly Fernando Po) and a good chunk of its people and commerce on the mainland a couple of hundred miles away. I remember standing on the back patio of the Bahia in 2006, looking at Cameroon across the water, not far away. I thought, “Why is this even a country?” And yes, it has the dumb luck of having oil and natural gas, with the advantages of huge revenues years ago (never distributed to the people, to be fair.) But the decline in oil and gas market prices has left the country vulnerable, and yet the buildings and private company headquarters continue to pour in. Venezuela has been unable to deal with these fluctuations, and even Saudi Arabia and Russia have had their tumults, where EG is making its way.
We were in the waiting room to meet the governor of Georgia. Amadou K, governor of the Fourth Region of Mali and my charge for his 30-day visit to the U.S., had been high maintenance, and insisted of meeting a U.S. official “of his same rank.”
The programmer in Washington, exasperated with K’s self inflation, got him a meeting with America’s most official racist at the time, Governor Lester Maddox. So there.
Engaging in the Libya conflict in 2011 (without any plan for an outcome) was not morally or even tactically “wrong.” However, events have gone against American interests – and also, by the way, the beleaguered populations of the current Libya which is a threat to itself, to Europe, and sooner or later to American direct security interests as well.
The prospect of Russia fighter jets and special forces setting about ISIL with gusto and no mercy whatsoever warms the cockles of Western leaders’ hearts. And maybe some grimy deal that keeps Assad afloat for the time being is better than Syria collapsing completely and all those refugees banging on the door. Plus shared progress here might lead to shared progress over Ukraine. Continue reading Obama v Putin – a New Realism?